Coronel is Peruvian and was born in a military hospital in Lima. He is of mostly Amerindian descent, although also has Spanish, French and African ancestry. His family emigrated to Harlem, New York in 1980 to escape the Peruvian Civil War. During his teenage years, he was arrested multiple times due in part to what he has said was "selfish and childish" behavior. He attended Hunter College High School on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, where his classmates included Chris Hayes and Lin-Manuel Miranda, who he bullied, although the two later became friends. Shortly after enrolling in Pennsylvania State University, he was arrested and charged with assault-related offenses due to his involvement in an altercation between fellow students, the charges stemming from this incident led to him being incarcerated for a year.
After being paroled, he took political science classes at Baruch College in New York City for two semesters at the behest of his father, who allowed Coronel to live with him on the condition that he goes to school. Honing his rapping skills in jail, and unable to find decent wage-paying employment after his release, he began selling his music on the streets of New York and battling with MCs. This, coupled with his victories in numerous freestyle rap competitions of the New York underground hip hop scene such as Rocksteady Anniversary and Braggin Rites, led to his reputation as a ferocious Battle MC.