How Auckland rapper JessB went from face in the crowd to queen of the stage

by Vomle Springford / 16 March, 2018

Auckland artist JessB.

The evolution of JessB

Bursting onto the male-dominated hip hop scene, Auckland rapper JessB has gone from a face in the crowd to performing to huge crowds and today, releases her much-anticipated debut EP, Bloom.

Back in the city after doing the summer music festival circuit, the 24-year-old says she’s gone to so many festivals in the past, it was all the sweeter to be there as an artist performing.

“That’s one of my favourite aspects of it all, performing on stage. It’s a real way of connecting with people who enjoy your music, it’s face to face; you give and receive energy from people.”

Rapping since high school, JessB, aka Jess Bourke, says her new EP, produced by P-Money, is the result of her musical, and personal, evolution.

“It’s a long journey to get to the point where you put something out. I’ve been working on the music for the last year but prior to that, there's lots of music and demos that aren’t ever going to be released but kind of needed to happen to find my sound and be comfortable with the artist I am.”

The title, Bloom, reflects this journey: “To bloom is to reach your full form, I’ve been on a big journey lately... both in terms of my identity and my whole musical journey. It feels like I’ve really started to know who I am and who I want to be and where I’m going, and that feels like blooming.”

As a woman of colour, Bourke wants to share her experiences ‒ and not just lyrically.

“It’s so much more than the music, what I’m trying do. I’m keen to talk about issues that are being faced by people like me at the moment. I think it’s important to have awareness around all the different ways we can talk about feminism and all the intersecting issues, because we’re not winning unless we’re all winning.”

Some of this she explores on Bloom, but there are also more light-hearted tracks too, like ‘Take it Down’, she says.

The music video for the song, released recently, features Rubi Du, aka Silva MC, and has a distinctive dancehall sound, but she says she doesn’t stick to just one style.

“I don’t like to box myself in, I like the option to have lots of different sounds, explore different sounds... I definitely like my groove and hip-hop, something that makes you feel like you wanna dance.

Her influences include early 2000s hip-hop ‒ Timbaland and Missy Elliot are some favourites ‒ and she listens to a lot of female rappers, like Sampa the Great and Leikeli47.

Being female in the music industry doesn’t faze her.

“It's definitely male-dominated but my experience has actually been really positive. I’ve been able to create interest because I am slightly different to what New Zealand hip-hop is known to be. I haven’t had any direct negative experiences [but] people will have their own preconceived kind of notions about what I should and shouldn't be doing.”

Whatever she’s doing though, is working.

JessB’s new EP Bloom is out now. See her live at the EP release party in Auckland on 6 April, click here for details.

Latest

My Brilliant Friend: The HBO adaptation of Elena Ferrante comes to NZ television
99028 2018-11-19 00:00:00Z Television

My Brilliant Friend: The HBO adaptation of Elena F…

by Fiona Rae

A new TV series stars two women in repressed, male-chauvinist Naples and is filmed in Neapolitan.

Read more
If I were a rich man: A grammarian on the nettlesome subjunctive
98551 2018-11-19 00:00:00Z Diversions

If I were a rich man: A grammarian on the nettleso…

by Ray Prebble

Many people find themselves using one or other of these subjunctive forms without really knowing why.

Read more
As China shuts its gates to our plastics and paper, how can NZ stem the tide?
99059 2018-11-19 00:00:00Z Planet

As China shuts its gates to our plastics and paper…

by Veronika Meduna

Unless we get serious about recycling, there’ll be a tonne of plastic for every three tonnes of fish in the ocean by 2025.

Read more
Heights of contradiction: American and Israeli Jews' complicated relationship
99055 2018-11-18 00:00:00Z World

Heights of contradiction: American and Israeli Jew…

by Todd Pitock

Todd Pitock's travels through Israel reveal the true differences between American and Israeli Jews.

Read more
The Democrat's midterm wins spell the end of Trump's dream run
99105 2018-11-18 00:00:00Z World

The Democrat's midterm wins spell the end of Trump…

by Paul Thomas

Far from being Trump’s near-“complete victory”, the midterms mean opportunities for rigging electoral boundaries have swung back towards the Dems.

Read more
Sally Rooney's Normal People has the makings of a classic
99094 2018-11-18 00:00:00Z Books

Sally Rooney's Normal People has the makings of a …

by Kiran Dass

Normal People is sharply observed portrait of an on-off romance and a book you need to read.

Read more
Why you should avoid 'eating for two' during pregnancy
98747 2018-11-18 00:00:00Z Health

Why you should avoid 'eating for two' during pregn…

by Ruth Nichol

Doubling down on food during pregnancy is out, unless it’s diet quality we’re talking about.

Read more
The long, slow goodbye to Angela Merkel
99173 2018-11-17 00:00:00Z World

The long, slow goodbye to Angela Merkel

by Cathrin Schaer

German Chancellor Angela Merkel plans to leave the job in 2021, but that’s not soon enough for some.

Read more