Frank Fridays: Jesse Boykins iii Evan Wood Welcome to Frank Fridays, where every time out we let a professional let you know what you should be listening to this weekend and beyond. Not many artists in 2016 have the audacity to make their fans wait much more than six months for new music. The ones who do (we’re looking at you, Frank Ocean) often become the subjects of online scrutiny. Earlier this week, Jesse Boykins III dropped Bartholomew, his first release since 2014. “I’m very patient during the creative process, more than I should be, probably,” says Boykins. The 17-song project features a laundry list of collaborators (from Willow Smith, to Donnie Trumpet, to Dej Loaf), balanced out by a healthy amount of solo tracks. The sound at times has shades of recent Kendrick, but it’s hard to overstate how out-of-nowhere unique Boykins is. “I always have this crazy vision that I’m trying to chase after” he says. Part of the formula here is Boykins’s approach to collaborations. As an independent artist, he’s not tapping labelmates or buzzy, A&R friendly newcomers. A lot of the guests on Bartholomew are people who Boykins has known for a long time, and who he shares a mutual respect with, artist to artist. “It wasn’t like we had to make [the songs],” he says. “We want to, so let’s do it organically.” And part of keeping it organic meant that Boykins had an outline or a demo for each track before the collaborations began. He emphasizes that he wanted the artists he worked with to augment his vision, not overshadow it. Boykins started writing Batholomew in January of 2015, but the low-and-slow process seems to have paid off. It hasn’t, however, left a ton of time for discovering new music. We got in touch with him to see what he had in rotation now that he wasn’t as wrapped up with the recording process. He gave us some picks from his current rotation and blessed us with some knowledge about two of the new songs on Bartholomew. Nao, “Good Girl” I came across [this one] because I’m a really big fan of Jai Paul and his brother [A.K. Paul]. They have a signature sound that’s very cultural. And Nao is of African descent. I heard this song and there was so much energy on it. I like real surrealism, you know? Anything I hear, I can see, down to like color, scenery, climate, if it’s cloudy outside. “Good Girl” makes me see like, a painting. I see this image of what a good girl is based on, just delivery and sonics. I’ve been loving everything [Nao’s] been releasing. I haven’t had a chance to listen to her whole body of work yet, but I’m definitely going to take some time and do so. I can tell she’s very gifted. Kanye West, “FML” I mean Kanye West is Kanye West. I don’t know what to say, as a black artist, as a black male artist, as a black male artist not from privilege, but also cultured in the experience and definitely into the arts. I went to New School, a lot of my friends went to Parsons. I’ve learned all these different aspects of life based on an artistic approach, not just survival or just day to day things. You can just tell moments—that song’s a moment. I play it and I feel like I’m in a movie. The best kind of music to me is the kind of music that can make your scenery shift depending on what you’re listening to. Lianne La Havas, “Grow” Lianna La Havas, I first saw her a long time ago. In 2013 we both played this festival in Ireland. I had played the day before and I was just chilling on the grounds of the festival. A friend of mine had already put me onto her music. It was like this live album that I was listening to, and then seeing her live, being on the side of the stage coincidentally—I don’t believe in coincidences but coincidentally I was there. It was pretty amazing. We kicked it afterward and had a conversation. She’s brilliant. I always talk about growth and nature, and how I wish human beings were more into the concept of growth and nature, and the concept of development, not the concept of taking over and dominance. Because while you’re growing, you expand and you fit in where you’re supposed to fit in, and you play the part you are supposed to play in that moment when something is presented to you. You’re more open minded. You’re more knowledgeable of your surroundings. You’re more in tune, or you try to be more in tune with the things you need to be in tune with in order to develop. That song is kind of like, turn up the love and grow. Jesse Boykins III, “Kumbaya In June” I freestyle a lot of my songs. I try to see what the hell I was talking about in the song, and then I try to see if I wholeheartedly meant what I was talking about. “Kumbaya in June” started as a freestyle. It’s just basically about our society. The first line is, “Texting and texting the new age love/ I lost your number now there is no us.” It’s like when somebody unfollows somebody else online or something, it’s like, “Oh, you’re not my friend no more, why’d you unfollow me?” You know like, what? “What do you mean? I talk to you. I just decided to personally do something for myself.” So everybody says they love each other and it’s all love, but no, it’s like, “What do you want from me?” Don’t act like that’s not what the case is. If that’s the case, then say that’s the case. That’s what the song’s about. That last half of the song, I start saying, “Oh Kumbaya.” I’ve heard [kumbaya] many times before, like in church, but I didn’t know it means, “come see me,” and it’s from an African dialect. I had no clue. I just freestyled that section. But after we recorded the demo version I looked up the word and I read the lyrics, and I was like, “Holy shit.” Like yeah, come see me, come correct. Jesse Boykins III featuring Willow Smith and Syd the Kid, “Vegetables” So there’s a stereotypical, arrogant young man. He thinks everything he does is perfect, he treats women so good, and the sex that he has is so amazing and all these things. Then he comes across a woman and who says, “You think you have everything figured out, but you don’t. You’re basing everything off superficial things, and I’m not one of those people that you can get over on like that. I’m not one of those women that you can just take advantage of.” So he’s coming off of all of these accolades, all of these trophies, like, “I done did this.” Pretty much what most men do, that’s how they sum up their worth. What kind of car you drive, what kind of watch you wear, and all of these materialistic things that don’t really mean shit. So to finally meet a woman who says, “You know what? Those things are all cool, but you’ve got to get your soul right.” It’s funny because at first when I freestyled it, it was a girl telling a dude like, “I make more money than you. Eat your vegetables. Get your green up. We need to get this investment plan, we need to get this Gates money.” That’s what it was initially about, but then when I brought it to Willow and Syd, Willow was like, “Yo, that’s cool,” but Willow don’t need nothing from nobody. And she never will. And the intellect that she has, she’s going to be able to sustain her success for her entire life. She’s great. So her whole thing is, “If you do like me, I’m gonna need you to be able to sit down and meditate and go on these hikes.” That was her approach, and that’s the conversation we had. And that’s why in her verse I wrote, “He’ll find the stones, with all he’ll ever need to know.” Like crystals, the sources of energy that he needs in order to realize his perspective on things, are not as deep as they need to be in order for him to really advance in the world.