Mixtape Walkthrough: JessB dissects her stand-out release, 3 Nights In Amsterdam
The six-track new release ushers the New Zealand rapper forward as one of hip-hop's most exciting new names.
To call JessB the future would be an understatement. Since her debut single in 2017, the Auckland-based rapper has blossomed into someone synonymous with hip-hop's newfound versatility and inclusivity; the New Zealand rapper bucking the trends - your average international music fan would struggle to list even three New Zealand-based rappers, let alone female ones - to move forward as someone representative of a bright future destined ahead, supported by a discography that never seems to falter.
In the time since her entrance, JessB hasn't missed a beat. Over the last three years, she's swerved between sounds both as a solo musician and a guest collaborator, swerving between stylings characteristic of dancehall, Afro-beats, trap-rap and R&B amongst collaborative work with musicians such as Miiesha and Baker Boy. However, while other rappers occasionally hit-and-miss when they attempt to grapple different sounds, JessB has managed to somehow make them all her own, twisting them with her distinct charm and flavour to create a soundscape that is distinctly JessB, and unexplainable any other way.
Her latest mixtape 3 Nights In Amsterdam shows this better than anything she's put out thus far, and as a result, it feels a bit like a victory lap for a musician quickly becoming one of the most exciting and versatile of the current hip-hop climate. It's composed of six tracks that showcase how JessB is capable of grappling any sound and making them her own, taking a collection of textures plucked from cultures and landscapes across hip-hop and linking them all together through her trademark fun and liveliness, something which really sits front and centre across 3 Nights in Amsterdam.
Across the course of the release, the brightness of JessB really shines. On Bullseye, she dances above tones of reggaeton and moombahton mixed in with her own signature charm, while on We That Filth she switches up to a dancehall production, edged into experimentalism through swelling synth work that doesn't hold a match to JessB's focused and in-control verses. A hazy freestyle in the mixtape's centre is a celebration of the community and culture that has elevated JessB throughout the years, while Pon It emphasises self-love and appreciation through gliding choruses and percussive rhythms.
Comparisons to hip-hop pioneers like Missy Elliott are easy for JessB, but in reality, she really sits in her own lane. It's difficult to find a musician that can pick out and emphasise the liveliness and joy in music - even when she's being reflective and drawing verses from thick emotion - and because of that, JessB sits in a lane unique to hers, reflective of a musician who has always strived to stand out from the pack on her own terms, and to avoid being classified into the same boxes that often cause the downfall of her comparatives.
With everything JessB releases, she seems to evolve and grow at an unmatched pace, and because of that, it's clear that JessB is going to hold an important place in hip-hop's future. In the meantime, take a dive into 3 Nights In Amsterdam below alongside a mixtape walkthrough, which sees the rapper break down the release's core themes and creation one song at a time.
This whole mixtape was thought up / inspired during a 3 night trip to Amsterdam, and the sounds I was exposed to while working there. I'd never had the chance to extend my own creativity into this realm before, so it was something I was super excited about, both in the creation process but also in a live performance setting. The mood board for this project reflects that of the neon lights and crazy nightlife that is ever-present in Amsterdam, fuelled by sounds of the diaspora.
This track is #1 because it's low-key my fav track on this project. Not necessarily in any commercial way, but just for whatever reason it got me the most hype after finishing it. It is TURBO and awesome to perform live. One of my favourite performance memories of all time happened last summer whilst performing this track. It’s an “afrotrap” sound, high energy both in vocal performance and production.
We That Filth
On day two, my best friend / DJ / fellow party person Half Queen was in the studio with me. At the beginning of the day, I was thinking out loud about what I should write about, and she mentioned our love child (a club night called Filth). Filth is all about being loud in the expressions of who we are, regardless of being misunderstood by parts of society. In this song, I kinda explored my own journey of self. “When I was young the only thing I wanted really was to not stand out when the place was crowded”// “Now I done grown up, now I done glowed up, all them things I ain’t like be the ones I love”.
09 To The World Freestyle
This one was a random assortment of bars that I thought sounded kinda cool. Initially, I was going to try to create a hook and re-write the verses to better suit a song structure… but then I decided no to do both and kinda left it as is. I called this track 09 To The World Freestyle because it stood out to me in the way that so many of us in the Auckland music scene are really trying to push our music to international waters.
Shut Up! was initially written with a person in mind. Lol. But as it developed I realised that this idea of “shutting up and listening” was something that we all need to do more. We need to be giving space and platforms for people to express their experiences without piping in about what we feel is best, ESPECIALLY if we have not experienced the world in the same way as the person sharing. It’s another big track (“turbo” as I like to call them) with a strong message weaving itself in between the high energy production.
Pon It was the first track I wrote on the first day in Amsterdam, and also the first single released off the mixtape. It takes more of a sultry vibe I guess in terms of its lyrics without losing the uptempo rhythm.
Drop Nuts Ft. Rubi Du
Drop Nuts was probably the quickest track to write. I was just having fun with it. Both of the verses that ended up on the final version are actually both the first take of recording each one which doesn’t happen often. The track initially had an artist from Amsterdam on the hook, but since arriving home I had wanted to get Rubi Du to feature on a song if I could. She is the perfect fit in this production realm and also ties the project back to home (NZ) for me in many ways.
The track demo was called Drop Nuts kinda as a joke because I couldn’t think of another title… and eventually it just stuck lol.
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