Jaesinco: Jaephoria EP Review by Mr Topple for Pauzeradio.com.
Meet Jaesinco: a brand-new artist to emerge from Jamaica. She’s recently released her debut EP. And if it’s anything to go by, then there could be a star in the making beginning to shine brightly.
Justina Sinclair (AKA Jaesinco) was 16 years-old when she released her first songs in November 2020. Raised in Portmore, Jamaica she is from a family of six children (three brothers and two sisters) and credits her maturity to “loving and caring parents” whose tolerance has allowed her to eye a career in music while focusing on her studies. Her influences include Tarrus Riley, Shenseea, Koffee and Vybz Kartel, to name a few. Jaesinco says the objective at the moment is:
“Being able to make music people can relate to. I can also express myself through music… [But] I would love to go to college and pursue a degree in mathematics”.
Well, Jaesinco may wish to consider all her options. Because judging by her debut EP, she could well be destined for great things in music – as well as maths.
Jaesinco Jaephoria, released via Krayv Music, sees Jaesinco team up with the label’s founder and producer Horatio Rowe across seven tracks. Having penned the lyrics herself, and contributed to the compositions with Rowe, the EP sweeps across various genres – showcasing the already impressive versatility of Jaesinco.
It should be stated from the off that she has a pleasing voice. Her style is laid back but not to the point of falling over, with the freedom to move into more powerful and dynamic areas. There’s a slight gruffness at times, and at others a crystal-clear tone. Rowe has been careful not to over-use autotune either, unless the style of music needs it. Being 16, Jaesinco’s voice will still further develop as a muscle and an instrument. So, at this point all the signs are really good.
RnB jams feature in the form of Jah Will Provide. It’s a clever throwback track to a sound of the early noughties – reminiscent of Timbaland/Darkchild with the intricate, Two Step-based percussive line. But Jaesinco and Rowe have messed with that theme slightly, getting the snare to hit just before the two to bring it more in line with modern Afrobeats-RnB. The hi-hats tinker frantically, while the kick hits the ups. Meanwhile, the bass is strung out – juxtaposing the frantic drums. But the attention to detail in the other instrumentation is what makes Jah Will Provide really stand out. Strings runs a rapid, melodically intricate line based around semiquavers, complementing the hi-hats. Keys perform elementary chords to work with the smooth bass – and a lone bell chimes on occasion. It’s a smart, detailed composition which is then enhanced further by Jaesinco. She shows her versatility fully – mixing up singjay and a string RnB vocal extremely well. On the latter she very impressively hits around nine syllables a second at one point without dropping pitch or enunciation. On her vocal, she performs delicate yet poised melodic runs. And the message, that despite material wealth faith in Jah is what should really shape our lives, is strong. It’s an impressive track all round.
Smooth Dancehall is repped across Slowly. It’s smooth because the recognisable rhythmic clave (that ‘oneeeeee-twooo-and’ x2 beat) is broken on the second half, skipping the second ‘oneeeeee’ usually found on the third beat. This takes the edge off, as does the clave being performed mostly by claps except for the first beat which the kick hits. Then, Jaesinco and Rowe make the fluidity more pronounced via the bass, which is on a pared-back riff but with a deep, rich and resonant timbre. Additional instrumentation includes some funky, electric keys running smooth, on-beat chords with additional riffing at points. Slightly dampened strings glide around in the back while what sound like synth horns that have been compressed run a rapid-fire riff too. The sum of all these parts is the technical feel of Dancehall but with the vibe of something near Afrobeats-RnB. Then, Jaesinco cements the merging of the two. She gives a performance that’s rhythmically more at home in Dancehall, using heavily dotted notation of varying lengths along with elements of a singjay approach on the verses. But melodically, Jaesinco again delivers something more RnB and she plays with intricate melodic arrangements with particularly pleasing, rapid riffs at the end of phrases. And her in-your-face message about a man who’s wasting her time is delicious – as she shows she doesn’t business when it comes to love. Strong and memorable work.
Believe Me moves Jaesinco Jaephoria into AfroDancehall territory. Here, the signature of the genre (that mashed-up Dancehall clave of ‘oneeeeee-twooo-and-[three]-and-fourrr’) is spread across the percussion, making for an unsettling and fast-moving feel to the track. On the choruses, the strings come in and use the rhythm, too – hammering it home. Believe Me’s bass is also central to this, as it hits the clave too but skipping the third beat most of the time. Those synth horns are back, running a countermelody to Jaesinco’s main line. There’s also some pleasing use of other synths and samples, and musically Believe Me is frantic, forthright and unsettling. Jaesinco is once more on-point, focusing more on the singjay in this instance and also opening up the lower end of her vocal register which works well. She is an intuitive performer rhythmically – taking a basic pattern and then embellishing it across the track while also gradually increasing the melodic pitch as things progress. The bridge is particularly good – and overall, Believe Me fits perfectly into modern AfroDancehall and with a stark lyrical message about humble self-confidence that still shouldn’t be messed with. Jaesinco clearly can indeed “be an angel or a devil; everything combined”.
Damn It takes Jaesinco Jaephoria into more modern Afrobeats-RnB territory, winding everything down to a 21st century Slow Jam, blissed-out grind. The percussive line is brilliantly executed: there’s an intricate interplay between the hi-hats and snaps, with the former bringing in those now-essential Trap buzz rolls. Additional percussion includes a lovely synth balafon, performing choppy chords via the left input at points. A dampened electric organ performs a delicate broken clave, just to bring in a bit of AfroDancehall but not in an overpowering manner. An acoustic guitar lilts arpeggio (broken) chords adding to the blissed out feeling. Then, the bass enhances this by hitting the first beat, sustaining it across the two and three, before coming back to start again just before the four – and with some tasty up-down glissandos at points, too. There’s also a nice nod to Africa in the form of a synth rhaita (or similar), which almost sounds like a heavily engineered human voice sample. Strings shoot in and out, as well as performing runs up which are nearer glissandos. Then, Jaesinco delivers a straight vocal performance – showcasing her impressive Soul/RnB voice well. Here, she uses the higher end of her vocal register, sitting in soprano territory. She flits between her chest and head voice with ease; makes good use of dynamic light and shade along with controlled crescendo and decrescendo and once more delivers those excellent, rapid runs. Damn It is superb – and shows Jaesinco is more than capable of carrying a complete vocal performance in a confident and assured manner.
Then, out of nowhere the track Just Let It Be is pure Soca, but with bang up-to-date elements brought in. It opens with acoustic guitars running heavily separated arpeggio chords; claps then enter on double time beats; strings join; the kick pushes in and then the track begins proper. It’s pure Soca: the kick hits hard on every beat, while snares perform intricate, ‘and-two-and’ dotted rhythms across rim clicks and then on the skin, while the hi-hats do similar but with some modern buzz rolls thrown in. It’s heavily drum-driven which really drives Just Let It Be forward. The bass is also dominant, hitting every beat too along with extra syncopation at points across its own melody. An attractive string line has been particularly well arranged: sitting low down in the cello/double bass register, they stab in, slowly at first, before the pace increases. Keys tinker just out of earshot and synth horns perform a background melody too. Jaesinco copes with the rapid pace very well – delivering a rhythmically and melodically complex main chorus line, which involves an intricate, 10-note run across one syllable. She feels at home in Soca – although if there were to be one piece of constructive feedback, it’s that dynamically she could have upped the volume and power somewhat to fit with the uplifting and feel-good lyrics about enjoying life when you can. But it’s a minor point in an otherwise assured track.
Jaesinco and Rowe aren’t afraid to move into Roots, either – with Alright representing this well. Keys run straight chords which are complemented by what sounds like a clavichord synth running a dual role of a bubble rhythm and a staccato melody. An electric organ also gets involved, hitting the two with vibrato’d chords. Drums perform a one drop, while the bass mimics this skipping of the first beat at times – but also runs an attractive and syncopated riff which brings real movement to the track. There’s a glorious electric guitar line which whines in and out, with decent bending. Jaesinco vocally shows her more forthright side, here – moving away from the breathy RnB delivery into something very Roots. There’s decent and intricate singjay-come-vocal on the verses as she mixes up rhythms and melodies, before turning her attention to straight vocal on the choruses and the very impressive bridge – where she moves to the top end of her vocal register with a pristine tone intact. Also, Jaesinco here has done an excellent job on the backing vocals – performing detailed harmonies and a secondary, responsive vocal line. Lyrically, it’s overtly a song of faith and praise (for both Jah and your mother) – reminding us that whatever life throws at us, things will be alright in the end. Alright puts you in mind of Koffee – and shows Jaesinco is more than capable of carrying a strong Roots track very well. Solid works.
But the pair are perhaps at their best, most impressive and engaging on the RnB ballad It’s A Blessing – undoubtedly Jaesinco Jaephoria’s strongest track.
From its stark opening, with just keys running on-then-off beat chords, the synth horn feeling like a voice crying out and strings running harmonised chords – the track quickly settles into something more fluid RnB. Mariah Carey’s We Belong Together would be a good musical comparison. Except while Carey’s fused Hip Hop drums with RnB/Soul instrumental lines, what Jaesinco and Rowe have done so well is to create an RnB sound that has its drum line grounded in Dancehall. Note how the dominant kick does a clave’s ‘oneeeeee-two’ at the start of each bar before hitting the third off, with the snare mimicking this but filling in the missing ‘ands’ from the clave. But meanwhile, everything else is slick, lush RnB. The gorgeous, deep bass glides across the track, often in time with the washing of the keys’ chords. The horn continues its refrain throughout, but it’s pared back in terms of dB so as not to dominate. Jaesinco and Rowe have also included a lilting guitar line that runs a simple riff to complement the horns. It’s A Blessing’s chord progressions are also beautiful, flipping from minor to major and back again – particularly the avoidance of using the minor root on the chorus (opting for major chords) which makes it stand out and gives the feeling of hopeful anticipation. The overall arrangement is also powerful – with the instrumentation stripping back on the verses, then building to the choruses which are intricate and embellished. This lends itself very well to Jaesinco’s vocal – and here, she’s at the peak of her powers.
She has trodden the line between RnB vocal and singjay almost perfectly. On the verses, she has started with a basic rhythmic stanza of ‘oneee-and-twoeee-and-a-three-and-a-four-and-a’. This is a fairly rapid motif to be able to carry with the mid-tempo BPM (again, much like Carey’s We Belong Together), but Jaesinco manages it expertly. Across the track, she then cleverly builds and embellishes on this: doubling the time at points; adding additional straight semiquavers for rhythmic contrast but then taking back the dotted notes and pushing them onto the offbeats to make them feel almost like triplets. All this shows her real skill with singjay and the technical methods behind it, and melodically she keeps it simple – working around a few basic notes. But then, on the two different bridging passages she begins to move more towards RnB – keeping that rhythmic stanza in place, but melodically increasing the complexity. And finally, on the chorus she breaks out into a full Soul-RnB performance: soaring up her vocal register with ease, dropping the rhythmic stanza and opting for something slower – allowing her to show her ability at hitting and holding a note. Dynamically, she is in full control – expressively pushing her voice with crescendo before rolling it back with decrescendo. Again, her head and chest voice are both in use, notably going into her head in her lower register to emphasise the power of the upper range in her chest voice. Her scintillating vocal performance is matched by her equally thought-provoking lyrics – about how at times in life we have to take personal responsibility for the paths we are on and the decisions we take. But moreover, the song is about not falling into Babylon’s traps that make people that way – as Jaesinco sings “no price for truth, no friends fir lose, just to keep my mind steady not confused”. But then, it’s also the abandonment many of us feel when those people let us down, juxtaposed with our own faith that despite this, we’re on the right path.
It’s A Blessing is perfection from all involved: moving, thought-provoking and with Rowe and Jaesinco both at their very best. It should have been, and still could be, a huge hit. Inspired, and a song that sticks in both your heart and head for a long time after the music stops.
Overall, Rowe and Krayv Music are to be commended. The production and engineering are all of a high quality, with the overall mastering consistent across each track yet sympathetic to the individuality of them. It should also be noted that Jaesinco is also a talented lyricist for someone her age – conveying complex messages at points while also delivering lighter narratives. She has an excellent ability to create fluid and inspired stanzas with clever wordplay involved.
But what Jaesinco Jaephoria, her and Rowe have also done so smartly is that by covering so many genres it has left Jaesinco with every door open moving forward. If an established artist had done this, it would have seemed precocious. But as a first EP, it encapsulates the modern, introductory idea of this kind of release perfectly. Jaesinco hasn’t been boxed into one particular style; she can perform across all of them and therefore her options are broad when planning her next project. Undoubtedly her strongest work is perhaps the mixing of vocal-led RnB with modern, Jamaican sounds and singjay – so it will be interesting to see where she goes, next.
Jaesinco Jaephoria is pure genius. It is so exciting to see someone so young produce such a competent and rounded project. Each of the tracks are well-constructed by herself and Rowe. Her voice shows great potential and is already professional in quality. Her ability to sweep from vocal to singjay (and pull both off extremely well) puts her in the same territory currently owned by Koffee, Lila Iké and Shenseea. It’s A Blessing deserves to be a massive track. Lyrically, she’s compelling – and overall, Jaesinco is officially one to watch. Brilliant and so, so exciting to experience. Jaesinco Jaephoria Download
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Jaesinco Jaephoria EP Review by Mr Topple / Pauzeradio Pr Services (8th July 2021).