'The artistry and musicality will be out in full force for the culture'
Evan Dale // May 18, 2019
Splitting time between his home and Los Angeles, wide-ranging Jamaican artist of sunshiny vibes and warm-weather anthems, Tessellated is impossible to box in. Defined by a myriad of musical talent - vocals, lyricism, instrumentation, production, mixing, and mastering - and of artistic influence - Bob Marley, Alice Coltrane, Chance the Rapper, and the natural beauty of Jamaica - his music, fitting of his name, is a mosaic of endless range and a continuation of self-discovery.
As he continues to grow personally and creatively into one of the more interesting all-in-one artists of a modern scene prizing artistic transcendentalism, his future is astonishingly bright. En route towards a debut album, challenges facing Tessellated include finding some sort of congruent middle-ground with which to drive the musicality of a full-length project and stripping away any preconceptions the his breakout hit, Pine & Ginger will forever delineate his path.
But by the tone of his voice and the sound of his ever-evolving music, he's more than up to the challenge.
RNGLDR: Let’s start with geography. As an artist who splits his time between Kingston and Los Angeles, what have two different locations meant for you creatively? Personally?
Tessellated: Jamaica is my home, so naturally I have a strong connection to it and its where the root of all my inspiration comes from. When I'm in Kingston things tend to flow really well and I can reconnect with my roots. LA on the other hand is a whole new world to me, but its great because there's so much to explore and discover out here. It sparks inspiration in a different way, from connecting with the unknown rather than the known.
RNGLDR: You’ve expressed - how many artists feel - that you’d like not to be confined to a labeling of genre or style. So, concerning raw musical influence from your Jamaican roots, which have been the most key? What have been the biggest artistic inspirations from your time spent in Los Angeles? And what movements / which artists have been instrumental in defining who you’ve become that don’t call home to Jamaica or the US?
Tessellated: In terms of my Jamaican influence its really hard to say which have been the most impactful because I honestly feel some of the most significant influence happened at an age where I wasn't even really concious of the music I was taking in, it was just what was naturally surrounding me at a young age. However, I can say for sure Damian Marley, Protoje, Vybz Kartel & Sean Paul have been major influences. In LA there's a lot of great artistry, and I've connected with a a much wider range of people out here and been exposed to a lot of new music, a few American artists I've been listening to heavily up here are Tobi Lou, Smino, Jack Harlow, Monte Booker & Valee. All bring their own unique style and energy that sets them apart which is what really draws me to them. Outside of the US & Jamaica there are so many. The UK grime scene has been very important in my development, J Hus, Stormzy, Wiley but also UK producers like Mura Masa. The Afrobeats scene, new wave latin, k-pop and more have also had an impact in different ways. I just love to take in a lot of music and take what I like from everything!
RNGLDR: Pine & Ginger was your introduction to most of your fan base today? How did the track come about? How did you become involved? And what was the process like creating it with Amindi K Fro$t and Valleyz?
Tessellated: The track was a true internet collaboration. Valleyz & I became roommates after connecting on Soundcloud. A few months in, Valleyz started a concept for a dancehall beat after I gave him a history of Jamaican music & dancheall one night. He sent it to Amindi (who he also connected with via soundcloud) and she sent a rough demo of what would become Pine & Ginger. I then added my verse, and reworked the production & arrangement and then we went back and forth until we had the final version! It was a pretty smooth process overall and went very naturally, we weren't trying to force anything.
RNGLDR: In many senses, Pine & Ginger was a necessary step for your career to get its momentum pushing forward. What are you grateful for in terms of the response to Pine & Ginger? And what are some of the negatives of having such a global hit so early on in your career?
Tessellated: Most definitely, Pine & Ginger has given me so many opportunities its unbelievable. Its really set my career to a place where I can properly move forward and make what I want out of it. There are some issues to having my first appearance on the scene being a relatively big song, mainly that its a lot of pressure to keep raising the bar, however, I'm confident in my craft and I believe my new music will live up to Pine & Ginger.
RNGLDR: Realistically, by the time Pine & Ginger came about in 2017, you already had a really solid canon starting from the year before. Included in that early collection is one of our personal favorites – She Say. Can you run us through what that track means to you and how it is that came up with its incredibly catching cadence and instrumental breakdowns?
Tessellated: Thank you! I often wonder if anyone really goes back and listens to the old stuff. She Say is really a collaborative effort between myself and my friend SW8VY, who is the most amazing pianist I know. It was actually the very first day we met, at Studio 18 in Orlando, we hopped in the studio, fed off each other's energies and created the track in about two hours all while a huge party was hgoing on outside. I started with the bassline and a rough concept for keys which he quickly expounded on, then I made the chorus and he helped with lyric concepts. After recording another musician, a trumpeteer, who we had just met came in drunk and proceeded to record the trumpet sections with a beer can as a mute, it was amazing. Overall, the track to me is just free expression and reminds me a lot of some of the best times spent in Orlando.
RNGLDR: Instrumentation plays an extraordinary roll in your auditory aesthetic. Do you play any organic instruments or is it mostly modern production techniques that inform your use of instrumentals?
Tessellated: I'm a bit of a jack of all trades when it comes to instruments, but I do study theory well and work my way through with my piano skills mostly. I'm currently working on improving those alongside saxophone to a level where I can bring them into my live performances.
RNGLDR: On the subject, we’re assuming for a lot of reasons – but obviously because of your single, I Learnt Some Jazz Today – that you’re a jazz fan. What about jazz draws your ear? And who are some jazz artists of the past or the present the inspire your music?
Tessellated: Jazz just feels natural to me, it pushes boundaries. I love that feeling of hearing a new musical concept or not knowing where the song will go which is a stark contrast to the often very fundamentally simple music that dominates the market nowadays. When it comes to artists the list is endless but two of my personal favourites form past and present respecively are Alice Coltrane and Jacob Collier.
RNGLDR: Freeza – your latest single, first of 2019, and second since Pine & Ginger feels to us that it has the radio power and popularized sonic texture necessary to be your next big hit. Can you take us through your creative process of putting the track together and recruiting your collaborators?
Tessellated: Thank you! The beginning of Freeza came about in early 2018, where I started the basis for the beat with Weekday & Circa Eleven, two Jamaican producers. Later on in LA, I wrote and recorded my portion of the song, after coming up with the overall concept. Soon after Zac did the intro vocals but I still felt it needed a female vocal to complete the story and balance it out. Shenseea came to mind as the perfect fit, so I reached out to her team and she was down, so it all came together pretty quickly after that!
RNGLDR: As an artist who seems to split time between vocals/lyricism and production/instrumentation, which of those lanes drives your creative process the most? Or does it depend entirely on what project you’re working on and who you’re working with?
Tessellated: It really depends! I almost always start with the instrumental/production side when doing my own creations but in some situations I just play the role of a writer & sometimes just a producer but usually its a bit of both as I usually have on overall vision for a track in terms of both parts not just one or the other.
RNGLDR: You collaborate often. What do you like about working with other artists? What do you not like? And what is the most challenging part of it all?
Tessellated: I love collaborating, especially with people from completely different backgrounds. I love the fact that we can start with the same thing but have such different visions as to where to go with it. It really shows a lot about where people come from and what has influenced them, as something that may seem like the most natural next step in the creation is completely out of left field for them, and vice versa. This is great though because its in those moments that one can learn new things and where new inspiration is found. The most challenging part is the flipside of what makes it great as sometimes it's hard to find middle-ground, but that really just comes down to working with people who are positive and don't let ego get in the way of creation.
RNGLDR: On the subject of collaboration, we run a series called Collab Elation exploring hypothetical collaborations that we want to see in the music industry. If you could have any two artists past or present work together to make music, who would you choose and why?
Tessellated:That's brilliant. The most mind blowing collaboration I could think of would be Snarky Puppy & Damian Marley ft. Chance the Rapper (from 2013). The combination of peak musicality & peak lyricism would be unheard of
RNGLDR: And for yourself, if you could collaborate with any artist past or present, who would you want to work with and what kind of project would you make?
Tessellated: This is one of those questions where its impossible to pick just one but one of them would definitely been James Brown. His attention to detail and struggle for perfection was insane. I'd work on a fusion funk-reggae-hiphop project with him to take things to a whole new level.
RNGLDR: We also run a narrative series called Dream Venue where we take the reader on a journey culminating in the perfect live concert. If you could experience a Dream Venue, how would your day unfold and who would you want to see perform?
Tessellated: Ideally the show would start around 4 or 5pm when there's still some light but not too hot and go into the night but not run too too late where everyone is falling over. Lineup (in no particular order) - Queen, Alice & John Coltrane, The Beatles, Vybz Kartel, Chance the Rapper (performing Acid Rap), Kanye, Smino, Chronixx, Protoje, Jacob Collier, Bob & Damian Marley, Desmond Dekker, Peter Tosh. The whole time I'll have a nice beanbag in the middle of the place where no one is distrubing mean eating Jamaica KFC (there's a difference) and drinking Appleton 12 Year Rum with coconut water. Perfection.
RNGLDR: In the opposite direction, as the artist performing, what would be your Dream Venue?
Tessellated: My dream venue would probably in the future at my own concert in Kingston, sold out, with everyone I know & all my family there and with everyone in the venue knowing every word to every song. That would be even more impactful to me than a huge show in America or Europe.
RNGLDR: Back to your music. You’ve been steadily releasing singles and remixes since 2016 but are yet to put together any sort of debut project. When do you think we can expect an EP? An album?
Tessellated: A project can be expected later this year, most likely to be released as an EP!
RNGLDR: You cover such a wide range of music with your own creations drawing inspiration from reggae, hip-hop, electronic, and acoustic. So, when your debut project does eventually get released, what about it will draw it together stylistically? And how will you still celebrate the range of your artistry within the confines of one project?
Tessellated: This is the hard part. I'm constantly trying to balance my influences and styles in a way that will still lead to one cohesive final product that's still somewhat recognizable as one genre or another. Its a work in progress but the one thing I can say is that I won't compropmise the quality of the music in that pursuit. The artistry and musicality will be out in full force for the culture.
RNGLDR: The modern music scene is quickly becoming more and more transcendent. Rappers sing, singers produce, producers rap, and everyone is becoming more wide ranging. What do you think it says about modern music that artists like you who don’t necessarily belong to any specific notion of genre are so popular with so many different audiences?
Tessellated: Art imitates life and life imitates art. This whole generation grew up on the internet where everything is accessible and people are no longer confined to their geographical location. Kids from Jamaica listen to rock music & people in Japan listen to Reggae on the regular. Why? Because they can. The same can be said for music, if I can sing, rap, produce, mix, master & direct my own video then why would I box myself into doing just one? People want to be free to express themselves and now they have the chance so they're making full use of it.
RNGLDR: We read in your interview with Red Bull that Bob Marley is one of your biggest inspirations. If you could please dive into what Bob Marley means to you as a Jamaican, a reggae-inspired artist, and simply a musician at large, we would love to hear your different perspectives on his importance.
Tessellated: Bob is a cultural icon on a whole other level for Jamaica. Any young Jamaican artist that doesn't acknowledge his influence on them would be ignorant or lying. His music and its influence are omnipresent in the culture and its just one of those things where respect has to be paid where its due. He significantly helped to pave the path for what Jamaican music is recognized as today and all that came after him stand on his shoulders in one way or another.
RNGLDR: In the same interview, you also noted Chance the Rapper as a heavy influence. How has Chance, his music, and his personal connection to his audience and the music industry inspired you?
Tessellated: Chance's album Acid Rap completely shifted my perspective on hip-hop. It was unapologeticallty different, fresh, real, thought-provoking & musical all at once. On top of that, Chance as a figure and his independent journey through an industry dominated by massive companies was almost reminiscent of David & Goliath. So to see him rising through the ranks with this pure artistry and still making a name fro himself despite not conforming was incredibly inspiring and definitely had a huge impact on my psyche going in as a young artiste.
RNGLDR: We’re big fans of the lane that you’ve explored in your music videos. You can almost play the Pine & Ginger video without sound and still be inundated with sunshine and positivity in the same way you can by listening to the track. As a well-rounded, artistically-influenced musician, what excited you the most about making music videos?
Tessellated: The way I see it, just as there's an instrumental and vocals, a video is just another element to the full audio-visual experience that a song should be. For me, the video creation is just as important as any other aspect of the song in portraying the feeling and allowing people to tap into a certain state of mind through the art. What really excites me the most when making videos is working with people who are just as serious about their craft of video creation as I am about the music, people who are trying to create genuine art that, as you said, can stand on its own. That way, when all is said and done its a multifacted collaborative art piece that is presented to the world, not just something to fill the space on Youtube.
RNGLDR: If you’ve ever seen the video for LA-based, TDE-signed SiR’s D’Evils. You’ll see a lot of aesthetic similarities between it and the video for Pine & Ginger. We would imagine it would be difficult to film a video in Jamaica and not focus on its natural beauty, but tell us, is it as gorgeous as it looks in music videos? If so, when can we meet you down there for a drink?
Tessellated: I just saw it for the first time and it definitely does! That's the thing though, our video just captures Jamaica as we saw it, theirs captures Jamaica as they do, but either way its gonna come back to a very similar vibe as Jamaica is really just was Jamaica is. What you see in the videos is really how it is, natural beauty, powerful culture, a true landmark. As we say, we likkle but we tallawah, which means we're small but we're strong, and that strength can be seen in how our culture radiates worldwide.
RNGLDR: Your video for Hallucinate takes on a very different vibe? What was the process and creative direction behind it?
Tessellated: For Hallucinate I just wanted to take it somewhere different visually. I made the whole song in LA when I first moved here and wanted to give it a very urban meets psychedelic type of vibe. My main director Jesse Suchomel aka Mountain Man Michael really cam through clutch and put everything together for the vision to be realized. We brainstormed it for a few weeks and shot everything in two days.
RNGLDR: Lastly, your latest creative project – the lyric video for Freeza seems like it must have been quite the animation process to bring together. What was it like working such a different kind of audiovisual project?
Tessellated: This one was really fun! A close friend of mine Joshua Solas aka. SolasInk who is also my roommate did the whole animation. We came up with the idea of the 'Freeza' character and decided to make the video a comic-book esque style with as many popping colours and fun effects as possible. He's an amazing artist and as you can see it came out just like imagined.
RNGLDR: As such a young artist, what’s next for Tessellated?
Tessellated: More music, more visuals, more collaborations & more shows. That's all I can say for sure, everything else only time can tell, but keep watching and we'll find out together!