June 10th 2023
A rising star on the London rap scene, Jeshi performed at the We Love Green festival last Friday. Released on May 27, 2022, his album Universal Credit tells his personal story and paints a complex portrait of British youth with introspective and poetic lyrics.
The interview takes place in the artists’ village, a peaceful, secluded spot away from the rest of the festival, on the Friday evening before his live performance. Jeshi is friendly and enthusiastic about answering the questions. He talks about his love for London, his city of heart, the idea behind his album Universal Credit and shares some great advice.
You're used to perform in London, the French audience in We Love Green is new for you. How do you feel about performing tonight?
I feel very good ! I’ve never played a festival in France. I’ve played quite a lot of shows here, in Paris, in the end of last year for Pitchfork, which was really good with a good turnout and audience. I love playing in London but it’s nice to go to different places and just connect with different audiences.
Do festival audiences change much from concert audiences?
Yeah. I mean festivals, it's much more fun, just for the environment. I think people are just much more drunk [Laughs], people are just having a good time, I enjoy it more and people enjoy it more. All in all, it's a good vibe and good environment for everyone. I love festivals, even if I wasn't playing, I enjoy them. It's even better when you're playing !
In your opinion, which song represents you the most in your album ? If you had to introduce yourself to others with only one music, what would it be?
I think maybe "3210" is a good one. It has a really good British energy in the production and it kind of tells this double side of highs and lows of being young and not having much money and living in such a crazy space. So, I would probably tell them to listen to the whole thing, but if I had to pick one song, I'll pick that one today.
"I wanted to make something that feels human and that people can connect with."
You released your first album Universal Credit on May 27. What do you want the public to remember about it?
For me, the big thing with the album was trying to show people the imperfections in life a little bit and not this rosy vision that life is perfect all the time. It's also not terrible, it's the balance of life. Everyone is really obsessed with the presentation of making themselves appear a certain way, which I don't think is very human. So I wanted to make something that feels human and that people can connect with.
What were your inspirations as a teenager?
When I was really young, my mom just had a lot of CDs so that's the first things I really got into. The stuff my mom had was like Eminem, The Neptunes and Erykah Badu. They were the artists I was listening to really young before I had the means to go out and seek my own things. That was kind of what I had access to and, still to this day, those are the musics I still love a lot and that still really resonate with me. I love that period of early 2000s, late 90s music. I think there is so much good music.
London is a very important city for you ; you grew up there, and you talk about it a lot in your music. What do you love the most about London ? And why is this city so close to your heart?
I think the thing I love the most is how mixed it is, everything is so intertwined. You're around people with money, people without money, people from every kind of ethnic background, sexual background. It's like a big melting pot of a lot of different things. And also, I think it's just so small and fast paced that it breeds great art because there is a lot of anger and feelings, I guess. People want to do things that means something because they don’t really feel they have much. A lot of the time, everyone is kind of fighting to do something, which isn’t always great, but it’s also what I love about London.
"If you can do something that also can affect people and make some changes, then that's great."
You pay particular attention to your lyrics which are socially committed. Do you believe that music should necessarily carry a message?
I don't think it needs to. If that is something that you feel, it’s good but what I hate is when people force doing that and it’s not really who they are, what they care about. I think it's great if it does, that's a bonus but for me, the most important thing is great music. If you can do something that also can affect people and make some changes, then that's great but I don't think it's for everyone. I love a lot of music that doesn’t even have lyrics, that’s not saying anything about the world, and it’s still great music.
Can you tell me more about the creative process behind your music ? Do you start with the lyrics, the production…
Normally, I walk in the studio. I am blessed, I have a lot of amazing musicians around me. So, we get in a mood where we’re just messing around with ideas and production. Then, I try to find something that feels good, I start to write lyrics and kind of build it together. I try to not take it to seriously because this is my job, but I love doing it and it should feel fun ! Actually, I am just trying to have a really good time, fun and messing around. The good thing is that, a lot of time, good things come from that.
What would be your dream collaboration?
Collaboration is always a tricky one, it depends on the day. I'm just going to say there is this band from London who I love called Warmduscher, they're great.
"At the end of the day, I think that no one knows anything."
What's the best advice you've ever received in the music industry or humanly speaking?
I think the best advice you give to anyone is just don’t listen to anyone because no one knows. Especially when you’re young and you’re doing this, it’s so easy to listen to what music industry people and stuff like that tell you, because you think that they know way more than you know. But at the end of the day, I think that no one knows anything. Everyone pretends to know, but everyone's just kind of winging it. When you realize that and realize that your thoughts and your feelings are not any less valued than anyone else's, then I think you'll make the best decisions. Because it’s based on what you want and not what other people want you to do.
Do you manage to plan your career in the future, with many projects and objectives in mind, or it’s more day to day?
A bit of both. Obviously, I have things in my brain that I would love to do but I try kind of navigate to there by what is immediately in front of me and the things I can control. Because I could sit here and be like : "I want to play at this festival, I want to do this" but it's actually all of the small steps of being here today, being at this festival, releasing this song, finishing this. It's all these little things culminated together that get you to those places. So, I try to focus on the immediate things around me that I can control.
Finally, what is your favorite musical discovery of this festival?
I've only just got here, so hopefully I'm going to discover some new ones. But there is a lot of artists who I'm looking forward to see : this band, JockStrap, who are from London as well, and Young Lean. It’s really well curated, so many great artists. Hopefully I'll have some time, go around and just find some new eyes.