Interview: Jesswar’s “Savage” earns the aunties’ seal of approval as the official music video drops today

Seated in the artists’ catering area at A Weekend in The Gardens on Saturday afternoon, Jesswar is looking remarkably fresh for someone who has also been caught in the rain the Melbourne site endured throughout the day. Her partner, Brisbane artist Hannah Brontë, also sits across from me, looking effortlessly stylish.

It’s enough to make you feel even more of a drowned rat.

On this afternoon, the ladies from the Sunshine State were gracing the stage at A Weekend in the Gardens, as Jesswar hosted the hip hop evening of the series, an event that saw the likes of BirdzSpit SyndicateThundamentals and Illy all perform. It’s not them I’m interested in though, when the rapper comes and sits down besides me. There’s a new Jesswar single (now music video) out in the world and all I want to do is get “Savage”.

“I’m really proud of it,” Jesswar beams. “I’m really excited to finally have people hear it. I worked really hard on it and I feel like compared to all the music that I did when I was younger, I’m really excited for people to have it [now]. I’m excited for the video as well.”

The video, which landed online this morning, sees women front and centre; powerful figures emerging particularly in a hip hop culture that has been so adamantly a boys club for so long. The Brisbane/Gold Coast hip hop set is one of the most exciting in the country at the moment and Jesswar is well and truly one of the leaders of the pack.

“I think we’re all just rejoicing and loving it,” she says of her local music community. “It’s been a long time [coming]; we were all playing in that scene when nobody would come to shows and you would be playing for the security guards or a few of your mates that were there. It’s all just happened in the last year, you know – everyone goes to each others shows, there are fans now that are going to the shows, promoters are selling out local hip-hop shows. It’s really good and I think we’re all thriving.”

Currently signed with Golden Era Records for distribution, Jesswar admits that it was “Savage” that first turned the heads of the Hilltop Hoods and the GE crew.

“Well we were just talking,” she remembers. “They said, ‘Send me some music,’ so I said, ‘Here’s one I just finished a couple of days ago’. I sent it to them and they said, ‘Hold onto this song! If you don’t mind, don’t release it’. I love what they do, I have so much trust and faith in them.”

Jesswar & Hannah Brontë (Credit: Michelle Grace Hunder)

Recording “Savage”, confronting and brash in its delivery, came in a natural way for Jessway, as she explains the process behind it.

“There’s so much energy when you’re live on the stage and to recreate that sound in the studio can be hard at times,” she admits. “It can take time or it can come very naturally. I was very lucky with this track. The first verse and the hook came straight away but that second verse took a lot more time to get that energy and to get that flow and that vibe.”

“I kept writing more and more verses and then I realised it was more the delivery. So then I would go a bit slack, a bit more laid back but still with that aggression and grit. Then when I finally got it. It was like, ‘Yes! I got it. The song feels complete now’.”

“Well we put a lot of work, a lot of ideas and planning into it,” Jesswar says of the accompanying music video. “I’m really excited for people to see it because it is a savage music video, but it’s got all of our friends in it from Brisbane; I’m just really excited to see it. After the reaction from the song to the reaction from the video, just to have them both go together.”

Reclaiming the term, which she has explained as being applied to her people (Jesswar is of Fijian descent), she talks me through the reaction family and friends first had to “Savage”.

“I was thinking, ‘Will people get it? Will they understand?’,” she laughs. “I knew I had to put this out there because I am very, very proud of it. I love playing that song live. I remember I played it at Pasifika; one of our sis’ from Brisbane, Lisa Jameson, puts on an event called ‘Conscious Mic’ at Pasifika and she asked myself and Hannah to play. I remember playing that song and seeing the aunties come out and groove to it was a highlight for me. I was going to censor it but then I thought, ‘I’m actually going to play it,’ – I sat on the couch and I rapped the first verse beside two of these aunties and they were grooving! After that, they loved every other song I played; it felt really nice and warm, it felt good to have played that show.”

As for all the Australian girls of Pacific Island heritage who now have another boss to look up to within the music scene, Jesswar’s pride is infectious.

“I just want to do a good job and I just want to make them proud.” she smiles. “When I was younger, I was looking to artists like Missy Elliot, Lauryn Hill, and even Lil Kim, and I just think that the more females that come up, the better.”

Stay up to date with Jesswar here!