JesseParadice, a queer-identifying rapper living in Cleveland, finds no shortage of inspiration for his deeply personal lyricism.
“In some ways, I just walk out of the house and I feel inspiration. I know, that’s such an artsy answer to give, but that is kind of how it happens.”
Jesse said that events like the riots in Ferguson, Missouri after the police shooting of Michael Brown in 2014, the police killing of 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland and the mass shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando have influenced him and his music.
“There’s so many things that happen in our society that it’s almost like if you don’t feel called upon to do something with your voice, then what are you doing?” he said. “If you aren’t an active community member, can you say you’re part of a community? I don’t think so.”
Jesse’s desire for community led him to his most recent project. He and nine other queer-identifying artists released Bargasm, a four-song collaboration EP, on June 1.
Queer hip-hop artist Shilow led the project. Ru Paul’s Drag Race all-star Aja is also featured.
With Bargasm, Jesse was able to work with and be in the same group chat as Aja, to whom he had once handed singles and fives at a drag show.
For Jesse, the project was unique and important. He said the group had little problem working together. Their vision and drive aligned, even if their geographic location or style didn’t.
The project felt like a calling.
“When you’re in a marginalized community, and there’s something that needs to be put out there, you put everything else aside,” he said. “You put your ego aside and you just say, ‘What can I do and when do you need it?’ And that was the experience.”
Growing up, Jesse had no other option than to love music. His father, who had funded his own journey from Jamaica across the world as a traveling musician, accepted no less for his son. Jesse sang in school and church choirs.
In 2020, with time on his hands, Jesse decided to work on more music. Since then, he has independently released a few singles and an EP. He also has worked with other artists through songwriting.
Jesse’s verse is featured on the songs “Bargasm Pt.2.” and “Bargasm (Full Cypher).” The prompt for the artists on the project was to tell their stories and talk about where they are from. Jesse used his verse to narrate his experience living in Cleveland:
Coming live from the two one six.
A modern day apartheid city.
Segregated by racism and a white flight.
Take a look inside my eyes.
Find the pain I keep inside.
Memories of violence perpetuated by hate crimes.
Jesse’s music starts with his message. He usually writes a song’s lyrics first, inspired by a personal experience. “I use music as kind of a way of narrating my life … Chefs will say, ‘You can get in touch with culture by eating someone else’s food.’ I don’t know if I 100% agree with that. But I think it’s important to put the plate on the table, [where] they have to do what they will with it.
“So that’s what I do with my music. I put it on your streaming platform in your ears to decide what to do with it. Because I think as artists, we have responsibilities to do that.”
Jesse uses his music to talk about his own experiences with mental health, racism, religion, and more, in hopes that listeners will either relate to learn from what he has been through.
He said he hopes to continue working on collaborative projects like Bargasm that perpetuate queer stories and community.
“I think queer artists need to team up more now than ever because there is such a quiet divide. When you go to the studio, you can feel that people are judging you. When you go to music venues, you feel that people are judging you. And at this point, you can’t be alone and feel like you’re alone in that experience. You have to band together.
“So collaboration is key … It’s something that everyone queer-identifying should do, regardless of genre, regardless of art form.”
His next solo project is called Self Destruction Sequence.
“It’s all about different aspects of my life where I felt like the wires were blown,” he said. “That life was just too big and too immense and there’s something beautiful with tapping into being imperfect, and feeling like you are falling apart because you’re taking account of your own emotions. So I have music on this future project about, you know, family issues. Issues about coming out of the closet, and also just kind of living my life as a Black queer. It’s a very unique experience. It’s not something that life prepares you for, even your parents might not be able to [prepare you], but you just figure it out.”
The Buckeye Flame is an online platform dedicated to amplifying the voices of LGBTQ+ Ohioans to support community and civic empowerment through the creation of engaging content that chronicles their triumphs, struggles, and lived experiences.