17 On The Frontline: Jessie Reyez

“I’d rather make you not feel that lonely in your crazy”

2017 can only begin with a sweeping statement that describes a future great one.

I keep it very 100, I’m very straight to the point. I’m really not that complex… I’m just a guy that that likes Hip Hop, Sci-fi films, and comics. Anything X-men related, but not Justice League. Justice League always seemed moist, I was a fan of the Teen Titans even though it was like a junior version of the Justice League. The characters were cooler, much darker. One of the coolest characters is a girl called Terra, she is a very complex character who has the ability to control earth and gravity, she could channel and control lava from the earth’s core, generate volcanic eruptions. Jessie Reyez reminds me of Terra from the Teen Titans because she has an incredible raw energy, an unrivalled commanding flow.

Towards the end of 2016 I witnessed Jessie Reyez’s debut UK show, and within seconds of hitting the stage she bodied the crowd, she tested the limits of the PA system, it was clear that Jessie had the capacity to vocally blow everyone and everything away. She performed on stage several feet away from the mic and you could hear the immense raging power of her voice. It was like she channeled the fire and brimstone from the earth’s core and fired it across the venue. It was that same aggressive veracity that Eminem let off in the Marshall Mathers era.

It’s deeper than just singing, she has a very real intense passionate delivery that burns throughout her performance. She has an inescapable energy which enabled her to flawlessly flip acoustic versions of modern day Hip Hop classics ’Cocoa Butter Kisses’ and ’That Part’ half way through her show. Jessie Reyez is the living embodiment of greatness, raw talent. She is a modern classic soul artist with the nonchalance and energy of the hardest rapper. She had an unapologetic ‘I dont give a fuck what you think’ existence on stage.

It’s just hurt that I need out.

I witnessed a very special moment, I felt like I saw the arrival of one of the future great ones, one of the future great artists that will be around years from now. I became an instant stan and had to connect.

You have your own unique style of hard aggressive soul, where does the energy come from?

It’s just hurt that I need out. Cos some people ask my ‘why don’t you make more happy songs’ and I’m like man when I’m happy I wanna keep that, when I’m happy I like having that energy but when I get angry it’s to the other side of the spectrum, so I gotta get it out.

As with most great artists the need to liberate your pain is to our benefit. It’s a bizarre dynamic that we take for granted and we never appreciate the journey that is traveled by an artist to get to that point where they are comfortable to express themselves in the studio or on the stage. How does an up and coming Soul artist from Toronto connect with one of Chicago’s hardest MCS?

That’s a crazy story, there’s a thing in Toronto called the Remix Project and it’s an art incubator for quote unquote at risk youths. So depending what area you’re from and what kind of adversities you’ve faced and that in combination with your talent, depends on whether you make it. I made it into the program, grace of god and then one of the mentors who came to speak was King Louie and before he spoke, one of the founders of Remix Project, Gavin Shepard, was like “let me play you some shit” and he played one of my tracks and then he walked out of the studio and was like “that was you” and I was like “yeah yeah yeah”. And then after he spoke, his manager came and said “yo he wants to work with you” and I was like alright “dope lets do it”, they only got one day and I’m like dope lets do it.

How did you make the collab with King Louie happen?

We couldn’t find a studio last minute and we ended up at this condo downtown and it was like stacked, it was like me, Doc Mckinney, Spooky Black and Sean Leon and Redway and Wondagurl and it was a crazy room…my manager and other managers and it was dope. But there was so many people, and so much music and everyone was kinda like listening to beats and chilling and I was like man I can’t waste this opportunity something needs to happen, I can’t just go home the next day and say “we just sat there” and do nothing. I looked at him and said “you wanna just jam here” and he was like “here?” and I was like “yeah, you wanna just jam here?” – he said “alright”. So I took out my guitar and we started jamming and we started free styling and then we went out to the balcony and then made this song. He had to go back to Chicago that night and one of my managers went back to Remix Project and we recorded all night. Because of that program, I know how to engineer, because of that program I can kinda produce, and ‘kind of’ I use that loosely (laughs). So I did it, took about five hours all night, next day sent the track back and then he sent back his verse and then the song was done. Yeah man, and he’s put me on and if it wasn’t for Louie a lot of stuff wouldn’t have happened and he’s messed with my stuff since the first time he heard it.

It’s really is like that 8 Mile thing, you get one chance, you get one shot…

Hell yeah it is man, hell yeah and people are asleep man, you can’t sleep on those. You cannot sleep on those. Oh my god. Straight up I know I’m not the best singer, I’m not the best guitar player, I know that I’m not perfect and I work everyday to get better. But I know that work ethic beats all of that stuff and drive beats a lot of that stuff. So while I’m polishing those things, I know I don’t have to polish my work ethic because that’s something that you just do or you don’t do. So that’s something that came from my parents, cos they’re just Colombian hustlers man and they work hard and I got that from them, so that’s helped me a lot to just get things out. Someone else that might be more talented but don’t have that drive. Thank god for that, that’s made a big difference in the past so far.

You’ve worked with Chance the Rapper before right?

Yeah man he’s dope. That happened because of Louie. Because of that song with King Louie, Chance started tweeting some lyrics and we were like “oh man that’s dope” and I did a cover online and tagged Pat [Chance’s manager], which is also super dope, he’s like mad cool and we linked up in Chicago up in the studio…and then man, that relationship has just sustained itself and he’s just been able to just act as a soundboard and offer advice. That whole team, that whole team is just stacked and they’re all dope and they’re all good people man, we’re blessed to know them too. Especially me as a rookie in this new world, it’s dope to have allies that are like wiling to offer a hand down and be like ‘maybe you should do this, maybe you shouldn’t’ do this’ – from Louie and him [Chance].

I’ll be your sad company, because that’s what Amy Winehouse was to me when I was going through that stuff.

Being that you’re on the come up and he’s giving you advice whats the best thing Chance has said, the one piece of advice that’s really helped you focus?

Its funny because it’s not something that he said, but its something that he provoked me to say…. because my music doesn’t come from such a warm place, my music comes from more of an angry place, more of a painful place, so I might not be that positive pull, that pulls that energy from you, but I might be the sadness that accompanies you. I’ll be your sad company, because that’s what Amy Whinehouse was to me when I was going through that stuff. Amy was my company, Amy was my sad company. So if I can’t inspire that positivity, I’d rather make you not feel that lonely in your crazy.

Watch the video for ‘Figures’ the debut single from Jessie Reyez, from her debut EP dropping soon. Follow @JessieReyez for further details and listen to her new single ‘Shutter Island’ here