“My straight jacket’s custom made, though.” That’s the line Jessie Reyez belts out in standout track, “Shutter Island.” It embodies the many idiosyncracies within her debut album, Kiddo, and the juxtaposition of brilliance and insanity that lies within the work.
We think Reyez is quite the latter (brilliant), and while the artist self-proclaims the former (insanity) throughout the record, we can see why. The Toronto native weaves poetry with cinematic tropes, pop cult references and beautiful nuances. Whether via vocal tone or sheer musicality, her EP, Kiddo, shines on various levels, and far from mirrors childlike behaviour. In fact, it resonates with maturity.
BanTOR Radio had the opportunity to catch a moving set by Reyez at Tattoo during Canadian Music Week 2015 – Adria Kain, Faiza, Unbuttoned, McCallaman and Derin Falana (fka The Flan) were also on the bill. The lineup may have been a foreshadowing to the success these Toronto artists have experienced to date. And there’s no question about Reyez – her unique style and innate musicianship has always been prominent, the long-awaited Kiddo is a testament to the work (and blood, sweat and tears) invested along the way.
Reyez shines solo in any light or setting, but the highlight on Kiddo is definitely the production and varied sounds heard throughout the seven track EP. “Blue Ribbon” featuring Tim Suby is a prime example. Built on a bouncy, electronic beat and supported by Reyez’s sharp rhymes and aggression, she has no trouble keeping up with sporadic time signatures. How can you not love this track as she fiercely proclaims “Toronto is my city” at the top?
“Figures,” one of the album’s singles, showcases Reyez diverse vocal style and is emotive on all levels. Another standout track, “Gatekeepers,” is a testament of the artist’s experiences of sexism, misogyny and deceit in the music industry. Her poetically-driven story takes form in song to bring raw truth and awareness to challenges women in the industry face, and its songs like this that we need to push things forward.
Kiddo closes out with growth as Reyez evokes her evolution in song. “Colombian King and Queen” is a beautiful homage to her heritage and parents, featuring what is an audio sample from a home movie. Reyez can be heard laughing in the background, making us feel like we’re there on the couch, watching the movie with her. Or perhaps it reminds us of how we feel when hit with nostalgia, a sense of pride, and gratitude for our guardians. “Great One” is the anthem we all need, and can understand. Grappling with the concept of love, ambition, drive and what the future holds, the piano-laden track feels like a triumphant film score.
In between the space of vulnerability and courage, Reyez shows she is fiercely empowered. As only a sample of what we might hear on Reyez full length release, Kiddo doesn’t leave you hanging, but it does leave you curious. It’s a relatable, raw and real piece of work.