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Like so many rappers before him, Watsky owes a bit of thanks to Def Jam founder Russell Simmons, but unlike the others, this slam-poet-turned-rapper was introduced to the world via the HBO television series Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry. Born George Virden Watsky in San Francisco, the teen won numerous poetry slams in the Bay Area. A move to Boston for college coincided with national poetry slam tours; in 2007, he teamed with Daniel Riera and Max Miller-Loran -- both former San Franciscans living in Boston -- and launched the poetry-rap group Invisible Inc. The trio released their self-titled debut album that same year. In 2009, Watsky released a solo self-titled album, and in 2010, his vocals were lifted off the LP, remixed with popular pop tracks, and released as Guilty Pleasures. After Cardboard Castles followed in 2013, he signed with Kevin Morrow's Steel Wool label. The deal resulted in the autobiographical LP All You Can Do (2014), as well as X Infinity (2016), both of which peaked well within the top half of the Billboard 200. ~ David Jeffries