“I literally did everything myself, and you can see it,” Olajide Olayinka Williams “JJ” Olatunji tells Apple Music. “You can see me start on YouTube with zero subscribers to where I am now, and I think people are inspired by that.” When the age of the influencer intersected with Generation DIY, Olatunji—better known as KSI—became a teenage internet phenomenon, trading unrestricted access to his world with over 20 million subscribers. Those teen years were complex—full of carefree, cocksure highlights and subsequent mistakes and growing pains, all forged under an unforgiving glare that has impacted and molded KSI into an implausibly fluid one-man industry. By 2019, he was a 26-year-old stepping out at LA's STAPLES Center for his first professional boxing bout against fellow YouTuber Logan Paul, with rappers Rick Ross and Lil Baby and producer S-X in his corner—using the occasion to debut the quartet's collaborative single. It was a neat encapsulation of KSI’s immense, unconventional popularity and brand-building. These fledgling forays into music—much like his gaming, sports, and comedy endeavors—double as a detailed case study in self-belief and personal development. His debut album is titled Dissimulation to get across how he says he hides his thoughts and feelings. “I like to keep that away from the public eye,” he says. “I do feel quite vulnerable letting people know what's going on in my private life. Obviously, people are going to be invested, they to want to know, because they probably feel like they know me more than I know myself.” Here he breaks down his first album, track by track.
What You Been On “I wanted to send this one out to the haters and the doubters. They told me, ‘You can't do this, you can't do that, you won't be able to beat this person. You won't be able to get this position in the charts. Your music won't go anywhere.’ They've been saying loads to me. Now I've done everything they said I can't do, I'm like, ‘Now, tell me what you've been on?' I just thought it was a cool-ass intro, letting people know what they're in for with this.”
Cap (feat. Offset) “We made the track last year, but at the beginning of this year I got the OK for putting it on the album. So yeah, it was pretty mad. I didn't think Offset was going to say yes, if I'm being honest. He heard my verse and thought it was sick, and he gave me the clearance. I don't even blame the people that doubted me before, because I never really gave anyone any examples to show that I've taken music seriously. I had to prove to everyone that I could do it. And now I'm doing that. And bit by bit, people's perceptions are changing.”
Poppin (feat. Lil Pump & Smokepurpp) “We really just wanted to drop flows on this—just a bunch of cool flows, and have Lil Pump and Smokepurpp turn up on here and just have some fun with it. We linked up and filmed the video out in LA. They can be wild, but I don’t think anyone would find them offensive. I mean, it's Lil Pump. No one's going to be like, 'I can't believe he just said that!’ Because it's Lil Pump, it's not really that deep!”
Houdini (feat. Swarmz & Tion Wayne “When I first heard this, initially I wasn’t too sure. I played it to my girlfriend and she thought otherwise. She said it was a banger. [South London rapper] Swarmz already had this hook, and a verse that I wasn’t too keen on, so I stuck my verse on and I was feeling to add one more person. I was thinking [North London rapper] Tion Wayne, but also maybe [Coventry rapper] JAY1. I spoke with Tion first, he said, ‘Yeah, give that to me.’ He was pumped. He hopped on and he killed it. If I'm writing, I just write my verses in my room. I just sit down in my chair, at my desk, and I just write. I listen to the beat over and over again, and I just write to that. I don't really like writing in the studio. I think a lot of time gets wasted.”
Bad Lil Vibe (feat. Jeremih) “This is the first project where I've really delved deep into the melodies. With certain rap tracks, it's like, ‘Oh, it's a hype!’ And then it's done. I just wanted to switch it up. It was just last year when I had a few singing lessons, just to really try and understand this whole area and get better at it, because I feel like it will take me to another level, musically. I don't want to be a rapper that just raps, or just does one specific genre. I want to be a person that can do whatever. I want to just bounce around, and just be my own person.”
How It Feel “This song’s about my girlfriend. She's been a very important part of my life and she's helped me with so much that I've been through. This is like my way of saying, 'Yo, you're the best. How does it feel?' It's like a question to her. How does it feel being the best? I met her back in November 2017 through Tinder. I had recently broken up with my ex, so I was just going through my phase of seeing different girls, trying to get over it. And then I met her. She's a very independent person, and that's what I love about her. I didn't tell her who the song was about. I think she heard it and said, 'Oh, it's all right!'”
Wake Up Call (feat. Trippie Redd) “This is to try and let people know that I'm coming for them. It's a wake-up call to let them know I'm doing something with this music thing. It's time to take me seriously. Obviously, I knew I should have just put out more music to show that, but this I feel is just a little warning, I'm coming. There isn't anything anyone can do about it. With all these tracks, writing-wise, it's all taken less than a day. And that's just because of how I am. It has to work within the day for me to be like, 'Yeah, okay, this is good for me. It just works.' I don't like spending too long on songs, writing-wise anyway.”
Killa Killa (feat. Aiyana-Lee) “Aiyana-Lee: She’s a wild one. She came with exactly what I needed for the chorus, and I just did my thing with the verses. With all of these tracks, I say there's KSI tracks and there's JJ tracks. Like, 'Cap,' ‘Poppin,’ ‘Houdini,' and 'Wake Up Call’ are all KSI. 'Bad Lil Vibe’ and ‘How It Feel’ show a more personal side, so they’re more JJ. This track is straight KSI! I'm like, 'Yo, I'm here killing everything that I'm doing. I'm killing music, boxing, YouTube. I'm killing all of that.' It's just a track to show that I'm not to be messed with.”
Domain “This is major KSI—like really, really showing my dominance. I can because I always push a message of self-belief, and I always push the message of a strong work ethic. I always say I'm not talented—I just work hard, and I feel like that's so important. I've not had rich parents who just helped me along the way, or met so-and-so who got me into this space. With this, the beat was actually meant for [East London rapper] Ghetts. I think it was sent to Ghetts and either he didn't want it or he just ignored it. But I heard it and I became obsessed with it. Like, I made this song beginning of 2019 and I've just been raving about it since then because it's just so different. It's like a weird hybrid of rap, grime, and rock. And it's just powerful. And I know whenever I perform this track, it's going to go off. That's why I always say this is my favorite song, because I know performing-wise, it's going to do a madness.”
Down Like That (feat. Rick Ross, Lil Baby & S-X) “This is a huge song. It’s definitely one of the main songs for my legacy. I walked out to this when I beat Logan Paul. And to have all of them—Rick Ross, Lil Baby, and S-X—perform it while I came out: insane. For me to win: insane. Then a few days after, we did the music video: insane. It's definitely an honor to have them on. And it's gassed me up. It's shown me that I'm able to rap with these guys. I can make sick songs—and I can have sick features. I’ve always said if I lost that fight it would have ruined my career because my whole legacy was on the line. When Logan hit me with that uppercut and I went down, that's why I got up real quick—like, 'No, no, no, no. My legacy is on the line. I ain't losing this!' During the time I was training, I never went into the studio once. I never touched music. I never touched YouTube. It was just boxing. It's one of those things that you can't half-arse, you have to put a hundred percent into it.”
Undefeated “So after I won the fight, I had to make a song like this. I've had three fights and I'm still unbeaten. On the track, I reference other fighters who've gone undefeated. It's a celebration track—and a victory lap—and I feel like it just almost rounds off the album.”
Millions “I started writing this on the toilet. It took me five or four hours. I was just listening to beats, and there's this one—it just put me in my feelings. It just made me want to write. I shocked myself in a way, because I didn't know that I could make a melody like that. I just fell back to some moments in my life and it just came out. It's one of those songs where I just had to get my feelings out. I hate long albums—I'm not there trying to make this a No. 1 because I have so many songs and people streaming them all. I wanted my first album to be nice and concise. This is everything I need to say on my first album, and that's it.”


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