“You only give people the power to judge you when you care about what they say. So, f**k them.”

The hazy orange sky of the last days of summer serves as a backdrop for our quick photo shoot with Jessie Reyez. As we spot a few spaces on the Midtown streets of New York, two regally aged women spot her striking a pose. “It’s Jessie!” one of the women say with glee as her pal smiles at the Canadian-Colombian songstress.

At first, they hesitate to stop, but Reyez’s warm aura allows them to have a quick exchange. The women point out how they saw her performance the night before during the 2018 MTV Video Music Awards. “¿Tú eres Colombiana?” one says as the singer responds politely, “Sí.” After a few giggles, the ladies head down Madison Avenue while Reyez leans against a marble building for a few more shots, tickled by the moment.

Just the night before, the 2018 MTV VMA Push Artist nominee sat below a glowing moon man to deliver a can’t-turn-away TV performance of “Apple Juice.” The single follows Reyez’s critically-acclaimed EP, Kiddo, and leads fans into her second offering, Being Human in Public. Although she belted the vulnerable tune, the first-generation Toronto native appeared to stand confidently in her many “Apple Juice” truths. Donning her signature half-up messy bun and overalls, which read “NO ONE CAN BE ILLEGAL ON STOLEN LAND” and “THE #METOO MOVEMENT IS NOT F**KING NEW,” Reyez captivated her onlookers. Even Aerosmith rockstar Steve Tyler had to give her props for her vocal prowess.

While passing her offstage, the legend whispered “You’re great” to the uber-emotional starlet and kissed her hand for confirmation, causing a viral stir. “That sh*t was nuts. Steven Tyler came up to me, and it was just so unexpected. Dude, I can’t even,” Reyez laughs, now settled on a piano bench at the VIBE office. She unravels her bun and kicks a pair of white Under Armour slides towards me, to better seat herself with her legs crossed. A dense crown of waves tumbles from atop her thickly arched brows to below the waistline of her cutoff Wrangler shorts. One thing is clear: Reyez’s beauty is as effortless as the likely success of her soon-to-release EP, Being Human in Public and its 29-date North American tour.

Her forthcoming compilation is a continuation of the unabashed truthfulness penned over the seven tracks which garnered Kiddo loyalists globally. The video for the poetic guitar-smashing breakthrough, “Figures,” features both Reyez’s tears and the lyrical consideration of those persuading her to play for the other team. Still, the raw pain waxed on the lovesick hit is what pierced the core of an upward of 48 million listeners on Spotify alone. Reyez’s audience clearly identifies with placing receipts in front of a lover, as a result of their allegiance being made a mockery of—a scenario many can relate to.

“Sh*t, receipts, man! I love that. That’s lit. That’s a beautiful thing to say. Thank you,” she agrees with a chuckle. “Man, I think life would be a lot easier if people were able to stand in their mistakes and not backtrack. If you did something wrong, own it. Like, hold your own.”

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Jason Chandler

Another gripping Kiddo offering manifested in “Gatekeeper,” which fearlessly laid bare the unsavory work relationship she had with the alleged rapist and “Drunk In Love” producer, Noel “Detail” Fisher. The song’s chilling short film visual, Gatekeeper: A True Story, which was nominated for the 2018 MTV Video Music Awards Video with a Message, depicted his sexual misconduct towards her during the early stages of her career.

Today, at 27, beyond musically forging a path of her own, the crooner is advocating for sisterhood in a male-centric industry. “Sisterhood represents change and solidarity. [There is] power in numbers. I feel like it’s a long way to go, to see a change that’s gonna last [longer] than when the headlines start getting old,” she says.

Consequently, Reyez responded to the TMZ article (which read “Detail Music Producer Accused of Raping, Abusing 2 Female Artists”) with a tweet: “One night, over 6 years ago Noel ‘Detail’ Fisher tried this on me. I was lucky, and I got out before it got to this. I didn’t know what to say or who to tell. I was scared. Fear is a real thing. The girls that came out are brave as hell.” While she applauded the bravery of the two on-the-rise artists, who documented the rape claims, two well-known singers, Tinashe and Bebe Rexha, co-signed sexist maltreatment from Detail on social media, too. The internet was sent abuzz with the raised voices of upset fans and survivors of all backgrounds.

Many exchanged their personal experiences with predators, in hopes of abolishing the frequency of similar occurrences in the future. A week after Reyez’s cyberspace revelation, she visually deconstructed shame imposed upon women for governing their bodies. The video for her 2018 radio favorite, “Body Count,” depicted a community resembling that of the Salem witch trials burning the troubadour at stake for confessing, “I dodge d**k on the daily.”

“Your body’s your body. Do you! Sh*t has not been fair for women for a long goddamn time,” Reyez says of the record’s lyrical content. “You only give people the power to judge you when you care about what they say, so f**k them. If someone’s not your parent, it’s different. ‘Cause if you talk to me about my dad, [these] conversations are common at dinner.” The transparent dialogue within her immigrant household has long served as a pillar throughout her ascension to stardom, especially when it comes to work ethic.

“My dad [spent] 20 years working for one company. I saw him go to work sick as f**k just to make money for us,” she says, expressing deep gratitude. Navigating around language barriers on foreign land, Reyez recalls witnessing her Colombian family hustling to make ends meet as her mother and aunt co-existed with matriarchal guidance. Drawing upon the rich complexities of her Latinidad, Reyez takes pride in her blood, traditional values, and the music which was rooted in her as a tyke. So much so that she and her guitar gifted listeners the Spanish-language lullaby, “Sola,” in a moment where she merely scratched the surface of mainstream acceptance.

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Stacy-Ann Ellis

The introspective Latin record is lyrically etched with Reyez’s need to break free from societally imposed gender-normative roles. This unwillingness to assemble herself in ways that feel unnatural is taking shape throughout Being Human in Public. The vocalist’s take-it-or-leave-it approach towards sexuality on anthems “F**k Being Friends” and “Imported” champions for alpha women who do not crave attachment. Her flourishing self-awareness and ambition position themselves on earworms “Saint Nobody” and “Dear Yessie” further amplifying Reyez’s love for her journey and culture.

Having already laid verses on the icon Romeo Santos’ retro bop, “Un Vuelo A La,” Reyez admits, “Anytime I see a Latinx winning, [I] can’t help but feel happy, too,” and unapologetically owning her identity has proven to serve her exceptionally. Reyez snatched the crown on her stomping grounds at the 2018 Juno Awards for Breakthrough Artist, and the serenader remains enthusiastic about vibrantly representing women of color. “I see [growing] representation. It’s so important for that to be [visible] ’cause that’s the only time little kids can [view and think,] ‘It’s not so f**king rare, or different. I don’t feel alone,’” she says.

This innate responsibility carries over musically as it relates to being an LGBTQIA ally. Reyez joins forces in the studio with openly queer artists, including Sam Smith and Kehlani. “That’s important [to see] not just [within] queer [spaces] but [alongside] black or Latina creatives. The second you see something that looks like you, for example, on an award show, and that’s the dream that you’ve desired… it makes getting there a reality,” she says. Living by her words, Reyez recently released the “Body Count [Remix],” featuring Normani and Kehlani. The feminist anthem puts on for independent women by chin-checking men who expect explanations beyond reason.

In this way, credible badassery has carried Reyez against all the odds from her girl wonder days within the Toronto-based at-risk youth program, The Remix Project, to two raspy features on Eminem’s Kamikaze. After supporting separate North American and European tours, the artist pours her one-of-one intonation into each melodic remittance, echoing that of her idol’s, Amy Winehouse. “Authenticity is hella important,” Reyez says. “I feel like people can hear bullsh*t. I feel like truth resonates and you can taste when something is synthetic.”

With pure-soul momentum, Reyez’s global devotees are wrapped in her acoustic mystery, fixated on the rare indulgences of live singing, and the songbird’s aspirations of philanthropy. “Before I pass, I want to start an orphanage and name it after my mother. She worked with kids all her life. So, I’d love a way to introduce mentors into areas, like Colombia, in barrios, where [advisorship is] so far removed,” Reyez says. Thusly, if the next chapter resembles her prior manifestations, Jessie Reyez is sure to touch the world with an astounding legacy.

By Bianca Alysse Mercado for VIBE.com

About The Author

Bianca Alysse is an incurable music junkie, who lives for dance, art, and urban culture. She has worked alongside some of the most ingenious entertainment moguls. Her ink covered hands grabbed her BA in Journalism and ran to New York City.

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