Chosen by both E-40 and Too $hort as the next big thing out of the Bay Area, West Oakland rapper J. Stalin began making serious noise in 2006 with a series of mixtapes, a debut album, and a couple singles that captured the sound and excitement of the city's "Go" movement. Born Jovan Smith, he created his stage name in reference to Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin who, like J., was also short but "was always smashin' on everybody." A teen crack dealer, or "d-boy," he was busted at the age of 17, earning himself a year's worth of weekends in juvenile hall. It was there that he shifted his focus to music, using the time to build up a collection of demos that would eventually land in the hands of Richie Rich. Rich would invite Stalin to guest on his 2002 album Nixon Pryor Roundtree, which would open to the door to future collaborations with the Jacka, Keak da Sneak, and Yukmouth.
Stalin's solo debut came in 2006 when On Behalf of the Streets arrived just as the Bay's hyphy movement was giving way to the dirty and more street-level sound that was dubbed "Go." By the release of 2008's Gas Nation he was a local hero, but on a national level his name was only known by hip-hop's most faithful fans. That changed a year later when his collaborative effort with Guce, Giants and Elephants, plus a new solo album, Prenuptial Agreement, both made waves. The latter's success was fueled by the singles "Rock Day" and "Birthday." The singles "Who Are You?" and "Money & Chicks" helped make his 2012 release, Memoirs of a Curb Server, his breakthrough commercial effort, hitting number 54 on the Billboard 200 albums chart. Nightmare & Miracle on 10th Street was a collaborative double album with DJ Fresh from 2013, and the solo album S.I.D.: Shining in Darkness dropped a year later. Tears of Joy followed in 2015; then The Body Snatchers, Vol. 3 was released in 2016. ~ David Jeffries