Is it possible to feel Southeast London without ever going there? Maybe not, but listening to Jesse James preach through broody J-Dilla-like instrumentals has to count for something.
After all, the British rapper is blowing up in London for a reason. James’ spoken style of rap speaks conviction, and his lyrics tell stories about the ugly sides of London—to the tune of gentrification, corruption and youth violence. It’s not that his music is depressing, rather, it's intense. James hits you with provocative lines that might just make you wonder about yourself.
We all saw things we wasn't meant to see/ Well I guess we was meant to see it, if we saw it,” – “JFSE”
His newest EP, “The Ride Home,” features five songs veined with gritty U.K. underground that brings to life Jesse’s obsession with time, its effects on us and our relationships with people. “Time is Funny” is a collection of reminiscing voices that background Jesse’s own voice as he deduces the commotion. As a girl’s voice reflects, “There were so many things I wanted to hear, yet you were silent,” we later hear James say “Time is money, I wish I could get me alone," leading to the quick assumption that the song is about time and money pushing two souls apart. Isn’t time funny?
“The Ride Home” track is perhaps the greatest confirmation of Jesse James’ potential for musical prominence. Riding along a beat akin to Eminem’s “Stan,” James comes out about his improving career as an artist and the resulting apathy to emotions. Unlike “Time is Funny,” the first track in the EP, “The Ride Home” concludes the collection by showcasing Jesse’s ability to tell stories through assemblies of songs the way Kendrick Lamar or J Cole do. The music video for the song was hosted by Noisey, and recently, Pulse Films crowned “YPT’s” music video “Best Urban Video.”
James’ spoken style of rap speaks conviction, and his lyrics tell stories about the ugly sides of London—to the tune of gentrification, corruption and youth violence.
James has yet to release an album, but his only two EPs have caught the attention of artists from across the sea, including New York City rapper Wiki, who we saw feature Jesse in his Lil Me album (2015) and Boiler Room performance. At home, Jesse is allied with the soundest upcoming artists, like Rejjie Snow, Jamie Isaac and Archy Marshall (all of whom have headlined in the U.K.). Although it helps that the artists are all from the same part of town, it can’t be understated how important James’ music has been for Southeast London’s breakout in the music scene.
Now performing on a string of pre-shows, Jesse is preparing to unveil his debut album. Like “The Ride Home” EP, it is guaranteed to be a broth of Jesse’s pensive, truth-seeking style with Southeast London’s underground flavor and grit.