There’s no ceiling on creativity. Being limitless, spry, and fearless enables a person’s creative juices to flow like the Amazon. While the idea of greatness can be intimidating for some, it is incumbent in the journey of Jesse Boykins III. Singing isn’t the hard part for Jesse. Stretching his creativity and tinkering with the boundaries of music is what keeps him up at night. Conjuring new sounds by splattering a dose of soul infused with pop is his mission. So far, he’s been able to grab the ears of many.
His style is unorthodox. With a distinctive look that would make Sonic the Hedgehog smile in admiration, his whole style screams different. Who do you know would freestyle dance moves for his lyric dance video? You read right. For his energetic single, “Plain,” he opted to do something different. Rather than simply give you a generic three-minute lyric video to read off the screen, he decided to spoon feed you the lyrics himself by providing an array of dance moves – all unrehearsed.
On April 22nd, the man dubbed as music’s new Maxwell and D’Angelo, supplied hopeless romantics a new way to love. His latest album, Love Apparatus, is helping many develop new alternatives to uttering the word L-O-V-E.
Jesse Boykins III sat down with us to discuss his album Love Apparatus, pushing the boundaries of music, the Maxwell & D-Angelo comparisons, his favorite good morning tunes and which legends, dead or alive, he would tour with.
First thing that jumped out at us, was your look. How important has it become in developing your brand?
It’s pretty self-explanatory as far as how I like to go about everything else – as far as freedom goes and being natural and organic. It has a lot to do with that. Everything man. My hair is its own entity as far as I’m concerned right now. Like my fans at my show, they always ask if I’m going to have my hair out. (Laughs) So I guess it’s part of the brand, you know?
Your new single, “Plain” is very vibrant and has a perfect good morning vibe to it – like a wake me up. What songs give you that same vibe when you wake up in the morning?
That’s a hard question. I don’t know. I would probably say a Little Dragon song like “Ritual Union.”
Why is that?
I like songs that are up-tempo and have a happy feeling, but definitely have some sentiment behind them, you know? “Plain” is basically a song that is similar to that as far as, it feels good and you can dance to it. At the same time, it’s expressing some real life emotions, just like “Ritual Union” does.
You made a lyric-dance video for “Plain” which was very unorthodox, but in a great way. Did you rehearse those dance moves or did you simply freestyle and go with the flow while shooting the video?
Nah, it’s freestyled, man. I like to perform a lot. I have a dance background. I just think about what kind of style dances I want to do and just go about it that way.
Musically, you have no fear in pushing the boundaries. Who do you accredit that creativity to and why?
I’m a fan of pop culture, so, of course, Michael Jackson. Prince. But then, you know there were some songwriters – not to say Michael Jackson and Prince didn’t; well Michael Jackson did have a lot of content in his music that was pop music –like Stevie Wonder, Bob Marley, and The Beatles. I don’t know, just cats that were able to blend both having something positive and something real and it being acceptable to the mainstream and sonically pleasing. So, I aim for that. And those cats were pretty consistent in their careers when they did that.
You’re from Chicago. That city has bred a lot of talented rappers in the forms of Kanye, Lupe, and Common. Do you feel the R&B scene can be as equally impactful with the likes of you and BJ the Chicago Kid coming up?
I was born in Chicago but I was actually raised in Jamaica and Miami. Yeah, but, BJ is really dope. You know, I feel like there is an R&B scene out in Chicago, but, not a lot of cats are really up on it because they’re being overshadowed by – what do they call it? “Chi-Raq?” You know, even with the Save Money Crew, Vic Mensa and Chance the Rapper and what not. So cats do get put on the backburner, but, there’s definitely a scene in the Midwest as far as R&B music and good music period.
You touched on your live shows briefly. So, if you could give fans an insight as to what they can expect at a Jesse Boykins show, how would you describe it?
Definitely energetic. I like to put in a lot of energy into my performances – definitely passion. I like to mark memories. I want it to be something that you tell everybody about when you leave. And even years down the line, it’ll be something you can build stories with or tell your families and your loved ones, whatever the case may be. So, definitely memorable, and somewhat spiritual because I feel most concerts – that are really good concerts – make you feel outside of yourself and like something bigger than you are.
We know a lot of artists have rituals or pre-rituals before they get on stage. Do you have any? Like, do you do 40 jumping jacks before you get on stage?
Nah, I stretch. I do a couple of yoga moves before and I get my heart rate up. I probably jump up and down, kind of like jump rope vibes for a little bit, just to get the blood flowing and get the nerves out.
We know you’ve probably heard this bunch of times, people compare you to D’Angelo and Maxwell. Do you feel those claims are valid, or more so, far-fetched?
I feel like, you know, aesthetic wise. We’re black men with thick hair at one point. I get that. And, of course, I’m not taking away artistry from Maxwell or D’Angelo. They’re great artists. I could be that. But, I feel like my music is a little bit more progressive than that. D’Angelo is like soul and funk. Maxwell was like an emo kind of alternative vibe. I’m like pretty diverse as far as being able to do soul, being able to do alternative and then doing an electronic record. I feel like I’m good with the comparisons, as long as I’m being acknowledged for what I’m good at as well.
If you could have a tour with anybody from any genre of music, dead or alive, who would you choose and why?
I would probably say Bob Marley or James Brown just to see their process as far as hitting the stage, having sound check, how they controlled the band, what their rituals are, the advice they would give me while on tour as far as being an artist period, and living their lifestyle. And then, probably alive, you know, John Legend or like I said earlier, Little Dragon, Erykah Badu, or even acts like Vampire Weekend, or a band like fun., you know where it’s a band setting but everybody in the band is important too. It’s not just like we have a lead singer and the backup band. I want it to feel like a community, you know what I mean?
It sounds like you don’t limit yourself as an artist – which is very dope. A lot of artists are scared to take risks and tap into different genres and consider collaborating.
Thank you. Yeah, I don’t really believe true creativity has anything to do with fear. Once fear is involved in creativity, all you’re doing is taking away from that moment and lessening what greatness you can really create if you were fearless in that moment. It’s all love. I’m with it.
No doubt. Let’s get to the album. Why did you elect to go with the name Love Apparatus?
It was a joke at first – like most things that end up being deep. Machinedrum is the producer I collaborated with for over 90% album. I write love songs and his name is Machinedrum. So, he was like, “Let’s name the album Love Machine.” I was like, “Nah. What’s another word for machine?” Apparatus popped up in mind. Then, later on, I thought about what is a Love Apparatus. Like, well, that’s the heart. I started writing the songs on the album and it started making more sense as to what Love Apparatus means – which is life. Living. Being alive – which is what love is.