A former model, the London-based artist found early success with his viral hit ‘To the Moon’ – but he’s only just begun
It was an unforeseeable awakening for him when Jnr Choi skyrocketed to success with his single “To the Moon”. “I knew it would be a good song, and people would take it in well, but the extent of it and how the world received it I didn’t expect,” he says reflectively, sitting in his west London studio.
With the help of social media – namely TikTok – the single quickly glided up the charts and into people’s hearts. Labelled as a wraith-like drill invention, the global hit collected a gold certification from the RIAA and has several renowned rap stars such as Fivio Foreign, G Herbo, M24, Russ Millions and Gunna baptising the remixes with their talent. Gathering over half a billion streams and counting, the single put Jnr Choi’s music career on the scene, peaking at #38 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #1 on the Rhythmic & Rap Airplay charts.
Jnr Choi experienced the instability of relocating to different areas while growing up in the south of England. “I was living in Thamesmead for a while, and then I moved to Essex, and then I was back and forth,” he states. Because of this, finding an unyielding group of friends was difficult, but he found optimism in this – by mining deep into discovering more about himself. “I always felt quite alone, which I see as a positive because it got me learning more about myself earlier rather than later,” he remembers.
Jnr Choi can remember the surreal moment when he finally understood the extent of his success. “While I was waiting for a flight, I remember getting lots of at signs in my DM, like ’yo, Gunna just posted this’,” reflects Jnr Choi. “I was like, ’whoa, OK, this is crazy’. Gunna just vibing to it... this doesn’t happen to anybody.”
It wasn’t all plain sailing: the hit was briefly stripped from streaming services in January 2022 after copyright concerns arose surrounding its sampling of Sam Tompkins’s cover of Bruno Mars’ track “Talking to the Moon”. But Jnr Choi’s unwavering faith allowed him to stay calm in the face of calamity. “The people that should have been worried about it are probably the least worried,” he states. “I had in my head: everything is God’s plan. And it worked through at the end.”
His perseverance has always emboldened him, in all his endeavours. Before breaking into the music industry, Jnr Choi had pursued modelling, where he first experienced dismissal and rejection. “One of my boys and I went to a few modelling agencies’ open calls,” he recollects. “Every single one of ’em gave us a general letdown.” He relentlessly worked towards ameliorating himself so that refusal was hard to come by, stating: “that was like the kind of fuel that I needed to hear, and it made me want to pursue it more.”
“I took more care of my appearance, drank my way more water, cleared up my skin and started working out more and then randomly, a couple of months later, I got scouted working at Topman.”
During this time he experienced the perks and privileges his model status had to offer, walking shows in London, Paris and Milan, for brands like Alyx, Givenchy, Kenzo, Kiko Kostadinov, Lanvin and Issey Miyake. However after a few years in the industry, Jnr Choi then found a lover in Oslo, Norway, who encouraged him to explore his other talents. “We were on FaceTime because she lived out the country in Oslo, and I was with my boy, Jamie, and he was like making music off YouTube beats,” he says. “She was like, ‘you look like a rapper, you should be a rapper’.”
“I hung up the phone and then made a song with one of the YouTube beats. We then shot the video, and once we put it out, we got over 70,000 views in a week. And then, I wanted to focus more on how far I could go with this.”
What is also inimitable about the 25-year-old artist is how he’s shifted the strategies of the modelling world into how he makes his music. “How fashion designers focus on tees for the summer, and they focus on jackets in the winter, I kind of do the same with my music,“ he says. “I make a lot of Afro vibes: Afro-infused R&B spring; light, summer vibes for the summer; and then for the winter, I come with trap and drill vibes.”
Through his artistry, Jnr Choi stands resilient in ensuring that his music is not bound to labels and policed through public opinion. “Don’t go insane trying to put me in a box,” he asserts, “sometimes it’s just, things need to be let free.”
While Jnr Choi’s music career has had a fast sprint to notability, he disdainfully snubs the weight, burden, and stress of having to be forced to harvest his next hit quickly. “Imagine someone else controlling your time or how you do things,” he says with a perplexed facial expression. “That’s wild to me. I am going to keep making great music! And I hope everyone appreciates that – that’s the only thing that matters to me.”
Jnr Choi recently released his latest pulsating single, “AMUSED”, accompanied by Fivio Foreign – exhibiting his persistence in not letting his foot off the pedal as a new artist. What motivates Jnr Choi to keep going is “just having small goals to work towards,” he says. “That’s the formula you need to succeed in anything.” And if he sticks to this formula, we can only expect greatness from him in the future.