Meet the artist making trippy R&B and taking on sexism in the music industry.
This article was originally published by i-D UK.
Toronto's very own Jessie Reyez has already accumulated an impressive CV of collaborators thanks to her homebrewed brand of trippy R&B. Fans of the singer and songwriter include drill king King Louie, Mr. Coloring Book Chance the Rapper, and dubstep dabbler turned Jack Ü hitmaker, Skrillex.
Born in Canada to Colombian parents, Reyez — who pronounces Jessie as 'Yessie' because "it's lit fam" — is into everyone from Quentin Tarantino to Frank Ocean, with her own music as evocative as her influencers. Singing songs about "shitty break-ups," and delving into the dark world of love and rejection, Reyez is also unafraid to call out certain sections of the music industry for being utter scumbags — as she did on her recent EP, Kiddo.
We met the 26-year-old and asked her to tell us the five most interesting things about herself.
1. Jessie is from Toronto, which she describes as "mad dope".
"I got the opportunity to grow up around different cultures, especially being a child of an immigrant family. I love everything about Toronto but the winter. I did a ton of jobs on the way up — I was a bartender, a cheerleader for the Toronto Argonauts, a cashier at Sobeys, a babysitter, a personal trainer, a busker, and a few other jobs I got fired from. I may or may have not gotten fired from the shit I just listed. I'm still figuring out the busking thing…"
2. Jessie came through Toronto's Remix Project and was mentored by Daniel from DVSN, one half of the very awesome duo with Nineteen85.
"The Remix Project is an art incubator for at risk youth. It's the hub of a lot of urban culture, specifically music in Toronto. You kind of go in there a rookie; videographers, photographers, graphic designers need to build their portfolio and musicians need music videos, photographs, artwork, so you end up walking out with material and helping each other get better in the process. The Remix Project changed my life. It's actually the reason I met King Louie. He came in one day to mentor and one of the founders (Gavin Sheppard) happened to show him my music and we built from there."
3. Jessie starting writing in her mother's womb. Almost.
"I started writing when I was seven months old. Someone shoved a notebook and a pencil into my mom and I came out with a book of heartbreak, agony, and Jameson."
4. Jessie has a new EP out called Kiddo and it's a family affair.
"Kiddo was in the making for two years. It's an assembly of experiences that I went through. The first song that we dropped from the EP was "Figures" and it was about a shitty break-up that I went through. I'm grateful that I got to work with a lot of dope producers like Priest and the Beast, Jahaan Sweet, William Larsen, and Tim Suby, who produced half the EP. On top of that, the calligraphy was done by my nephew, the album cover was shot by my cousin, and the little girl on the cover is my niece. Family over everything."
5. The track "Gatekeeper" examines the sexist shadiness of the music industry.
"'Gatekeeper" is the second to last track on Kiddo and it's a true story that happened to me years ago. It's about the misogyny and sexual abuse that goes on in the underbelly of the music industry, AKA 'You gotta suck dick for a deal.' PSA: you don't have to suck dick to get a deal. I'm not judging anyone that wants to take that route, all I'm saying is that you don't have to buy into the idea that it's necessary to progress. What it does take is hard work, dedication, and an inner circle of ride or die people who genuinely give a fuck about you and your wellbeing."
Text Hattie Collins
Photography Marlon Munoz