By: Brittney O.
Hip-HopVibe.com Entertainment Editor
Jessame, full name Jessame Raz Berry, is a pop R&B artist from Burbank, Los Angeles who credits his love for music to great uncle & music legend Chuck Berry, and dad + traveling bassist Al Berry, recently retired from Avril Lavigne’s band. The 24-year- old has been making music for most of his life, spending most of his time behind the scenes, writing and collaborating with popular artists such as Jafaar Jackson and Damon Thomas. His collaboration with American DJ duo ‘Lost Kings’ “Bad” saw tremendous success with over 15 million + streams worldwide, reaching #11 on Spotify’s Global Viral chart. Jessame singed with Carrie Lyn, of Global Management Group, known for Anderson .Paak and the .Paak House Foundation, to launch full speed ahead on his own music. Since then, he has been crafting his original singles with a unique R&B flair. Join us as we speak with Jessame!
Hi Jessame! We’re excited to speak with you today here at Hip-HopVibe.com. It seems music is simply in your blood! From your father being a touring guitarist to your Uncle Chuck Berry… One of the pioneers of Rock’n Roll.. Share with us your upbringing!
J: I grew up in Burbank. I was always heavily influenced by music from my father and seeing what he was able to do – Seeing him onstage in front of thousands of people for work and it was all so attainable, just to see that… and when he was offstage he was my Dad again! I got to see what it’s like to be backstage and get to know these stars and seeing how much actually went into putting on a show at a very young age. There’s a lot of things people don’t see – all of the rehearsals – I just loved it.
I was just like my Dad, I wanted to tour, I wanted to be a touring drummer, and play for my favorite artist. When I got into high school I really found my voice, but I always knew I could sing. Singing became more of an asset for me. I started recording and people were surprised it was me and encouraged me that this is what I should be doing. I took it very seriously. Right out of high school I went to a music college and learned what I needed to know and applied it instantly in the industry. I didn’t want to use my father for too many connections. I wanted to make it professionally on my own. I wanted to make it organically.
What made you attend college? What did you think that you would gain from college that you didn’t already have?
J: So I went to a music college called Musicians Institute. Basically my parents sat me down senior year and told me I could choose to go to a college if I’d like because they had a little money set aside. I never really talked to them about college but I told them I wanted to go [to a music college]. I started looking into their programs and there was a program called the Independent Artist program that taught you how to record yourself — everything about business marketing, everything about mic’ing up instruments, learning new software, the legal stuff, I was like yeah! This is it. I went there for about a year – got what I needed and left. It was amazing! Being around all industry professionals with studios in the school… it was the real deal. It definitely prepared me for real life.
That’s amazing! I love that. Do you feel like that is something that music artists should do if they’re serious about being in the music industry?
J: Oh yeah! 100%
If you’re going to go to a trade school and actually learn it’s so rewarding because you really get to know – I’m obsessed with mixing and producing because I love going into the sound so intricately. If I didn’t go to school I don’t think I would be as knowledgeable of certain programs I use and a sense of drums and all that stuff!
Jessame, what is your nationality?
J: I’m mixed with everything. It’s crazy! I can give you everything: African-American. Native American. German, Jewish, Scottish, just a mutt! With everything! Mom is white, primarily. My Dad is Native American and African American. Primarily African-American. It’s cool!
Definitely an interesting time to be a mixed race like mine…
That was my next question! With you being mixed with a little bit of it all, how does it impact you with the changes that we are pressing for against racism?
J: I’ve been telling everyone that I realized at an early age, I was never white enough for the white people or black enough for the black people. Certain mannerisms or characteristics I took from my family or friends I would hang around just naturally. My Dad would have his black brothers over and I’d adapt things from them and we all laughed a certain way but then I would act like that around white friends and it would be frowned upon like why do you act like that we’re “serious”… it was very different.
And my black friends were like I was too proper, or too light or whitewashed, or not enough swag you know? I was trying to find myself younger on..
But what I realized that helped me answer questions like this for myself that even aside from race, whatever I got into I was naturally good at! Whether it was skateboarding or basketball, I just have a natural drive. The different things that allowed me to break the race barrier and allowed me to hang with who I wanted just because I was good and they liked what I could offer. It was kinda deep and interesting.
Just being myself made me accepted.
Back to the music – I’ve noticed that you’ve had a few opportunities present themselves for you to continue performing in different ways, like the NPR Tiny Desk concert from home… how has that been for you?
J: It’s different…
One of the greatest things as artists is that we have to be able to connect. Especially when you love to perform and just get out there and experience different cities and venues and gain that practice. I miss that so much and I know that so many other artists do.. It’s important to stay active regardless so I was doing those for a little bit.
Your single “Lights” is when things really popped off for you right? Tell us a little bit about that shift from trying to make it to actually creating a little buzz.
J: Yes! Definitely! Actually it was..
The reason I put that out was because I had a bigger single coming out later called “Bad” with The Lost Kings and they remixed my record that I had originally written with the same producer of “Lights” named Cassio, one of my best friends.. We were working on a gang of music that we were working on our senior year and finally getting impressed with what we were creating just between the two of us!
We had no big names or producers. Just us. In our rooms. Recording.
People started to like it and word got around and eventually The Lost Kings hit me and said they wanted to remix the record. I told them “Go for it!” but thought to myself if this is going to come out by a major label then I need to have something true to me so they can go back to my page and see what else I’ve got. It really came out because I knew that song would bring me traction! If I’m being honest it was a great opportunity for me to choose a song that represents my sound and what I could put out that I love and “Lights” was that song for me.
And it still is! I love it! That’s the story behind “Lights.”
WOW! What a great story… What were you most proud of when “Genesis” dropped?
J: Oh wow! That’s an old record. Well again, same thing, that was a record that I had my hands on from top to bottom. I brought in a couple different producers and writers.. It was a really rough time for me in just realization as I was growing from adolescence to adulthood. I was going through a lot and felt I needed to put some music out talking about some things and I got a cool reaction! I didn’t even really promote it or market it. I just put it out for free on SoundCloud and sent it to a few friends and emails and said “Check it out! This is what I made.”
So you have an EP coming out… How soon can we expect the release? Do you have a name for it? Can you talk about it?
J: Hopefully the end of July or early August. I have a name but I haven’t announced it yet. It is five to six tracks. I’m in love with the sound of it. I’m literally finishing as we speak. It’s just true to me. It’s the sound of who I am and what style I like – influenced by all my favorite artists. I’m excited for the world to hear it and I have some things to say.
Which artist have made an impact on your life so far?
J: Wow! Obviously Michael Jackson, the greatest for sure! D’Angelo. Marvin Gaye. Stevie Wonder. Timabaland. Pharrell – Justin Timberlake, believe it or not! Those are like my top ten right there. They are all so great, you know?
Absolutely! You mentioned wanting to be a touring drummer early on.. You also mix and produce. Do you play any other instruments?
J: I dabble in piano and guitar but before you start calling yourself a guitarist or pianist you have to be very good. I can get around but I wouldn’t go onstage and *insert electric guitar sound effects*
I’m not Prince.
Right! Right! But if you hear something in your head do you think you can play a little bit?
J: Yeah! And that’s also where my musicians or band comes in at. I have a great band so I can sing something or play a little bit and they actually can do it.
Tell me about your band. How long have you had a band and how was it formed? Was that an organic thing or was it put together for you? Tell me about the band!
J: Oh my gosh! SUPER organic! That’s the only way to describe it. Starting with Charlie my musical director and keyboardist I met way back when I was a junior in high school when I went with my Dad to perform with Avril Lavigne. That was a nice experience, I saw Charlie onstage with Demi Lavato and my Dad was like “I know him!” and we went to say what’s up to him. At the time, I wasn’t even thinking about doing music at that point really, I just liked Charlie! He was a Rockstar and had done all of these things and I told my Dad “Yo Charlie is dope!”
So I had been working in a studio for about two years and Charlie happened to have a room in the same studio so we saw each other in passing and talking and playing music. Two years later I had an opportunity to tour and now knew I needed a band. I played the drums and reached out to a drummer from church named John who knew a guitarist named Corey who my sister had done covers with. We started vibing and he was a great musician!
The most interesting of the equation was I needed a bassist, but I didn’t want to bother my Dad and I couldn’t have paid him what I wanted to pay him anyway. My Mom ended up mentioning to a friend of hers one day that I do music and her friend said “He should meet my son! He’s a phenomenal bassist!”
Anderson Paak invited me to a show in Vegas and my Mom hit me that the bassist (Mario) was at the show and that I had to meet him. We linked but I was in a rush so we had to speak later after tour. We became friends right away and everything just formed perfectly.
Charlie ended up wanting to play for me as well and again, I couldn’t describe a more organic formation.
Wow! That’s huge! So you mentioned Anderson Paak. What is your relationship with him?
J: Well at one point we were in talks about doing some work together. He actually took me out onstage once in San Diego and I got to perform with him and the band and it was crazy. He’s a friend. I respect his grind and he’s definitely a talented artist and drummer. It was tight looking up to someone and getting to vibe with him. Amazing how that whole thing happens..
Okay so deeper question coming.. How do you see the pandemic and the demand for change, shifting the music industry from your perspective as an artist? Positive or negative.
J: Great question! I think the industry changed in the fact of like — people began to see things for what it was. And there wasn’t any more need for flex because we all see this sh**. People are dropping left and right. It gave everyone a level playing ground. Everyone is forced to listen to music right now.
If you have something to say now is the time to say it. Everyone is in the same boat artist-wise. Factually, there’s not going to be any more performances for awhile… It’s weird – especially with more going on now it’s a built-up frustration of losing gigs. You don’t know what’s going on! What’s real.. what’s being clouded…
I also know from within that the labels aren’t really going to deal with anymore “drug rappers” and the “poppin’ pills” types from conversations that I’ve had because we need a voice and we need voices to inspire during this time and really uplift the black community and what’s right. All that sh** is more polluting than helpful, ya know?
Okay I’m going to hit you with one final question or we’ll be chatting all day long. What’s something that you want your fans to walk away with after listening to this EP?
J: Mainly to know that we are all humans and there’s a healthy way to express yourselves, no matter what it is! Whether it’s basketball or its music whether its art/painting – we all go through it. I’m not perfect and Iike sharing my mistakes and a lot of lessons that I’ve learned. Just publicly, giving other people a chance to relate and dig deeper and think higher – I think that’s a consistent theme of the EP is really taking things from a higher point of view and perspective. There’s more to this life than just experiencing it. You’ve gotta live too. A lot can go on to distract it but life in itself is really beautiful.