Like many singers, Jesse got his start in church. Born in Chicago, he moved to Jamaica at a young age. But he spent most of his primary years in Miami before making the big move to New York to attend the prestigious New School on a full scholarship for jazz music. His move to New York happened fast. The illustration of true ardor and blind fervor. He got the call from one of the administrators at New School University and accepted their offer. He asked when he needed to be in school, and she replied that he needed to be there the very next day. So he came, with one suitcase, two pairs of jeans, underwear, no towel, no sheets and no place to stay. When he arrived at the office, as fate would have it, he ran into an old friend who let him crash at his place until he got settled.
“I felt fortunate to go there because I would meet so many people who were actually already in the industry but would wake up and go to class. I’m like dog you are making $3000 a week, why are you here right now? People would be like yea I just got back from Moraco with Janet Jackson. And I just learned a bunch of vocab from people around me. A lot of times I would be sitting in the lounge just chillin’ with my boy who just got off tour with Lauryn Hill and he would just tell me this crazy story and I’m like man I want to do that. And just being around those people get me. I just started dreaming. And that’s how I started being an artist and started writing—from that 5th floor at new school.”
And so the boy who started singing back in Jamaica in the church choir with his aunts had landed himself in the big city amongst the legends and the emerging voices of our generation. Reflecting on his path, Jesse attributes his triumphs to dedication. “My story is not too crazy I just have a passion for music. Ever since I was younger this is what I told everybody I was doing. And I never did anything else I never got a 9 to 5 or nothing I just went hard with music. Its all about just drive and love for music.”
And, his music drives him all across the country, literally doing shows with artists like J.Holiday, Anthony David, Emily King and Chrisette Michelle. With no major deal Boykins admits his biggest outlet is online. He is part of the generation of twenty somethings taking their destiny into their own hands instead of waiting for someone to hand it to them.
“People achieve a lot of things faster and a lot more efficiently than we are used to. Theres kids who are 23, 24, 25 who have their own clothing lines have their clothing in stores in Japan. Twenty years ago if you were 21, 22 and you weren’t in school you were a nobody, now if you’re not in school and you on your hussle tip and you’re making money then what do you need to go to school for? Technology has a lot to do with that. We have a great advantage. Because everything is right in front of us and it’s easier to learn.”
When asked if he would be inking a deal anytime soon he told us he would if the situation was right. Labels are approaching him but not with lucrative offers to make him want to commit.
“Times like this right now it’s terrible to sign an artist deal. You are kind of in the dark with labels now because if you don’t have your own package or your own team or your own brand pushing you then they are not going to want to push you. When it used to be like okay we are going to do artist development from scratch we are going to mold you. But now they don’t have time for that. They don’t have as much time to invest in somebody. So of course if a major label stepped to me more so with a deal where it’s going to be like half and half. Advance money is frightening, it tricks you. If someone gives you $20,000 up front and you’re struggling and you’re in debt and your mind is going through stuff you’re going to take it, not knowing that you have to pay that money back in a certain amount of time or you will end up trying to pay that off for the rest of your life. It’s a lot of stuff in the industry that is in the dark that nobody really knows about. So, I try to make sure I stay up on that.”
To stand out amongst the many other artists both in and out of the industry Boykins attributes his uniqueness to his realism. In this era of contrived images and marketing schemes that do not match the personality of the artist, Boykins simply writes what he really feels and is completely truthful about himself and his music.
“I feel like I’m real. There’s a lot of R&B artists, a lot of soul artists that don’t really connect with people like they’re supposed to lyrically. There’s a lot of songs on the radio that’s fantasy, its not real. And I’m not knocking, that’s cool every once in a while but to me I feel like I bring what people are afraid of as far as lyrically, and musically too. I’m not afraid to try anything. If I feel its good music then I am going to do it. It’s a good thing and it’s a bad thing but that’s apart of being an artist. I feel like I’m bringing art back to music. Even with the art cover, not having a picture of myself on an album cover today in these times is crazy. People look at me like ‘yo, where’s your picture at?’ So even things like that. And we’re doing it unconsciously too but its natural so that’s what I feel like we bring, the real.”
Currently, Boykins is working on music, performing and promoting his latest album “The Beauty Created.” But like the creative person he is, he has over 150 songs just waiting to be released including The Love Apparatus he worked on with Machine Drum to be released later this year. Boykins also has a project called A Bump in the Night and is hoping to drop a dance album next, something different than what most expect from the laid-back songster.
Already a national performer, Boykins hopes to expand beyond the borders. “I want to go out of the country. I want to do a lot of shows in London. I want to visit Germany, France, and Amsterdam. I just want to travel and be able to spread my music outside of New York. That’s probably my biggest goal. And I want everybody to hear the album. It’s a great project. I put a lot of time into it. Its been getting great responses I just need to get it out to the masses.”