Whether it's amassing 20 million+ subscribers on YouTube, being in the top 15 most followed people on Twitter in the UK or now having one of the most successful debut albums of the year, KSI seems to be able to do anything he sets his mind to doing.
Last year he released his debut album, Dissimulation, and the growth in his music is evident, this year following it up with another record, All Over The Place. KSI's been hard at work improving his music ever since he first started making songs back in the middle of last decade, and it shows. However, rather than seeing Dissimulation as a crowning achievement, to KSI (also known as JJ), it's simply the beginning of a bigger journey. "This is the foundation. Over the years, I've been slowly growing to the point where I was able to release a solo album. I feel my audience saw that and understands that, and that's why they're so on board. They're so ready to hear more of my music because they see me always improving and always getting better.
"There's never a point where I'm not changing and staying the same and nothing changes, it's always just improvement, improvement, improvement. There's a lot of intrigue with that. I feel like with this album, I've really laid the foundation of where I could go and there's a lot of promise in that. I feel like a lot of people are interested in that." There's no plan to slow down, or to stagnate - it's full steam ahead for JJ, because he knows no other way.
Being in the public eye means giving your fans a glimpse into your life. However, writing Dissimulation allowed him to open up to his fans like never before, showing off his softer side, as well as his more established macho side. To JJ, KSI is a character - and it's JJ that shines through on his debut album. "Personal songs like Millions and How It Feel are songs are pretty much JJ. Those types of tracks are very personal and I don't normally show that online. I don't want to give everything to the world. I feel like it's good to keep some things personal.
"On the other hand, Domain for example, is the track where I'm really like, 'I am the shit, look what I've done. Look what I've created'. It's two sides to me and I feel like everyone has these sides to them where they'll have a side where they are how they are, but then they'll have an alter ego where they portray what they would like to be." The balance between KSI and JJ is one that's constantly being adjusted, but Dissimulation is the most honest JJ has ever been about his life, and the challenges he faces. After all, he says, "I still have problems, I still have issues in my life just like every other person."
Dissimulation incorporates sounds from both the UK and the US. It features US rappers like Lil Pump, Offset and Rick Ross, as well as UK rappers Swarmz and Tion Wayne. KSI's UK accent comes through heavily on the album, while he embraces the trap sound dominating the US, which embraces the lavish lifestyles many of the world's biggest rappers love to demonstrate themselves living.
Drill and grime, by contrast, feature rappers talking about what they've seen on the streets, and how that's impacted them. It's a lot more down to earth, and is a sound being embraced worldwide, including in Australia. However, KSI says while he understands where drill and grime sits in today's hip-hop landscape, just because he's from the UK doesn't mean he's naturally drawn towards these sounds. "It would have to make sense for me to want to jump on a drill song because I know I'm not rapping about cheffing someone, or trying to put someone in a spliff. I'm just trying to make good music, and just have fun and enjoy it and put a message whenever it's necessary. I'm at a point where if it makes sense, it makes sense. I'm just keeping my options open."
Speaking to JJ, it's obvious how much music means to him. His reaction to Anthony Fantano, one of the most notable music critics in the world, reviewing his album proves that JJ doesn't see music as a novelty, but is constantly looking to improve. Even throughout the interview, there's answers from both KSI and JJ - KSI comes out when talking about his love for his audience, while JJ comes out when asked about his plans for the next album.
He's already working on his next album, despite audiences still digesting Dissimulation. Early feedback on the album has highlighted a few things he wants to improve on for album number two, as well as things he's noted personally. He speaks earnestly about what he wants to improve on the album, acknowledging that he hasn't reached his peak as a musician.
It's clear JJ enjoys a challenge, and is always looking to prove himself to those around him. In the last couple of years he turned his hand to boxing, winning multiple fights, including beating fellow YouTuber Logan Paul in a professional bout.. Now, the focus is on music, and making sure his next album sees him continue to improve as a musician. "I'm looking to improve my singing. I could have been better on a few tunes singing wise. I also want to improve my lyricism and [make] sure it's always on point, and there are no throwaway lines. Working with more UK beats, you know, UK artists, more UK songs. I want to kind of tap into that a bit more. So I'm just working on that.
"I want to try and create my own lane as well, where I'm a person that's adaptable in general, and a person that doesn't just have one type of sound. So I never want to put myself in a box. I don't want to just only do UK songs. That's why I had both UK and American songs on there. Now I've figured out what works and what doesn't, and I just want to explore that and take it to the next level."
Being connected with his fanbase is something JJ prides himself on, and his fans inspire him to improve. It can be hard having such a brutally honest group of people behind him, but it's something he appreciates. He talks about his audience glowingly, smiling widely as he recounts just how connected he feels with those that enjoy his music, and want him to succeed. "I have such a close relationship [with] my audience which allows me to really do well with my music. If I put out music that's shit, I get bullied and I get the piss taken out of me if it's shit. If I put out something that's good, my audience supports me all the way and pushes it and will make it do well. We have a really good relationship.
"That's why I always want to make sure that I never put out shit music [laughs]. I know I'll get destroyed. I love the honesty, [and] I wouldn't want it any other way. I wouldn't want my fans just to always love everything that I put out. I want to be real. I have an honest relationship with my audience. Even if I like to troll sometimes, my audience can see through it and it's entertaining. I don't think any other entertainer has an audience and a relationship with their fans like me."
Despite the pandemic, JJ is staying positive - and he lights up when asked about Australia. He's looking forward to exploring the country, and getting to play some shows for his fans here, who have always been supportive. "I know when I go there I'm going to be doing a madness, it's just gonna be crazy. I can't wait.
"I can't wait to explore Australia as well. The Gold Coast, Sydney, Melbourne and all those places. I want to explore and just really see just everything about Australia. And try not to get killed by one of the insects or animals over there." He was relieved when he was told the insect thing was a bit overplayed. Just watch out for the drop bears.