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The man who goes by the name Neffa was born Giovanni Pellino in 1967 in Scafati, Italy, a small town near Naples, but he spent much of his youth in the northern cities of Turin and Bologna. He began his musical career as a drummer in various hardcore bands, one of which was the influential Negazione, using the name "Jeff," but later decided to switch to hip-hop. Pellino, who at this point was performing under the name Neffa, in honor of the Paraguayan Cremonese soccer star, hooked up with DJ Gruff and Deda to form Sangue Misto, a hip-hop group whose debut, 1994's SXM, is often considered the first great Italian rap album. In 1996 Neffa decided to try out his luck as a solo artist, and recorded the appropriately titled Neffa & I Messaggeri della Dopa in 1996 with a group of Italian and American artists collectively called I Messaggeri della Dopa. The musician stuck with stalwarts Gruff and Deda for his next record, 1998's 107 Elementi, followed the next year with the five-song EP Chicopisco. It was after this that Neffa decided to explore his other musical interests, namely soul, funk, and R&B, all of which are heard in his 2001 album, Arrivi e Partenze. Although he received a lot of criticism from the Italian rap community, the album did well commercially, and gained Neffa attention from a more mainstream audience. He followed up the success of Arrivi e Partenze two years later with I Molteplici Mondi di Giovanni, Il Cantante Neffa, and in 2006 his third album as a singer, Il Mondo Nuovo, was released in Italy.
© Marisa Brown /TiVo


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