Whilst I started writing this a few weeks ago, trying to find some solace in between Andy Murray making English tennis history, the intensity of Wireless and the general need for a gorgeous soundtrack to match the fabulous weather we have been having. I put on hold writing something about the extremely talented Jesse Boykins III when I heard about the imminent release of the new EP P.O.P [Purpose or People]. I’m glad I did because the EP is definitely something to talk about.
Before the release of P.O.P, there has been a lot of talk about his delayed and eagerly anticipated album Love Apparatus that fans have been waiting for. The album was expected to have a sonic feel building on from the last EP The Way of the Wayfarer. According to an interview with Redbull Academy the Love Apparatus album which he has been working on with Machinedrum is now finished and will be released soon. It will also be released with a documentary about women, which includes interviews with 300 women of different ages from all over the world.
The forthcoming album has been influenced by the 80s including music from Phil Collins, Elton John and Pink Floyd. I’m not a major fan of any of those musicians so I’m intrigued by what it will sound like. His last album Zulu Guru was released at the end of last year, in collaboration with MeLo X which was a mammoth 15-track album.
Jesse was born in Chicago, grew up in Miami and then moved to New York when he was 17 years old. Whilst he was at high school, he was selected to perform and record an album with the Grammy Jazz ensemble and then made his way to The New School University where he worked with Soul veteran Bilal. Recording musical melodies on a karaoke machine from the age of nine, Jesse was always, as so many talented artists are, inspired by sounds from an early age. But his is a far reaching, world encompassing type of sound that doesn’t want to sit neatly in one place.
Before the full release of the EP P.O.P, there were trickles of what was in store. Just a few days before, we were treated to a cover of Drake’s “Doing It Wrong” and as addicted to the original as I was, Jesse has completely elevated it, the subtleties of his voice packs the song with the emotion it needed. The reworked tune adds depth and is hauntingly soulful.
This teaser only heightened my anticipation for the collection of covers that he has done which includes Lana Del Rey, Coldplay and The Rapture. There is a futuristic, Soulful vibe mixed with Pop sensibilities that come through on the covers he has selected. The covers he chose were songs that kept him going during his recent tour where he was headlining the Romantic Movement Tour. It’s Pop music that feeds the soul according to Jesse.
Jesse takes Coldplay’s melancholy “Sparks” and takes it farther. It’s a gift he has, taking a song and adding a piece of magical romance to it. He adds a lighter touch with its tinkling guitar and deft keyboards, but keeps the melancholy with that achingly deep voice that echoes through. I’ve got to admit this is a track where I prefer it to the original. His Lana Del Rey cover of “Young and Beautiful” is completely reworked and barely recognizable. Stamping his fragile voice over it. Towards the end it becomes more trance and dance like.
But the tracks that are my favourite that completely hit that sweet spot are his original tracks. Those are where his brilliance shines through. “Never A Dull Moment” is produced with Sinden, a UK-based producer and was made available from the end of last year. It incorporates the subtle sounds of water gushing, with bass guitar and keyboard arrangements whilst Jesse’s brilliant voice carries the track to create a harmonious chill out tune dripping with regret and nostalgia.
“Lover Of My World 1.0” is another Sinden produced track on P.O.P which takes it to a new place with a prominent drums-led beat and high vocals from Jesse. It’s grittier and dedicational, even obsessive and this is without a doubt my favourite track on the new EP, with its lush bassline, synths and infectious drum patterns.
In anticipation of “Love Apparatus”, here’s a previously released track from Jesse produced with MachineDrum. There is also a version on P.O.P which is mixed with The Weeknd’s “The Knowing”. Personally I prefer the original which mixes soul with electronic elements to achieve a distinctive sound. It is laid back sexy romance.
Jesse Boykins III is an artist that isn’t afraid to make a lot of music, but he never sacrifices the quality of his work. However the most exciting part for me is that music isn’t where it stops. He’s open to collaborations, ideas, venturing into new directions and experimenting. You never quite know what you might get with Jesse and it’s exhilarating.