If hip-hop culture is led by a pack of ego-fed materialists, Christian Bershaj aka JMSN is the anti-‘swag’. His uniform is a well-worn t-shirt and unkempt, shoulder-length hair. You can’t get more nonchalant than that. Yet JMSN (pronounced “Jameson”) is the mastermind behind a visceral, self-produced brand of R&B that dabbles in the darker shades of emotion. It’s caught the attention of some of hip-hop’s biggest movers and shakers over the course of the last few years–and his latest record, It Is, serves up fresh-squeezed 90s R&B via raucous gospel choruses, bluesy church organ, and rich leaded bass. Tunes like “Power” and “Cruel Intentions / Good ol’ Case of the Blues” might just put JMSN on the map.
JMSN is the next unassuming underdog (underdawg?) in the quality-not-quantity debate. On the surface you have raw talent- a croon that’s equal parts The Weeknd (check out “Alone“) and Justin Timberlake (dig “Girl I Used to Know“). One might argue that he sounds like the two single-most sought-after musicians on the planet right now–not a bad business proposition. JMSN is a self-made machine, a true adherent to DIY ethics, a must if his long-term credibility hinges on the loyalty of indie crossover spinsters. JMSN handles each creative aspect by himself; singing, recording, mixing and producing. He even turned down a major label bid by short-lived conglomerate Universal Motown following the demise of earlier creative outlets Love Arcade and Christian TV. A true hip-hope renegade, he’s collaborated with a handful of notable names in the current collective conscious; Freddie Gibbs (“Street Sweeper“), Ab-Soul (“You’re Gone“), Ta-ku (“Love Again“), and although, like me, you may have been completely oblivious to JMSN’s existence prior to this week, he contributed the backing vocals on “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe” by Kendrick Lamar. You know, small fries.
If JMSN’s not on your radar yet the time is nigh to dive in. His music’s very accessible, and I say this with duality: you can find his music from just about any major source (Spotify, YouTube, SoundCloud, etc.), and his music is no-bullshit R&B about relationships going awry in the modern world. Nothing pretentious, although a few of his music videos do get a little bit weird. JMSN keeps a tight touring schedule–if you’d like catch him live now is your chance–artists that are churning out tunes this high of a clip tend to either spudder out or get scooped up by a major label and spend their time locked up in the recording studio (you know, like Ke$ha).