A life-long resident of Milan and its suburbs, J-Ax (short for “Joker Alex”) was born Alessandro Aleotti on August 5, 1972. Beginning in 1990, he spent nearly 15 years as the frontman for the hip-hop duo Articolo 31, whose first album, Strade di Città, came out in 1993. With partner DJ Jad, J-Ax helped define Italian rap, mixing deft rhymes with both American and Italian rock influences. In fact, by the time Articolo got to their sixth album, 2002’s Domani Smetto, they had practically turned completely to pop and rock — also perhaps because J-Ax worked on this album almost completely alone. Although a formal split was never officially announced, after the release of 2003’s Italiano Medio, Articolo 31 decided to take a break and work on their own projects.
J-Ax, who had always gravitated toward American rock — particularly punk — soon began writing pieces for a solo album. In order to get the sound he wanted, he went to Los Angeles to record, getting help from former Hole and Shift drummer Samantha Maloney, bassist Brian O’Connor (Eagles of Death Metal), and guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen (A Perfect Circle, Failure). Released in 2006, Di Sana Pianta saw J-Ax continuing his often politically incorrect rants against society and for marijuana use. It was an immediate success in Italy, despite the fact that it was much more California punk-inspired pop and rock than hip-hop (an exception being the opener, “S.N.O.B.”). J-Ax next put out two albums at the same time — Rap n’ Roll and Deca Dance — both released in 2009 and both featuring more of the same sounds and styles, although with a heavily Italian lineup and guests including Gué Pequeno, Jovanotti, Marracash, Space One, and Pino Daniele. Together, the albums sold 100,000 copies, earning platinum certification separately.
His fourth album, Meglio Prima, was released in 2011, featuring productions from familiar J-Ax associates like Guido Style and Fabio B, plus one track with Two Fingerz; the live album Meglio Live! appeared in 2012. In 2014 J-Ax became a judge on the TV talent contest show The Voice of Italy. His fifth album, Il Bello d’Esser Brutti, debuted at number one upon release in February 2015, thanks in part to the success of the single “Uno di Quei Giorni,” a duet with Nina Zilli. In 2017 he scored another number one album in Comunisti col Rolex, a collaboration with fellow Milanese rapper Fedez. Its pop-rap-EDM sound saw both performers singing and rapping; the singles “Vorrei Ma Non Posto” and “Assenzio” both topped the chart. ~ Marisa Brown, Rovi