Jelly Roll, 39, has been making quite a lasting impression as a country rapper. He’s made quite the transition from rap into mainstream country, with the ways that he blends the genres. The talented artist, whose real name is Jason DeFord, has been releasing his music since 2011 and has also worked on high-profile collaborations with equally talented rappers.
The recording artist is now being recognized by the Recording Academy for his music! Jelly Roll received his first nomination at the 2024 Grammy Awards. He is up for Best New Artist and Best Country Duo/Group Performance at the 66th annual ceremony.
Find out more about Jelly Roll and how he broke into the country rap scene below.
His First Major Collab Was With Lil Wyte
Originally from Nashville, Jelly Roll teamed up with fellow rapper Lil Wyte for the song “Pop Another Pill” in 2010. It was released on YouTube and ended up getting over 6.3 million views. The success led to the 2011 release of Year Round, an album from hip-hop group SNO, which featured Jelly Roll as well as Lil Wyte and BPZ.
He’s Released Several Mixtapes, EPs and Studio Albums
After Year Round‘s release, Jelly Roll went on to release various other projects, including the Gamblin’ on a Whiteboy mixtape series and the Therapeutic Music mixtape series, released in 2012 and 2015, respectively. His debut studio album, The Big Sal Story was released in 2012 and he worked on many more collaborations, including two with Haystak, two with Lil Wyte, and four with Struggle Jennings.
Jelly Roll broke a Billboard record in Feb. 2023 by spending 25 weeks at No. 1 on the Emerging Artists Chart. He is set to release a highly anticipated country album called WHITSITT CHAPEL in June 2023.
Jelly Roll Has Several Tattoos
Some of the ink is on his face and hands and includes what appears to be crosses, a teardrop, and a patterned heart. The ink is shown up close on many of his music release covers and has been a signature to his look.
He’s Married With Kids
Jelly Roll married Bunnie DeFord, whose stage name is Bunnie XO, in Aug. 2016, according to Music Mayhem. They reportedly first met at one of his shows in Las Vegas, NV and “hit it off” right away. “We hit it off,” Jelly Roll told Taste of Country Nights. “She said she fell in love with the saddest eyes in the room.”
“She was with some abusive douchebag, and they came to a show, and we were backstage,” he also commented during an interview with King and the Sting and the Wing Clips. “They split, and I’m not going to act like I shot my shot. She kind of shot hers. We had mutual friends. She said, ‘Yo. Just plug me in with Jelly.’ And I hit her on some other sh**. I was like, ‘Yo. I’m going to be coming out to shoot some content and video stuff. She was like, ‘Yeah! C’mon!’ I was like, ‘Cool, well I’m living in my van, so I’ll leave now.”
Before Jelly Roll’s romance with Bunnie started, he was in another relationship and it resulted in the birth of his daughter Bailee Ann DeFord in May 2008. She was born after he left for prison and on her 13th birthday, he revealed her life affected his point of view when he was released from prison in 2009.
“You have changed my life. You are the reason I am who I am. The day you were born was the day I made the decision to change my life and chase my dream,” he wrote in a birthday tribute to her on Instagram. “I didn’t get custody of you, you got custody of me. You are so smart , so talented , so funny , so sweet. Your well spoken , polite and respectful. You are my best friend and the best daughter a father could ask for. I love you beautiful.” Bailee is actually featured on one of her dad’s songs called “Tears Could Talk,” so she’s following in his musical footsteps, as well!
Jelly Roll is also the father of his son, Noah Buddy DeFord, who was born in 2016. He hasn’t spoken as much publicly about him as he has about Bailee, who is now in the public eye as a singer. Noah’s mother’s name has never been revealed, and Jelly Roll has previously said he doesn’t talk much about Noah out of respect for his mother, who wants to maintain privacy. In Sept. 2021, he did share photos of his son backstage at one of his shows, which can be seen above.
He Is an Open Book on Social Media
Jelly Roll has shared the joys of his music on the social media app, as well as personal moments of loss. In Nov. 2022, he posted a video of his mother meeting his wife Bunnie’s mother, who sadly passed away. He added a lengthy message about how Bunnie didn’t meet her birth mother until she was in her 30s, and he hopes she shares the inspiring story someday.
“Yesterday Bunnie’s mom Vanessa passed away (my mother in law, the lady in the recliner) I hope one day my wife does a podcast and explains the journey it was to even meet her birth mother which didn’t happen until my wife was in her mid 30s,” he wrote in the caption of the touching post. “And how hard, heart breaking and healing the last year has been since my wife moved Vanessa to Tennessee to try to get her the medical help she needed. Needless to say my wife is the strongest human I have ever encountered. Her heart never ceases to amaze me and her ability to find the silver lining and the lesson in every turn. Praying for healing hearts in my house hold this weekend.”