Born into a Jamaican-American family in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan, Shawn Mims grew up influenced by the rappers just south of him, in Harlem. Despite the fact that he lost both parents by the time he was 13, Mims focused on music (his mother had given him his first set of DJ equipment shortly before she died) and school to keep himself out of trouble. Though he briefly attended community college, Mims decided if he truly wanted to make it as a rapper he needed to drop out, a move that paid off career-wise: he was soon featured on the song "Love Em All" by Canadian group Baby Blue Soundcrew, which was nominated for Best Video in the 2001 Much Music Awards. "I Did You Wrong" came out in 2003 thanks to help from the Miami-based production team the Blackout Movement, and in 2006 the rapper, who was now going by Mims, independently released the single "This Is Why I'm Hot." The song did well enough on local radio stations, including New York's Hot 97, to garner attention from major labels, including EMI/Capitol, which released Mims' full-length debut, Music Is My Savior, in 2007.