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19th Oct 2018

Jessie Reyez talks crashing Corvettes, fan love and dying a legend

Will Lavin

Jessie Reyez is the truth

There’s no two ways about it.

We’ve known it for quite some time too, hence why we featured her in our Ones to Watch list at the start of the year.

Taking some huge strides over the past 10 months and earning herself a lot of new fans along the way, a pretty big moment came for the singer/songwriter when she featured on not one, but two new Eminem songs from his latest project, the earth shattering Kamikaze.

Also putting out a string of songs weekly leading up to the release her new EP, Being Human in Public, one of which was a remix of her acclaimed song “Body Count”, a song that saw her hit out at sexual double standards, Jessie’s had a busy 2018, and it’s not over yet.

Something else she’s been busy doing this year is performing. And not just performing to an acceptable standard – something too many artists do these days, relying on their celebrity more than their ‘talent’ in order to get the bag – she’s owning every stage she touches.

I know it’s cliché to say, “such and such makes it look so easy,” but when it comes to Jessie Reyez she really does make it look easier than adding milk to a bowl of cereal. 

In all my years of watching live performers, from seasoned artists such as Prince, Beyoncé, Chaka Khan and Toto, to newer acts like Pale Waves, Little Simz, Stereo Honey and Khalid, I’ve rarely come across someone who looks as comfortable on stage as Jessie Reyez. She makes you feel like you’re in her living room watching her perform to her family. 

“I’m always terrified,” Jessie tells me during a chat in the lobby of her London hotel. “Before a show I’m always nervous. I’ve always got butterflies. I’m always doing vocal warm ups because I’m always scared. But then when I’m up on stage I just get so happy. I get so happy and just get lost in it. 

“One thing I love that makes me happy is being around nature with my family, it’s where I can find some of the most purest happiness. The other thing is that feeling right after a show, as soon as it’s done. Because it’s in that moment where I get to be like, ‘Yeahhhhhhhhhhhh.’ Oh man, I just get so happy.”

As a fan of her work, I’ve been looking forward to sitting down with Jessie for a good while. And sure, there’s a hundred things I want to ask, but there’s always been one question in particular. It’s not about Eminem. It’s not about Calvin Harris. It’s not about “Gatekeeper”. It’s not about her Cuban heritage. It’s about that damn Corvette.

On “Fuck It”, the first song on her 2017 EP Kiddo, Jessie sings:

“I crashed your Corvette/ I heard you bitchin’…Fuck it, you’re lucky I didn’t roll it/ You’re lucky I didn’t blow your brains out.”

I just had to know, did she really crash her ex-boyfriend’s car?

“No, that was all in my head,” she explains. “It was me showing restraint. That was self restraint on my part.”

My hopes of living vicariously through Jessie are dashed. Having gone through several breakups myself there have been times in the past where I’ve wanted to crash a car, or two, but haven’t been brave enough to do so.

Sensing my disappointment – not in her, but instead selfishly in my own desires not being able to feast upon some real-life drama – she tells me that if things had been different she’d probably have done it.

“If I was under 21 and wouldn’t have gotten charged I probably would have done it. But that was me trying to be responsible and not fuck up my life in jail. And now I’m here, so it was a good choice.”

So what is true about Jessie? 

One thing she’s particularly known for is the love she has for her fans. Again, many artists can claim to love their fans but do they really? Do they really thank them in person? Do they meet them after their shows? Do they do meet and greets without charging an arm and a leg for the pleasure? Jessie does all of the above and more.

“I hang out because if anyone was willing to wait that long I should be able to meet them in the middle and stay, even just for a little while,” Jessie says whilst grinning that huge smile of hers. It’s obvious her fans are her world.

“I’m very aware that none of this would be possible without people really supporting and really caring and really thugging it out.”

Not just getting love from fans and consumers, Jessie’s peers are starting to take notice.

As previously mentioned, she was recruited by Eminem for his Kamikaze album. She also featured on Calvin Harris’ Funk Wav Bounces Vol.1 project, as well as writing “One Kiss”, his hit collaboration with Dua Lipa. And how could we forget her beautiful performance of “Figures” at this year’s Juno Awards, alongside another rising star, Daniel Ceasar? We can’t.

I ask Jessie who else she’d like to work with. After staring into space for a second, she suddenly snaps back to the conversation and lists off three names in succession:

“Frank Ocean. Princess Nokia. KiD CuDi.”

Gushing over KiD CuDi, the two of us share the same opinion of the G.O.O.D. Music whiz kid. After I describe what he and his music means to me personally, Jessie responds, stating, “KiD CuDi, man. He can do no wrong. He’s that kind of artist to me.”

Jessie’s new EP, Being Human in Public, is out now. A collection of songs that she’s been putting out weekly for the past seven weeks, it’s her second EP but she’s still yet to put an album out.

“I never stop working,” she tells me, making sure I know that her work ethic isn’t the reason for not having an album out in the marketplace.

“I haven’t stopped working. Whenever God says it’s ready then it’ll be ready. It’s just a matter of making it, well, not perfect, but as perfect as I can. Perfect to me, which in itself is impossible. So as perfect as perfect can get to me, if that makes sense?”

What strikes me about Jessie Reyez upon speaking to her is her focus, it’s unwavering. She knows what she wants, how she wants it and where she needs to be to make it happen. Whether it’s the type of music she wants to make, what type of human being she wants to be, or the goals she wants to achieve, she’s so direct and to the point. And not only that, she oozes confidence.

Specific about her future, she informs me of her plans.

“The end goal is to have a farm for my father,” she begins. “To have accolades on my shelf, to have at least two orphanages and name them after my mother, to be able to positively and tangibly effect the lives of at least a million people before I pass away, and to die a legend.”

I tell her that I’ve not interviewed many people who have told me they want to die a legend. Several artists might think it but they rarely say it out loud.

“I wanna die a legend and actually make my life worth something. I want to make a big difference before I leave.”

Hopefully it’s a very long time before this becomes a reality. Jessie Reyez is one of those rare beings who has the capacity and resilience to do great things. Not good things, great things. And not just through her music either.

We hug, take a picture, bid each other farewell, and as I leave the lobby of the hotel I turn and tell her my fingers are crossed for that KiD CuDi collaboration. Music needs it.

Jessie Reyez’s new EP, Being Human in Public, is out now.