Before she was known as Big Jade, Atalia Young grew up in Beaumont’s “nawf side,” as she insists it be called. “We’re in the cut; nobody knows about us,” the rapper says of the city an hour-and-a-half east of Houston. “It’s grimy. Every day somebody is getting jacked or shot.” Jade witnessed that first hand. While she did not meet her father until she was 16 years old, Jade’s mother raised her while hustling, rapping, and throwing legendary parties at the family home. “I’m a neighborhood chick. It was rough, but it was fun. We didn’t have everything, but we had what we needed,” she says. However, it was also dangerous. Jade remembers the home riddled with bullets, a message from a rival drug dealer to the mother of four young children. By 16, Jade’s mother encouraged her daughter to try her hand at rapping. “I ain’t have nothing to say because I wasn’t nasty at the time,” she admits, choosing to keep some things private.
In time, Big Jade and her lavish dreams had plenty to share on the microphone. Between doing hair and raising a young daughter, Jade posted freestyles on social media. Her no-nonsense attitude, fast delivery, and authenticity popped. Houston club legend Beatking was one of the captivated new fans. The hit-maker behind “Then Leave” and “THICK” offered some beats to the talented rapper. “I felt like he really believed, so I believed,” she says of the viral producer-turned-mentor. Subsequent videos like “Period Pooh” consistently commanded thousands of views on Instagram and YouTube. “RPM,” the visual that showed a hard-working Black woman living her truth amid rap and a job, was what took Jade’s fanbase to the next level. It led to encouragement ranging from Offset to DeJ Loaf as well as an array of contract offers.
However, just as the momentum picked up, Jade’s past caught up with her. She spent seven months behind bars, including time at James Bradshaw State Jail, for a probation violation. “I was the only Black person,” she recalls. “I had to really learn to express myself without putting hands on these people because I was around racists, point blank, period.” Through expressing herself, Big Jade connected with her emotions and achieved understanding. “I was around a lot of different races, people from different places; I learned a lot about people and myself. I learned that everybody has the same emotions, no matter who you are.” Released in March, Big Jade applied her lessons to rap. “Now, when I make music, I try to tell how I feel at the time, whether it’s turnt, happy, or angry. Even if you’re not from the hood like me, you can relate to heartbreak, someone doing you wrong, or falling in love. Emotions are what everybody has in common.” That kind of humanity is what made “RPM” special, and it will manifest in more music, including Jade’s upcoming Alamo Records debut. “I’m working right now, and it feels so good.”
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