When a good vibe falls onto your spirit, it’s one thing to acknowledge it subtly and briefly bask in the warmth of the moment. It is another to actually act on it, and take the time to do something to extend the peace of that moment. For crooner Jesse Boykins III, his musical offering BARTHOLOMEW was exactly this, gestating for about a year before it’s necessarily soothing 2016 delivery.
In fact, it was so necessary that he decided to leak on his own project for the freeski in the middle of the summer (“I don’t wait on things too much, especially when I’m inspired and I feel like I want to communicate something in a certain time period and I come up with something conceptually”) to provide his interpretation of sonic healing.
From 2008 to now, every body of work he has released has somehow reflected his geographic whereabouts. His gentle and exploratory EP, Dopamine: My Life on My Back, came after he was dumped by his girl on Christmas Day, while he was living in his friend’s basement in New Jersey. The Beauty Created was born when he took up residence in Brooklyn (and by residence, we mean he seldom left the romanticized and artsy borough). Right before the release of Zulu Guru, Boykins was a global nomad on an inner quest for cultural understanding, meeting African descendants as he toured through Paris, London, Germany and Amsterdam. Love Apparatus focused less on the location of his body and more on the location of his heart and how it interacted with the opposite sex. These thoughts came after staying for months at a time in the aforementioned cities. BARTHOLOMEW is no different.
Magic happened when he decided to trade in the East Coast’s frigid, tense aura for the sunny home of most of his creative friends, Los Angeles. “Since I moved to California, I’ve been a little more laid back and had a little bit more fun,” he says. “In New York, I was on edge and I was pro everything—which I still am—but my approach is a little different and my perspectives are much wider. I’m much more open-minded now than ever before. When I moved to the West Coast, the sense of solitude brought me peace of mind, and then it took the weight off me so I could just be a kid, make what I wanted.”
The result was a zen, airy body of work taking on the persona of a jokey alter-ego and nickname, Bartholomew, who basked in the creative and artistic. The album’s sense of ease—a little sonic vacation, if you will—is palpable. As listeners, we’re one with Earth’s elements on ethereal numbers like “LA Rain” and “Earth Girls.” The hazy and atmospheric “Kumbaya in June” channels the energy of Frank Ocean circa nostalgia, Ultra, quelling the persistent thirst he knew fans had for a channel ORANGE follow-up.
The patois bookending the breezy “Everybody Shut Up” and the soft drums and the lyrical percussion of Noname’s verse on “Into You” signal Boykins’ appreciation of roots, wherever they may be planted. “I’m black,” he says proudly, noting the messages his soundscapes emit. “I’m a dark skinned Jamaican-American, black man. So there’s nothing else I can be, and there’s nothing else that I want to be. So I just walk around loving that.”
That sense of self-love and deliberate decision to chase feel good vibes is the reason why BARTHOLOMEW feels like a welcome elixir for this year. It focuses on the light in our lives versus the heavy, and puts it in the forefront. “I’m not necessarily a fan of the state of the world, but I don’t remember a time where I have been a fan of the state of the world,” he says plainly. “I just remember always trying to make it better.”