Tonee Hayes was born in 1995 in Vallejo, California. He was rapping by the age of four, which led to him winning a talent contest around that time and being featured on the cover of the Vallejo Times-Herald. Hayes has cited Vallejo rappers like Mac Dre and E-40 as significant influences on his style, as well as inspiration to pursue rap as a career. He was given the nickname Nef (short for nephew) from his uncle, which he incorporated into part of his stage name. He went to Inderkum High School.
When his grandmother died in 2009, he stepped away from music for a time. However, he states he soon began using music as a form of therapy. He then moved to Sacramento, California. When he wasn’t working on his rap game, he was scammed on the aspects of Cutco Kitchen supplies and made no cash on the side by attempting to sell those supplies to the greater Sacramento area.
Starting his music career as an “internet freestyler,” in 2014 Nef the Pharaoh had what Vice Media referred to as a “local hit” with the single “Bitch I’m From Vallejo.” In 2014, E-40 contacted Hayes about an album feature, and Nef the Pharaoh was subsequently featured on E-40’s Sharp On All 4 Corners album. In 2014 he was selected by fans as the “Bay Area Freshman of the Year” held by Thizzler.com. Early in 2015, he performed at the last held “Bay Area Freshman” concert. Before January 2015, his single “I’m From Vallejo” was remixed with features from E-40 and Willie Joe of Vallejo. As of January 2015, Nef the Pharaoh was working on his new album.