Jesse Boykins III is one of those artists who I'm endlessly intrigued by. Every single time I hear of one of his collaborations (and he's done quite a few), I light up just from the thought of the sound of that divine falsetto of his floating over futuristic, otherworldly beats. Yes, the strangest things give me joy. However, I'm the first to admit that life sometimes gets in the way of keeping up with this man's work. So, when Red Bull Music Academy put on a showcase in Sydney, Australia late last week to highlight the work of JBIII, who attended the 2011 Red Bull Music Academy in Madrid, it goes without saying that I was wise enough to realize that this was one showcase not to miss.
Walking into the Red Bull Headquarters in Sydney, one couldn't ignore the theme. It engulfed you in its neon glow. In the warehouse space we were surrounded by skyscrapers as we devoured pretzels and pizza and sipped on Red Bull-friendly cocktails. We had been transported to a mini-New York City, quite fitting since Gotham City will play host to the 2013 RBMA.
As the food, the drinks and the scene got us comfortably into an Empire State of mind, the stars of the showcase, Jesse Boykins III and frequent collaborator MeLo-X, hit us with their brand of electro-world-soul-hip-hop-don't-even-try-fit-this-into-a-box music, as heard on their album, Zulu Guru.
Although there were sound issues at the beginning of the showcase (at least for those of us up the back), the energy given on stage by JBIII and MeLo-X truly did take the crowd on a trip out of the grayness of inner Sydney and to the bright lights of NYC. Jesse Boykins III was mesmerizing as he jumped around the stage with his afro flying free and the aforementioned falsetto in perfect condition. Once Jesse's set was done we were then treated to the hip-hop vibes of MeLo-X as he stepped up to the front to get us into party mode and make sure that we all left feeling like we'd been on a trip to the Big Apple and back in the space of a few hours.
Every thing we experienced that night, from the theme to Jesse Boykins III and MeLo-X's dynamic performances highlighted the magnetic ability of music to bring people together, specifically the genre-fusing future soul sound that is slowly over taking the world. People that wouldn't ordinarily be inclined to listen to "soul" music, (or rather the notion they have in their head of what soul music is) are converted and you find a diverse group of people coming together to have a good time. But more than that, this showcase was a reminder of how valuable programs like Red Bull Music Academy are for empowering the next generation of artists. If it helps bring to our attention the music of artists like Jesse Boykins III then it's got to be a positive thing, because we all know the world could do with a brighter spotlight on artists of this caliber.
[Photo: Andrew Green/Red Bull Content Pool]