In the midst of the pandemic, CJ skyrocketed. With a viral song, a Billboard hit and a record deal later, the upcoming hip-hop artist has now teamed up with Anuel AA and Ozuna to put his stamp on the Latin music scene.
Born Christopher Daniel Soriano Jr., CJ is a Staten Island-based artist of Puerto Rican descent. His passion for music kicked off in his teenage years, putting himself on YouTube and SoundCloud. It was just last year, however, that the now-24-year-old got on the map with the chart-topping “Whoopty.”
The drill single that sampled the Bollywood hit “Sanam Re,” and was produced by Cyprus native Pxcoyo, hit No. 1 on Billboard’s Emerging Artists chart and hit the top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100 in January. It also nabbed him his first-ever deal with Warner Records.
“Nothing has really come out of Staten Island since Wu-Tang Clan almost 25 years ago,” CJ tells Billboard. “It’s a blessing that I get the chance to put the local scene back on the map. So, I’m cool with that.”
On the mainstream side, CJ has been endorsed by artists such as Cardi B, 50 Cent, French Montana, and Busta Rhymes. Now, he’s getting the same praise on the Latin side, already landing major collaborations with Anuel, Ozuna, Farruko and El Alfa, to name a few.
After imprinting his name in the hip-hope scene, he’s ready to conquer the Latin audience with his “Whoopty Latin Remix,” supported by Warner Music Latin.
Read our Q&A with CJ below.
You launched your career in the middle of the pandemic and already have a Billboard hit. Tell us about your beginnings in music.
I began making music when I was 13 or 14 years old. I started to record myself on a mic that I had. A bit after high school is when I really began to take it seriously and I invested in my videos. Then I made “Whoopty” and the rest is history.
You also inked a deal with Warner Records. How did the deal come about?
After the song began to blow up, I was approached by different types of labels. We sat down with all of them to see what they were offering and bringing to the table, but once we sat down with Warner, they just came correct. I got my song pulled off from YouTube because of the sample, they had my back and did whatever it took to get the song back up. It just made perfect sense to work with them.
Who was the first person to believe in you?
Everybody around me believed in me and told me “Whoopty” was a hit. The numbers just kept rising crazy. It blew up on the internet and that’s when the labels started to reach out. I always believed in myself and I always knew that if I kept perfecting my craft, something would give.
“Whoopty” really put you at the forefront and it already has an NYC remix featuring French Montana and Rowdy Rebel. But what makes the Latin remix with Ozuna and Anuel a real standout?
When you reach the Latin market, it’s just a different feel. These are two huge superstars and I feel that it will reach a different type of lane, an international one. With the NYC remix, I wanted to solidify myself in a specific area but with this Latin remix, it’s just going to take the song to another level.
You will soon drop songs with Farruko and El Alfa too. How does it feel to be entering the Latin music scene with some of the big dogs?
It’s a crazy feeling because I dropped my record only eight months ago, and for me to start working with all the big dogs feels like I skipped all the steps. I didn’t begin working with all the smaller, local artists, I reached out to the heavy Latin artists in the game. It was super dope working with them.
How would you say that you embrace your Puerto Rican roots?
Definitely with the food that I eat. Every chance I get, I try to go home and spend time with my mom. On my records, I try to mix it up with a little bit of Spanish to embrace my heritage. I would go to Puerto Rico when I was young — and as I got older, I would visit two or three times a year. I love the food but I really enjoy going to La Plazita because of the night scene.
How do you feel the Latin music industry will receive your music?
I feel like this is going to be great. I’m not sure if my fans are going to expect it, but I don’t think they’ll be surprised just because I’m Puerto Rican. I feel that it’s going to be nothing but great love.
What can we expect form your EP, Loyalty Over Royalty Deluxe?
My EP already dropped but we’re creating an enhanced EP with three of four bonus tracks. You can expect some Latin records on there and I’m going to mix it with some drill music, for sure.