Ever since his performance at URL's "Summer Madness 4" PGs last September, there has been a certain mystique around the name Gjonaj (pronounced "Jo-Nai"). Over the months, trailers and reviews helped build hype for the battle, but still, no footage.
At least not until a version leaked on a random YouTube channel on Feb. 28. The league dropped the official tape the next day, with many viewers declaring that the performance had indeed lived up to the hype, including some very high-profile commentators:
Gjonaj is incredible!!!! He is my favorite new battle rapper period!!!!!— Mook. (@MurdaMookez) March 2, 2015
There was also a vocal group of detractors who weren't as convinced, finding fault with specific lines, his "overwrought" delivery or calling him a Dizaster or Prez Mafia clone.
Part of the blowback may be because fans haven't seen anything quite like Gjonaj before. His more alternative image, cranium-pushing lyrical content and proto-metal-scream delivery are definite standouts in any league. But PG boss Norbes scouted him at a Detroit event, and recognized the talent.
"I just thought he was different," Norbes told BattleRap.com. "He stood out to me. When he got up on stage I thought he was the bartender to be honest with you, and then he started to rap and he was incredible."
Gjonaj's style plants itself squarely between the rapid-fire torrents of multis pioneered by Dizaster and the dense pen game of writers like Xcel and Bender. His aggression, and his succinct threats and punches, seem to have already made him a favorite across all fanbases.
Gjonaj started out in Detroit's Bar Wars league and was an old schoolfriend of league founder Sean Morrison, who says of him: “What makes him unique is that his originality and intricacy blend with his confidence, poise and composure, making him a hybrid as far as battle emcees are concerned.”
Bar Wars got hit with sour luck and had their entire channel taken off YouTube over view-buying violations. Even though the rogue battler responsible was held accountable, Gjonaj’s first two battles (against Cash Eatin and MC Sloose) have unfortunately vanished from viewability, with no backups available.
That he still has his current standing from the few battles in circulation is a sound indicator of his talent. His PG battle against Gutta did around 70,000 views in its first week, which eclipses the 55,000-view tally from his previous battles combined. Check out all of his footage below.
Gjonaj vs. Gutta
Gjonaj vs. OT 7even
Gjonaj vs. JC
Gjonaj vs. Kid Class
Who would you want to see him against? Do you think he will stand out in URL? Let us know in the comments below.