How Auckland rapper JessB went from face in the crowd to queen of the stageby Vomle Springford
Help us find and write the stories Kiwis need to read
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.”
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.
Is there one rule for criticising Christianity and another for Islam?Read more
A ban on two Canadian far-right activists speaking at Auckland Council venues has ignited the debate over hate speech and freedom of expression.Read more
NZ director Pietra Brettkelly goes into the opulent world of Chinese designer Guo Pei in the beautifully shot documentary, Yellow is Forbidden.Read more
Rosie Bosworth looks at the risk to New Zealand's economy in a post-animal world of plant-based meat and dairy products.Read more