Local Rapper GameboyJones Has Become a TikTok Sensation

click to enlarge TikTok sensation/nerdcore rapper GameBoy Jones. - Courtesy of GameBoy Jones.
Courtesy of GameBoy Jones.
TikTok sensation/nerdcore rapper GameBoy Jones.
Locally based rapper GameboyJones (also known as Austin IRL), a guy who grew up singing in his grade school and high school choirs, started making a name for himself when he entered rap contests such as Team Backpack a few years ago.

“I didn’t want to be a rapper for majority of my life,” he explains in a recent phone interview. “I was just very gifted at being able to freestyle at an early age. My friends knowing this about me are the ones that pushed me into entering the Team Backpack contest. I had to audition in California for it, and that made me think that I could somewhat do this. I was super-motivated when I got home after that, but nothing felt correct. I just stopped, and I sat on my hands for four years after that.”

He would eventually shift his focus to making cover songs with his own nerdy twist (see his version of Lil Dicky’s “Save Dat Money”). This, in turn, led to a few early viral Facebook videos, and he would later create the song “Uraraka!” based on the My Hero Academia character Ochaco Uraraka. The song went viral on TikTok and would serve as an anthem for the character and for My Hero Academia fans alike.

“Although I love that the song is successful, it is not a representation of how my music sounds today,” the rapper says of the track.

Nevertheless, more tunes based on anime would follow.

“I’ve been into anime my whole life,” says GameboyJones. “I started out using comic books and other things too, but what made me switch was YouTube, which loves it when you focus on just one thing. The one I was most passionate about was anime, and I took a hard shift to anime only.”

This year, GameboyJones had two trending songs on TikTok. Lizzo used one of them, his “Red Light Green Light” video that references the Squid Games doll, and the track went viral.

At the moment, GameboyJones currently has 200,000-plus followers on TikTok, nearly 200,000 monthly listeners on Spotify and 150,000 subscribers on YouTube. After cultivating a community through a #GeekCypher YouTube series he created (he would rap over a beat and then tag his friends who would rap on it and pass it to other rappers), GameboyJones recruited collaborators from all over the country.

“We have set up a community over the past three years,” he says. “I work with people across the U.S. and people all the way over in the UK. We started off years ago, and it was only 11 of us, and I find our community to be very unique. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a creative group where we all found each other, and we all basically became successful. Typically, with a group, it’s the one or two guys who do it. We have literally all quit our jobs to do music full-time. It’s kinda crazy.”

Working in a “cubby hole” in his home where he’s put up some soundproofing, GameboyJones makes the most out of a minimal setup.

His latest song, “Tsunade,” a track with booming percussion and a soaring synth riff, features artists/friends Ham Sandwich and Mir Blackwell, giving it a Jurassic 5 feel. The cover art comes courtesy of Sofia Gomez, a popular TikTok star (who's also one of the TikTok stars that helped blow up the “Uraraka” song). GameboyJones says the current rap wave that includes artists like 1nonly, Egovert and lil ricefield has influenced the song.

Next year, GameboyJones will participate in the Nerdcore Party Convention in Chicago that’ll feature artists that cumulatively have more than 20 million subscribers on YouTube. He’s also planning an Anime Rapper Takeover show at MomoCon, one of the biggest anime conventions in the world.

“I don't have any music planned for release,” he says. “I have a different model than most artists because I don't drop albums. I went a few years releasing a song a week, but, more recently, I’ve slowed down to one or two a month. I know traditional nerdcore people who tour and have publicists. I’m going to try to learn how to do that and figure this whole thing out. Once I get a grip on that, touring might be more feasible.”
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Jeff Niesel

Jeff has been covering the Cleveland music scene for more than 20 years now. And on a regular basis, he tries to talk to whatever big acts are coming through town, too. If you're in a band that he needs to hear, email him at [email protected].
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