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How Jelly Roll Found His Way Into Country Music

If there is one name in country music that everyone has been talking about in the past few months, it’s Jelly Roll. With a unique stage name and larger-than-life persona, it’s no surprise he has become a breakout star. His journey is worth taking a look at deeper look at, so we’ll explore how Jelly Roll found himself in country music.

His legal name is Jason DeFord, and he’s a Tennessee native that grew up just south of Nashville. Being from the area, Jelly Roll was exposed to a different side from the honky-tonk image of the city. He told Billboard, “The culture I was first exposed to was hip-hop. Not even just music, but the culture — breakdancing, graffiti, freestyling, the clothing, I didn’t know there was this other country music culture in town. You just knew the culture you were exposed to.” He got his nickname ‘Jelly Roll’ from his mother since he was, in his own words, “a chubby kid.”

His mother battled an addiction to drugs, something that still affects him today. Jelly Roll went on to spend about 12 years in and out of the jail system before a life-changing moment made him reflect on his choices. He found out he had a daughter, and was determined to be the kind of father he had growing up. Jelly Roll decided that music would be his path going forward. He wanted to make music that would make an impact on others, like how his mother found comfort in songs.

One of the singer’s passions lies in the hip-hop and rap genres. Jelly Roll's 2010 collaboration "Pop Another Pill" with Memphis rapper Lil Wyte reached over 6.3 million YouTube views. The album Year Round was released in 2011, and the record kickstarted a string of hip-hop records and mixtapes. He released the mixtape Weed, Whiskey, & Waffle House in 2013. Jelly Roll then had to change the title to Whiskey, Weed, & Women after the restaurant threatened legal action over the use of their name and logo on the cover. The replacement cover featured the cease and desist stamp. His frequent collaborations with artist Struggle Jennings, who happens to be related to Waylon Jennings, began in 2017 with the release of Waylon & Willie. The Waylon & Willie series has spawned four editions to date.