At the Ahoy Arena in Rotterdam, the third day of rehearsals for Eurovision Song Contest 2021 started with a bang. San Marino’s Senhit, one of this year’s most idiosyncratic artists, ran through her fiery entry “Adrenalina,” backed by fully masked dancers. But the rehearsal included one more participant who immediately got viewers curious.
The original version of “Adrenalina” includes a verse by known US rapper Flo Rida, whose participation in the contest has so far remained an open question. In March, Senhit issued a statement saying the Miami-based artist would take part in her performance “if circumstances allow it.” So far, Flo Rida hasn’t flown to Rotterdam, and so his role in the first rehearsal was filled by another rapper. According to the live blog on the official Eurovision website, his name is Don Jiggy.
So, who is this artist, who may or may not take the place of Flo Rida in the second semi-final next week? Thankfully, that Eurovision live blog included a link to Don Jiggy’s Instagram page, which provided a lead for this investigation.
Don Jiggy, born Nyame Bismarck Samuel Jr. in Naples in 1987, is an Italian rapper and singer of Ghanaian heritage. At age 12, he moved with his parents to Ghana, where he later formed the group Replay. Both within the group and as a solo artist, he became known in the genre of hiplife – a mix of Ghanaian popular music and hip-hop – and collaborated with several successful local artists.
After returning to Italy in his mid-20s, Jiggy formed the hip-hop and R&B band Soul System, comprised mostly of Italian musicians of African descent. The band competed on the tenth season of X Factor Italia in 2016, where they were mentored by Spanish hitmaker Álvaro Soler. Despite originally ending their journey at the audition stage, Soul System where brought back to the show after another contestant withdrew from it. This turned out to be a very fortunate event for the band, who actually went on to win the whole season, joining the ranks of such X Factor alums as Francesca Michielin, Italy’s 2016 Eurovision representative.
Soul System’s first single, “She’s Like a Star” – which they debuted during their X Factor final – went to no. 7 on the Italian singles chart and received a gold certification for its sales and streams. The band also released an EP by the same name as well as a full-length album, Back to the Future. In 2017, they appeared as guests at the Sanremo Music Festival, backing singer Sergio Sylvestre at the contest won by Francesco Gabbani. Their latest single, “Starlights,” was released in December 2020.
Don Jiggy might have seemed like a mere stand-in for a bigger name, but it turns out he has quite an illustrious career and an interesting life story of his own. He has experience at TV music contests and some unique links to former Eurovision artists. At the moment, the screens behind Senhit still show Flo Rida’s name, suggesting he will arrive at the Ahoy Arena at a later stage. But if something goes wrong, she can rely on the seasoned performer currently rehearsing by her side.