Gentleman’s Corner: Jesse Boykins III Talks ‘Purpose or People,’ Romanticism and the Reemergence of Quality Music

Jesse Boykins

VIBE Vixen: You started streaming your EP P.O.P last week. What direction were you trying to go with it?

Jesse Boykins III: When I decided I was going to do it, it had just been songs I was listening to a lot that I liked. I remember being on tour and it was rough, I was taking trains everywhere. When I was in Europe, I was on the train from Switzerland to Paris, which is kind of long, so I’d have songs on repeat. When I got home, I hadn’t really recorded for a while. I think the first thing I did was the Drake cover, “Doing it Wrong.” I sent it to Joya, my manager, and she said it was good. I did another one and she said “this is good too.” pretty much how it started. It was pretty natural. It was more so me trying to get back in the habit of recording. You have to be in a certain mind frame where you want to wake up and record. But when you’re touring, it’s two different lifestyles, so I had to readjust.

Besides Drake, I know you covered “Sparks” by Coldplay and “How Deep is Your Love” by the Rapture. What else is on there?

I covered a Lana Del Rey song called “Young and Beautiful” from the Great Gatsby soundtrack. I really love that song. I also covered “Beautiful People” by Chris Brown. I covered “Lose Yourself to Dance” by Daft Punk and Pharrell. I was listening to that song on repeat like crazy. Then there were other songs that I was writing at the time. I didn’t just want to make it a cover project. I understand the aspect of it but I also want people to understand my writing and listen to it and go, oh this is written by somebody else and this is written by Jesse. I like both of these. That was the concept of the project so that’s why I incorporated both.

Which song grabbed you the most?

Probably “Sparks.” I’ve been listening to that song for years. It’s never gotten old. It always brings me the same emotion. Not a lot of songs can do that. Albums can get you like that. By song seven you’re like okay, I get it. For a song to do that is very powerful. I had the most fun doing the Drake song. I know it’s super sad but it was fun. There was so much space on it because Drake’s not really a singer, so he kept to his melody. It was fun to play around on it. But for the other one, Chris Martin? I’m not trying to out-sing Chris Martin. I’ll try a little bit but I’m not going to try to take over his song.

What would you describe your writing style?

Heartfelt and in the moment. A lot of times when I write, it’s really spontaneous so it’ll start off like a freestyle and then I’ll sit with it for a couple and then I’ll finish. If I don’t want to freestyle the whole song, I’ll just write the rest of it. It’s autobiographical for sure. I believe in that. I can listen to my old albums and remember when I recorded and who it was about. Like, that’s how I used to think when I was 22? That’s crazy. My ego was huge. I like them being a timeline to my life. I always try to write how I presently feel, especially when I’m writing for myself so I can document that and hope that someone connects with it.