Tessellated's collaboration with Amindi and Valleyz has been in my music library since it dropped and transports me to a warm oasis every time it plays. Fresh off the back of his new EP, Tropics Vol. 1, I sat down with Tessellated live from Kingston, Jamaica to talk about his latest release, collaborations & hearing his hit song in the club.
The Floor: First thing first, I have to bring up your biggest track to date with 16million+ streams, Pine & Ginger. Artists usually say they can feel when a certain song will connect with their audience, but did you feel that this track would do as well as it did?
Tessellated: I knew it was a special track, I was excited when we were making it, but I didn’t really know what the reach would be. Before that, I never had a track do that much so it was really like a surreal experience. Within a week of us releasing it, it had more plays than any of my other songs that had been out for weeks and months, I was like ‘oh damn’. It started getting support from lots of different people and companies and things like that.
Many up and coming artists have dreams of their music spreading across the world amongst other things, but what was it like receiving an Emmy nomination?
That one was probably even more of a shock [than Pine & Ginger] because the thing is that record had been sitting down for like 3, almost 4 years so the song had gone out of my mind. That song had already done what it was going to do. It had 10 maybe 20k plays or something like that on my Soundcloud. The right person had it on their playlist then they pitched it for this concept and ended up making it through. It took on a whole life of its own and after the Apple advert, that exposed it to so many different audiences.
Over the past few years, you’ve been developing your sound and it’s been neatly packaged in your debut EP, Tropics Vol. 1, which sounds like modern reggae, with elements from different genres. Tell me a little about that.
The EP is a blend of all the different sounds I'm involved in, an overall view of what I do as an artist. The creative process was interesting, I didn't necessarily say ‘okay I’m doing this project and then I’m gonna make songs for this project’. I just had a lot of songs and thought okay I have all these songs and want to put something together I feel showcases me in the best way. I started piecing together different tracks and put it together that way. Because of that a lot of them were created in different ways. Some of them were just literally me by myself, some with my band, one I made in the UK when I did a session there. Then some from years back, it’s a very wide and varied project for sure.
The project doesn’t sound like a compilation through the years, but it does hint at the evolution of your sound. Having been around for a few years and with the success of your aforementioned singles, why did you wait until now to share the project?
I didn’t plan to drop in December but it’s when everything could happen with all that happened last year. It had to be put together the right way and we had to be responsible doing certain things. By November time things [in Jamaica] had calmed down a lot, curfew was later, etc.
What inspired the Me & My Lady visualiser?
I had a completely different concept but the spike of [covid-19] cases meant it wasn't safe to shoot. I just asked some friends to send me videos dancing to it and I was gonna use it for Instagram. Then I was like ‘yo, I could do a lyric video with this’ so I sat down the night before and put it together.
The EP has collaborations with both well-known and emerging artists, like Lagos singer/songwriter Crayon in No Ansa. I’m curious how the Protoje collaboration came about?
He’s been a supporter for a long time, the first time I got in contact with Protoje was maybe 5 years ago - I did a remix of one of his songs and he heard it on Soundcloud. We started a collab and it ended up getting scrapped. Then last year we revisited and redid it, changed the beat completely, and changed his verse. That gave us Sweeter on the EP.
Who else would you like to collaborate with, as a producer and/or artist?
Rema is super dope, I have to work with him - I feel like our style is lowkey similar, like energies. From the UK J Hus and Pa Salieu are at the top of the list. Smino and Toby Lous from the US, and Chronixx from Jamaica.
Who inspires you as a producer?
Recently I’ve been influenced by a lot of African producers and people like Ozedikus, London, Jae5, Mura Masa, Stephen ‘Di Genius’, Jacob Collier. Also OG people like Quincy Jones, I’ve learnt a lot from his production about not over or under doing things.
In an IG live with fellow contemporary reggae artist, Lila Ike, you said that you prefer not to listen back to your music after it’s been released. Tell me more about that.
I produce my songs and I mix a lot of them as well, from the time when I first make the beat, to writing the song, then fixing the song and adding production bits, mixing the song, mastering the song, and making sure everything's perfect I’ve listened to the song like over 500 times. By the time it’s finally out I'm like ‘yo I’m done with this’. Some songs like Santeria on the EP are like 3 years old, I’ve heard that song so much. Even filmed a video and ended up scraping it and remaking the song.
I guess your better-known songs are nothing short of an earache in that case.
With the Apple advert I don’t even watch TV like that so barely heard it - but Pine & Ginger? That is the most annoying song to me. That’s the main thing people know me by so when I go to a party they see me there and play it, I don’t want to hear that. Everyone else enjoys it still so that’s cool but yeah.
Who else are you excited about in the bubbling Jamaican Contemporary Music scene?
There are too many people to listen out for, definitely like Zac Jones, Naomi Cowan, Lila Ike, Sevana, Runkus, Friday Night Crew, PRG Kid, Ayo Tash, Royal Blue, Projexx - there’s so many but yeah those are some people. There are so many people doing amazing things and a lot of unity. I'm really excited about what’s going to happen in our industry over the next few years.