Jessie Reyez : The Real Thing

T he first time I heard about Jessie Reyez, the Canadian singer by way of Toronto singer, was ironically enough not through her music. A friend of mine had sent me a short film she created “Gatekeeper” that tackled misogyny and sexism in the music industry.

In the short film, Jessie attends a studio session in hopes of networking with fellow rappers. As the night goes on, she is accosted and later berated by a rapper that is angry at her for not sleeping with him.

Although a rather dark way to be introduced to an artist’s music, I was impressed with the ballsiness of a fairly new artist taking to task the very industry she was trying to rise in. I hoped to find the same emotional depth in her music and was pleased to find that quality in her most recent EP, Kiddo.

I am a firm believer in judging an artist’s capability by their recorded music and live show, in fact I’m almost maniacal about live music. I hate too much reliance on backing tracks; I think they’re lazy. I dislike the trick of artists continuously pointing their mic towards the crowd for us to sing it. No…you sing it.

That’s why I bought a ticket to hear and attend your show. I, and A LOT of people,can sing a pretty song, but it takes a special person to be able to go on stage, hold an audience captive, and remain on key while performing a good show.

When I saw Jessie Reyez at the Songbyrd in Washington D.C, I was blown away by how much poise and charisma she had on stage. As I listened to Kiddo on the way to the concert, I was struck by how many times I thought she sometimes sounds like a female version of Chance the Rapper, which was only solidified by the fact that she opened up her show with Chance’s “Cocoa Butter Kisses”.

I would honestly buy a cd of her covering hip-hop songs because her rendition of Schoolboy Qs “That Part” was nothing short of magical. Jessie possesses a rather unique voice that has incredible texture and range. On a song like “Fuck it” I’m reminded of the cadences that I first fell in love with on Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black. It sounds like someone took Amy Winehouse, sprinkled in a touch of Macy Gray, and then topped it off with the raspiness of a Janis Joplin.

All female artists, if I may add, that were known for their distinctive, cant-quite-put-my-finger-on it-but-it-sounds-great voice. Throughout the performance, there were no gimmicks and no overly loud back track just Jessie, her guitar, and her voice. While running through a mix of covers and tracks off of “Kiddo”, she talked to crowd as if we were friends she had invited into listen in on a jam session.

It might have been that the size of Songbyrd that leant to the intimate vibe, but the overall tone of the show was that of a woman who just wanted to sing some real shit for her fans. There’s a lot being made of so called “Soundcloud artists” with images or antics that precede their music.

Though she may not be jumping into the crowd or being swung like a hammock by security guards, the fact that she’s singing live the entire time on stage is something that needs to be commended in today’s age. When you’re the real thing, your talent can speak for itself.