Jimmy Stefano is an American rapper, recording artist, producer, and song-writer, better known by his stage names Azrael, Astrid and Raven, he is considered by many as a reviver of the Mafioso rap sub-genre, as well as a throwback to old school hip-hop. He is also considered by underground hip-hop communities as a rising MC. He is an artist from Interscope Records and also a song writer for the record label, Aftermath Entertainment. He is known for avoiding beefs and feuds as he believes they are distractions, however, he had a highly publicized feud with Detroit rapper, Insane Clown Posse after they insulted Eminem and Dr. Dre and questioned Azrael's credibility as a hustler. The feud escalated since the end of 2009 until the beginning of 2010 when Posse declared truce, despite starting this feud. Raven has not responded to this. In January 4th, Astrid released his first mainstream mix tape called R.A.P.(Rhymes And Poetry), under Interscope Records. the mix tape has been compared by many to the mix tape, So Far Gone, by Canadian rapper Drake, whom also rose to success during 2009 and 2010. At 18 years old, Stefano is the most successful young rapper of his generation. He is also known by his aliases, Astrid, Azrael, Ares, Nightfury, Black Hawk, as well as Saint Michael. He has collaborated with other prominent rap moguls such as Puff Daddy, Dr. Dre, and recently, Jay-Z, as well as R&B stars R Kelly, Trey Songz, and rapper Young Jeezy. He has expressed a desire to work with other well-respected artists such as Eminem, Rakim, Mobb Deep, Nas, Alicia Keys, and Rihanna.
Stefano claimed that he was raised in New York, and while there is no source to verify this, it was likely that he grew up in Queens. Some have claimed that he was of Asian heritage, but he has denied this, stating that he was Italian-American. According to him, he moved to The Bronx are of New York City at age 15, and had a residence in Little Italy next to a Pasta store. He attended a Christian school since a young age and has described that his school life was rough, and he was a frequent victim of bullies, with many using racial slurs against him, and ridiculed him due to the fact that he had atheistic ideas. It was said at age 13, he was withdrawn from the school due to the mental damage inflicted upon him. At age 14, he continued to live without going to school or having a properly established education. He has also said he had few childhood friends, and was mentally depressed. At age 11, however when Stefano began taking interest within rapping and hip-hop, especially after listening to rappers Eminem and Jay-Z's songs, "Till I Collapse" and "Dead Presidents II", respectively. Stefano claimed that Eminem and Jay-Z were his childhood idols as artists, and was able to relate to Eminem's suffering. At age 14, he began taking an interest in film and visual arts and was a budding film student and film historian. However,at age 17 his interest within rap and music in general was revived when he heard the song, "Beautiful" by Eminem, as well as songs like "Just Dance" by Lady GaGa on the radio. He was further more interested again in hip-hop after hearing the successful Jay-Z single, "Empire State of Mind", for which he memorized the whole song's verses of.
Career, Interscope Records and Aftermath Entertainment
He decided to balance his interests between film and music, and at age 16 sent a sample of his song, "Dan" which was a cover to Eminem's song, "Stan" as a tribute to his deceased friend of the same name, to Dr. Dre, whom at the time was considering to retire unless he could have found a new artist who would be able to bring something new towards Aftermath. At age 17, he began recording rap songs for his former friends. In February of 2010, Jimmy Stefano flew to Los Angeles to the Aftermath Entertainment Head Quarter to send his samples to Dr Dre. The record producer was impressed and decided to hold studio sessions for the ambitious youth. However, Dre was still not convinced, and told Stefano to take a break from recording so many songs endlessly, and wait for another month until his mix tape would be released. Dre then told Stefano to sign to Interscope Records first, where many artists work at, and then come back to California months after. Stefano returned to New York City for a month before going to Hong Kong, and sent samples of his songs, "Presidential", "Dan", and "Don't You Ever Change" to the Interscope Records label managers. they decided to allow him to work there during recording sessions and released the three mentioned songs. His first official rap single is scheduled to be released on April 10th, when he will return to New York City during the holidays, and is called, "Presidential". The music video will depict Azrael in suit and tie sitting in a well decorated hotel room within Manhattan's Majestic Hotel, overlooking the Skyscrapers of New York City, trying to find some meaning within his empty and depressed life. On March 19th, Azrael has constructed his Vevo channel on Youtube, called RavenVevo. Although Azrael started rapping since 11, it wasn't until he was 18 when he started his career. His mixtape, R.A.P.(Rhymes And Poetry), has been compared to that of Canadian rapper Drake's own mix tape, So Far Gone. R.A.P. was received favorably but contemporary critics with many praising his ability to fabricate stories out of complex lyrics and how he is a young throwback to old school style,as well as literacy, linguistic abilities and has been seen by many as a younger version of rapper, Nas, for his political awareness. Critics also compared Raven's themes to those of label mate, Eminem, and his flow to that of Jay Z, with whom he collaborated with. The mix tape received generally positive reviews, with a 75/100 from Metacritic by 89 critics, but despite this, some have criticized his graphic and explicit content and description of gory and bloody events in some of his songs like, "Good Night", and "Raven and Juliet", in which he poetically describes his urge to murder 14-year old girls, and was criticized due to the fact that he used profanity and graphic content in his "poetry" and despite his considerable young age, he has attracted controversy. For example on March 6th, Azrael posted a photo depicting him smoking a cigar and was seen by many. Conservative publications were outraged by this, although he later removed the photo. He later attracted controversy once again in a cover shoot for Elle for which he held a bloody knife and was half nude. Many of Harlem's underground rappers describe him as a voice of New York's Hip Hop politics and a potential star who would lead the industry. His low profle, Interscope debut album, Rebel Without a Cause has also been released soon after and was produced by Timbaland. The album was known for its plethora of guests and featured artists and received a 87/100 by Metacritic, this time praising the noirish style, and the rather complex lyrics. In March 15th, 2010, it has been confirmed that Dr Dre is producing his second studio album, "The Jimmy Stefano LP, also known as "JSLP", and is a follow-up to the Aftermath album by Eminem, The Marshall Mathers LP. The JSLP would contain darker and more insightful songs than R.A.P. or his debut album, Rebel Without a Cause. The songs, Dan, Presidential, Please Come Back Home, The Way I Was, Voices, and Make Me Proud have been confirmed as some of the many tracks on the disc, but featuring different productions. Guest appearances by Dr Dre, Lady GaGa, Puff Daddy, and Trey Songz have also been verified. The album is due for release in January 2011. The samples have been very well received so far and it is predicted that The JSLP will garner even stronger acclaim than his previous works. On March 20th, Raven has also decided to work as an entrepreneur of multiple businesses but his works are limited, due to his reasonably little experience in Business, mostly because of his young age. As such a young age of just 18, he has accomplished what few other entertainers of his generation have: Releasing two discs and receiving acclaim for both of them, while maintaining mainstream appeal, as well as praise from old school rappers, as well as managing the finances of several different lines within the entertainment business and the industry. On January 31st, he donated $150,000 for Haiti, and his company donated another 2 million along with one more million with Bono. He has also attempted to get signed to Rocafella Records, the record label owned by his idol, mentor, friend, and collaborator, Jay Z.
Personal Life and Relationships
It was known that Stefano has also started a low-profile relationship with Electro-Pop singer Lady GaGa, whom was one of his major influences starting out. When asked about his relationship with the singer, he stated, "She was one of the reasons why i got in this type of stuff in the first place. At first, i knew i had the abilities and the knowledge to run rap and entertainment, but after seeing her Telephone music video, i thought i had to get moving, and one of the reasons why i got in this music business was to impress her, you know. But at first, there was this thing about age...you know what i mean. I was like 5 years younger than her, but we got on fine. We like each other a lot, to say the least."
On March 20th, Ravenl chipped in money to support Lady GaGa after she was sued by her former writer Rob Fusari, whom stated that he made her big, although it is widely speculated that Fusari was only a supervisor within GaGa's work and was already paid $1 million per month. Lady GaGa expressed her gratitude to Azrael for "being there", as well as "comforting her" through her harsh times, due to the fact that Fusari was her friend.
R.A.P. (collaboration album)
Rebel Without A Cause
Grand Theft Auto IV
Archangel: Azrael, Astrid, and Ares
Azrael: The Raven Stefano LP
Azrael 2: Aviator
Azrael 3: Avatar
The Gray Album
New York, New York
God Of War (compilation album)