Jesswar’s LIFE’S SHORT, LIVE BIG mixtape is Music Feeds’ Album of the Week. Michael Bird reviews.
Track titles on Jesswar’s LIFE’S SHORT, LIVE BIG are all in full caps, which fits the bullish mood oozing out of the artist’s debut mixtape perfectly. It’s a bass-heavy, trap-flavoured affair with spare production, personal lyrics and only occasional moments of softness.
LIFE’S SHORT, LIVE BIG (PIAS Australia)
Jesswar’s voice is strong and clear on every verse, a bold move given the lack of variety in production across the 12 tracks. There’s no hiding behind hazy effects or anything that might mask the clarity of what’s being said here – Yugambeh/Kombumerri-based Jesswar is not someone looking for any excuse to be ignored.
Lyrics range from the extremely personal – “Real tears in my eyes, should I lay down and die?” – to a wider view on gender, race, and the way money moves around. A guest verse from Erica Banks on ‘BAD LIKE RIRI’ is a big tick in the club night column. Turn it up and you can feel the energy of a venue full of moving bodies.
There’s a rare switch up to a higher register and moments of soft synths on ‘ANTISOCIAL’, some vulnerability before we drop back into the verse with extra bravado. “Yeah fuck it, I’m super-bad like McLovin,” they rap. Moments of relative softness are fleeting though, and are typically followed by Jesswar reverting to full-on attack mode.
Jesswar – ‘BAD LIKE RIRI’ feat. Erica Banks
The spaced out pacing of ‘SWEET’ is a welcome change-up midway through the mixtape, with DVNA on the chorus hook and soft, distant guitars popping up late in the track. There’s an intimacy there, even as the overall aesthetic sticks pretty close to the trap production that Jesswar generally deals in.
Trap percussion and a repetitive keyboard bass line are pretty much all that’s on show in ‘HEFTY’, besides Jesswar’s vocal flourishes. The empty space leaves room for the spotlighting of Jesswar’s voice. The lyrics are direct and the message lands, but there’s no time wasted on instrumental variation or anything particularly distinct from most of the tracks surrounding ‘HEFTY’.
Tracks like ‘HEFTY’ are a fine dividing line in how you might take the mixtape as a whole. There’s a club-friendly pulse to the record and a consistency in its sound that can make it feel like a banger night out. But the lack of variety in production and flow could leave you wanting for some sort of switch up.
LIFE’S SHORT, LIVE BIG is a focused and confident release, likely to have you bobbing your head throughout and bristling with a host of quotable lines. ‘CARAMEL BARS’ is dead on: “I got bars that will put you in the pavement”, Jesswar throws out. No arguments here.
- Jesswar’s LIFE’S SHORT, LIVE BIG is out now.