In February 2019, Florida hip-hop artist YNW Melly was arrested and charged with two counts of first-degree murder. He and another rapper, YNW Bortlen, killed two of their friends and set up the crime scene to look like a drive-by shooting, police said. The serious criminal case occurred at a time when Melly, who was born in the Jamell Demons, was on the rise. A month before his arrest, the 19-year-old from the small community of Gifford, South Florida, released a mixtape We All Shine with Kanye West, and his biggest hit was the chilling single of 2017. The song, “Murder on My Mind,” came straight out of gold. (Platinum certified in March 2019 and six times multi-platinum certified in January 2022.)
Now, three years later, Melly’s trial was scheduled to begin on March 7 but has been delayed. He pleaded not guilty; if convicted, he faces the death penalty. Here’s a brief look at how Melly, 22, went from sharing Freestyles on SoundCloud to working with Kanye West and Young Thug to serving a life sentence for murdering his friend.
Jamell Maurice Demons are born. His mother was 14 when she became pregnant with him, she recalled in an official YNW Melly documentary released online in December 2018; she was born in ninth grade.
Demons have long loved music. In interviews and documentaries, he described his childhood fascination with Chris Brown and Michael Jackson. He also recounted his precocious interest in guns, saying he found a revolver under his uncle’s sofa in fourth grade and took it “everywhere”, including to school.
Melly’s conflict with the law will be a recurring part of his media coverage. The 16-year-old was charged with three counts of aggravated assault and use of a firearm in a public place, according to a local Florida newspaper. He allegedly fired at three other students near the high school. After that incident, Merry said he got the inspiration for “Murder on My Mind” when he was “locked up”: “I woke up and had this chorus.”
“Murder on My Mind,” a piano-based hip-hop murder ballad that stands out for its almost diary-like intimacy, has been uploaded to SoundCloud. “He fell to the ground with tears in his eyes. He grabbed my hand and said he was afraid to die,” Mellie sang. By the age of 15, he had posted a sketchy freestyle on SoundCloud under his real name. In 2016, he started using his current rap name. The YNW crew (short for “Young N***a World,” he says, unless he’s on TV or somewhere he can’t swear — then it’s “Young New Wave”) includes his longtime close friend Anthony Williams (YNW Sakchaser. ), Chris Thomas Jr. (YNW Juvy) and Cortlen Henry (YNW Bortlen).
Mellie’s troubles with the court system continue. Details are not entirely clear, but on April 15, 2017, he posted on Facebook that he was “under house arrest”. On May 1, his 18th birthday, he wrote: “My apologies to all the fans…I will be locked in the Level 6 program for 6 months. Convicted of music 🖤 You know I did this for you guys and I’ll be back soon 🏆💰🌎” he added on June 23: “I did my report today.”
In an interview shortly before Melly’s arrest in 2019, he claimed to Billboard that prosecutors used “Murder on My Mind” on him. “Basically I got parole [in 2017],” he said. “I’m gone now. I released the murder in my heart. It’s been out for about seven months, but I’ve been in and out of jail by then. I’ve probably been in jail at least six or seven times by then. It’s also just for a A little bit of shit.”