I listened to “B” by Jessie Jagz five consecutive times, at least. I scarcely do that for any song. Ask Spotify. Walahi, I swear. The song gave me this J.cole, Tupak inspired feeling from the 2016 song “Deja vu”. It was not executed strangely though. The song has its own feel. A Jos, dark, reflective, conscious kind of New York feel. And a remarkable hook.
I had never knowingly considered why the word hook implies the chorus of a song. Rationally, it is the section of the song that hooks the listener. Like a fish, once it has bitten the bait. Following this reasoning, “B” has hooked me. It is the first single off the album “GARBA”, set for release on May 29, 2020. Long after the worm has left my ear, the poetic reading of the song will live on. That is the genius of Jesse’s music and the underlying emancipatory potential of the message. On the surface, it is a song about a lost love:
“Even if shortie run away… I bet you, she’ll come back another day”
It highlights the proverb, if you love something let it go. It comes back. If it doesn’t, then it was never yours. What will be, will be. Illustrated as:
“..so I kick back and roll another Jay”
Between the tragedy of loss and its herb enabled catharsis, exists this tension:
“…some say, the river will flow another way..”
If you previously never thought about it, rivers are amazing stuff. Few things could cause a river to change course. The geological processes of erosion, anthropogenic influence, or an extreme event, like a hurricane. The how and why of river meandering comprises a set of complex processes that baffle human understanding. Similar to the Big bang, the Darwinian theory, or the garden of Eden. For me, the complexity of hearing sounds is already a mystery. A miracle. We routinely acknowledge sound as noise; or something we hear. In reality, sound is vibration passing through matter. Sound is therefore nothing without our ears. The evolutionary innovation that enables us to register sound. An illustration by Tim Urban of the “Wait but Why” blog will reinforce this idea. Our brain has a thought. The thought is translated through sound waves. Your lungs push air out through your mouth while your vocal cords, tongue, teeth work in unison to release coded information. This code is transported through air to your friend’s eardrum. On landing the eardrum, your friend understands both the direction of the incoming vibration and the coded information. This code is then transmitted as electrical impulses to the brain where it is decoded. All this happens in microseconds without any effort on your side. How astonishing is that? Miracles are complex. Reality is complex. Randomness is puzzling. So when Jesse points out the workings of destiny, and our incapability of influencing those workings, he is really talking about a definition of God (consciousness if you are agnostic or Atheist). Think about the chicken you bought for Christmas. As it is fed each day, the chicken confirms the loving nature of humans. However, right before Christmas the chicken gets slaughtered. To the chicken, this is an unexpected turn of events. How could the chicken ever comprehend its brutal fate? Does this not illustrate our predicament? In the eyes of God (Consciousness) we resemble that chicken by drawing up historical data to make inferences about the future.
For me, the randomness of possible outcomes in life is a Christian revelationary statement. This statement leads to only one conclusion. The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom; a state of intellectual humility. By inference, the wisest are those who acknowledge both what they know, as well as that which they do not know.
In a nutshell, the plight of knowledge goes as follows. There are the things we know that we know, the things we know that we don’t know, and those things we don’t even know, that we don’t know. We should appreciate that which we know as much as that which we do not know. Our inability to grasp the wealth of infinite knowledge as contained in the Hermetic laws means that we should not bother with the unknowable. That it is a futile exercise, like chasing the wind. That is fine. That is wise. That is the fear of God. The book of Ecclesiastes in the bible explicates this train of thought:
“Everything has already been decided. It was known long ago what each person would be…” Eccles. 6:10
“What is happening now has happened before…” Eccles. 3:15
“So I recommend having fun…” Eccles. 8:15
Well, we really went on a philosophical ride there. I am still critiquing a song, in case you are caught wondering what I am talking about. A type of song the spirit of Jos has thirsted for. I spent a good part of two years trying to inspire this kind of music by starting up a media brand in Jos. It was 2016, about the time Jesse Jagz had also returned to Jos. I envisioned Propa Sound as an independent music label. It was not long before we were drained out of money, trying hard to catch up with the dance music culture of Lagos and the antagonisms of an impoverished indie music scene in Jos.
Similar to the philosophical angle this article has taken, Jesse has had a roller coaster ride in the Nigerian music industry. It all started when he deflected from Chocolate City, the record label responsible for the rise of the infamous Jos trio which included his brother Jude Abaga and Ice Prince. A mix of problems unknown to me must have led Jesse to flee Lagos. In an interview Jesse himself sites the limits to his artistic expression as a key factor that influenced his deflection. It seems that he has lived a Jesus style of life since then. Wandering the middle-belt of Nigeria. Close contacts narrated to me the story of how, after leaving Lagos, he settled in Makurdi. While there, he managed to build a cult following, receiving immense support that led to the well-received second Album “Jagznation — Thy Kingdom Come”. However, Jesse fled abruptly back to Lagos. Back with Chocolate City and back to the challenges of the Lagos music business. That move was also short-lived and led to his next album “Odysseus” in 2017.
If you read the credits for the Garba album it seems like history is repeating itself. A group of committed fellows religiously supporting Jesse’s art form, it seems, devoid of the Lagos commercial influence. His ability to invoke the necessary support to pull off this independent enterprise confirms not only his love music but also his relentless motivation. It is only love that perseveres in the face of insurmountable opposition. According to Che, a genuine revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love. From my desk, in Berlin I can only wish that that is the forethough. I have spoken with him on one occasion, or should I say, heard his preaching. He is not particularly the dialogue type, I suppose. Nonetheless, I know that he has divine ideals and he has accordingly suffered for them. If you hear his old freestyles you will recognize his love for both Jos and Nigeria. On this account we are soldiers of the same struggle.
The impact of the Corona Pandemic on the party scene could spark a great opportunity for Jesse Jagz, as fans search for more meaningful music. He has loyal fans. He also has a good base on platforms like soundcloud. From my desk in Berlin, my true wish is that he pushes even harder towards independent music and that his team can acquire enough earnings to put out even more product.