While Justin Timberlake’s seminal third album was a reaction to the new wave of outré r’n’b acts, last year already had an oft-forgotten soulful white boy reacting to that kind of music; JMSN (pronounced Jameson, like the liquor). Christian Berishaj aka JMSN’s longhaired unkempt look may seem like he belongs more in the grungy ‘90s-informed garage-surf rock scene (FIDLAR, Wavves), but his music sounds like a particularly melancholic JT over Illangelo’s dark beats – had JT been suffering from depression.
Debut †Priscilla†’s release in January ’12 was drowned amidst the engulfing hype that was both The Weeknd and Frank Ocean. It didn’t help that there wasn’t a major label interest to it, nevertheless Berishaj was cosigned by the likes of Usher and Chris Brown when his genre peers would more likely beef with the latter. Recorded over the span of 6 months, the album chronicles his psyche throughout that period as he transitioned from being a major label-manufactured electropop outfit to the r’n’b auteur that he is now. It’s a Xanax-popping opus that bears more than just a semblance to The Weeknd’s trilogy of albums.
It’s a reductionist thing to do, but the comparisons to The Weeknd are actually valid – the album definitely shares Abel’s drugged out girls and drunken sex imageries. But whereas Abel’s hedonism is so one-dimensional to a point of being a meaningless void, †Priscilla† owes itself more to what was arguably the progenitor of PBR’N’B, Yeezy’s 808s and Heartbreaks. Like the misunderstood classic, †Priscilla† is a meditation on the notion of loneliness and lost love as self-imposed torture. And just like Yeezy, the 16-track morose epic is entirely produced by himself.
Berishaj’s auteur tendency goes beyond music making – he directed all of his music videos and having had won 6 awards at the LA Movie Festival, he ain’t no slouch at it either. ‘Something’ in particular made for a striking video – imagine the octopus scene from Oldboy taken to shokushu goukan level of perversity. ‘Jameson’ artfully deals with the loss of child in a scaled down Lars Von Trier-esque manner as he stitches sex, parenthood, and innocence together. Berishaj’s vision for JMSN almost acts as a companion piece to the visual representation of The Weeknd – depraved, lustful, dark, gloomy – but without the feeling that it’s all just for novelty’s sake. There’s weight to Berishaj’s imageries that’s hard to shake off.
As alternative as we’re making him to be, this Detroit native currently has production works with Kendrick Lamar, The Game, and Freddie Gibbs to his name. Unlike certain pretentious white boy r’n’b, JMSN isn’t an outsider, he’s firmly in the world of hip hop and r’n’b. In fact, he is currently working with Top Dawg Entertainment’s lyrical conspiracy theorist-cum-rapper Ab-Soul (of Black Hippy, the Kendrick-fronted supergroup) on a collaborative album called Unit 6. If the first lead single ‘You’re Gone’ is anything to go by, it might just be the next potent rapper-producer combo since El-P decided to hook up with Killer Mike.
Unit 6 is slated for release sometime this year. Find out more on JMSN at iamjmsn.com.