Before he was arrested for the double murder of his two friends, YNW Juvy and YNW Sakchaser, YNW Melly established himself as one of the most talented up-and-comers in the rap game. He managed to nab a rare Kanye West feature early in his career and with that co-sign, he was due to become one of the biggest stars out of Florida. With an impressive repertoire featuring standouts like “Murder On My Mind” and the aforementioned “Mixed Personalities” with Kanye, Melly knew what he was doing and he did it well.
Broward’s Sheriff’s Office via Getty Images
Throughout the last year and a half, YNW Melly came through with a number of stellar songs, previewing what he could contribute to the game. With two full-length projects that caught the world’s attention in I AM YOU and We All Shine, the young star looked poised to follow a similar path as somebody like Young Thug. Unafraid to use his voice as an instrument, Melly was ballsy with his releases, playing around and trying new things; that’s usually a strong sign that the artist truly cares about shaping the game and making an impact.
With the 20-year-old now facing the death penalty, his future remains unclear. If he’s able to somehow find his way out of these double murder charges, he still has a chance to change the game. However, his entire narrative has been transformed by these charges. If you’re unfamiliar with YNW Melly, here’s a list of his ten most essential tracks.
“Virtual (Blue Balenciagas)”
You’ll realize after navigating through this sample size of YNW Melly’s catalog that the rapper loves to sing about violent scenes that he has either witnessed first-hand or imagined in his head. “Blue Balenciagas” can serve as somewhat of a warm-up for anybody unaccustomed to Melly’s lyrical stylings. The entire track is about getting his blue sneakers bloody after “catching an opp.” The star gets graphic with his imagery, noting that he’ll “leave your brain marinating on the boulevard” and mobbing out with semi-automatic guns in the official music video. This song was initially released as part of Melly’s I AM YOU mixtape.
Not every song that YNW Melly has released is a street anthem. Sometimes, he sings directly to his significant other, crafting love songs and making them stand out through his exceptional work with melodies. “City Girls” is not a song about the Miami duo signed to Quality Control. However, he does sing to one specific Floridian girl, offering to change her life and serve as her support system. Much like Yung Miami and JT though, YNW Melly says that the girl he’s after doesn’t love anybody but herself, Chanel and her lace-front weave. We’ve got some original percussion techniques used here before things get a little jazzy in the chorus.
“Melly The Menace”
YNW Melly liked to speak about his split personalities: Melly and Melvin. The artist, whose real name is Jamell Demons, burst onto the scene with his hit single “Murder On My Mind” but another joint that caught people’s attention was “Melly The Menace.” Featuring clever wordplay about Taraji P. Henson, Empire and vampires, this is one of Melly’s most obvious displays of playful and skilled lyricism. This is a nice shift from the vicious imagery presented in his other songs.
This is another track that sees YNW Melly painting a picture with his words. If ever you’re unsure of the artist’s talent and potential, revisit “Butter Pecan” because this is truly unlike anything else being released today. Melly flexes his voice in so many directions, taking this song to new heights through his performance alone. This song could easily have been deemed a “Sold Out Dates” rip-off with a guitar-laced beat and a smooth chord progression. However, Melly made sure to make it stand out. Sometimes, his notes fall flat but he’s trying to be original and that has to count for something.
“Freddy Krueger” (feat. Tee Grizzley)
At this point, you know that YNW Melly can get pretty menacing in his lyrics. This is another one of the tracks that showcase just how far he’s willing to go to stay true to the people he loves. Using everybody’s favourite horror movie mainstay as an indication of what he’s willing to pull, Melly graces your nightmares in a fashion similar to Freddy Krueger. Teaming up with Detroit’s own Tee Grizzley, Melly tells everybody that he’s got shooters across the country, from the D to Florida.
If you want to understand the difference between Melly and Melvin, this song should serve as your go-to. Written in prison and released on his I AM YOU tape, this is a letter from the man behind the music to his mother. It’s one of the most vulnerable pieces that Melvin ever wrote, going deep into his thoughts and praying for his mom to forgive him for all of the sins he’s committed. Admitting that he breaks down after every phone call, Melly uses his trademark techniques to get the listener as close to his jail cell as possible. The rapper sings with emotion as he details the cold showers he takes, the cold food he eats, and his frigid heart. This is not one of his better songs in terms of his work with melody but it’s a must to understand his complicated mind.
A true Florida boy, “772 Love” is both a love song to his girl and to his home state. Much like the last track on our list, there are some questionable choices made in the song’s production that take a toll on its replay value. However, this is another one of Melly’s more personal joints. He shows off his voice and switches his subject matter up completely, turning into a 90’s R&B singer for a few minutes before transforming back into the threatening character he portrayed so realistically.
“Legendary (Remix)” feat. John Wicks
This is one of the oldest songs on our list, having been released in 2017. Appearing on the Collect Call EP, the Florida-bred rapper flexes over a video-game inspired beat with John Wicks. This song has maintained its position as one of Melly’s best songs to date. His infectious hook served as a preview for what we could expect on his then-upcoming full-length projects. “Legendary” is catchy as hell and has some insane replay value.
“Mixed Personalities (feat. Kanye West)”
If it weren’t for this song, many of us would still have no clue who the hell YNW Melly even is. The young Floridian somehow hit the jackpot while planning out his We All Shine album, earning Kanye West’s attention and even grabbing him for a feature. Granted, this was during the same time period that Ye worked with Lil Pump but still, it’s pretty special that of all people, Melly stood out to Kanye. It speaks a lot to his originality and his drive. This is his second most popular song and it’s essential to check it out if you’re curious as to where the 20-year-old was headed before his entire world flipped upside down.
“Murder On My Mind”
This list would be incomplete without the song that burst YNW Melly into musical superstardom. It’s both the most enjoyable song from his arsenal and the most disturbing. With the artist now facing the death penalty, “Murder On My Mind” tells us so much about Melly. The lyrics are explicit and the video is just as disturbing, showing somebody laying on the pavement, struggling to stay alive after being shot. The first verse is vibey but once we get to the second verse, details of the shooting are so vivid that the listener has to do a double take.
“Yellow tape around his body, it’s a fucking homicide/His face is on a T-shirt and his family traumatized/I didn’t even mean to shoot him, he just caught me by surprise/I reloaded my pistol, cocked it back, and shot him twice,” raps Melly. Many believe that this song was written about the two men that Melly reportedly killed last summer but this track has actually been out since 2017. Still, it offers a look into just how twisted his teenage brain was and what it possibly led him to do.