JessB is a "wildflower, blooming in the toughest conditions, failing to fit in with the mould".

That's how the Kiwi rapper (real name Jess Bourke) has introduced herself on her upcoming debut EP Bloom; a celebration of her journey to discover and embrace her identity.

That intro, combined with the following bass-heavy, raucous party track Set It Off, may just tell you everything you need to know about JessB.

"Being me is not really limited to any one thing ... so in addition to the messages - talking about LGBT issues, social issues and being a woman of colour - I also advocate for the importance of just having fun," says Bourke.


"The fact that I'm in my early 20s and I enjoy hanging out with my friends and going to parties and all of that stuff ... I want to be sharing all of the parts of me."

Bourke is outspoken about inclusion and diversity, because when she was growing up as someone of Kenyan descent in New Zealand, there was almost no one like her.

"For people like me ... there was virtually no representation at all. I guess that's one of the reasons why hip-hop was so appealing to me, because I could see all of that - people who looked like me and who I could relate to," she says.

So Bourke spent her teenage years studying the works of female rappers and trying her hand at the art form throughout high school.

When she launched her own Soundcloud account after high school, she was discovered by one of New Zealand's most prolific hip-hop producers, P Money and "that was kind of when I felt like I could actually pursue it as a real thing," she says.

That said, New Zealand has produced very few female rappers so it must've been a daunting prospect. But Bourke's answer to that is surprisingly nonchalant.

"Nah, it wasn't daunting. I'm not sure why I wouldn't find it daunting, I guess just because I'm confident in myself and I've never really been intimidated by the idea of being in a solely male-dominated area," she says.


In no frills style, New Zealand's JessB hits the booth to show 64 Bars what she's got with David Dallas. More here -

Posted by Red Bull Studios on Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Bourke isn't intimidated by much. Her confidence and self-assured nature has always seen her through; she was one of the lucky few who actually had a good time at high school, too.

"I wasn't afraid to try new things and believe in myself. It's not like I'm walking around 100 per cent confident in everything. I still doubt the things that I'm doing or wonder whether I'm doing the right thing but I'm definitely not afraid to speak up either."

Which is why, when I ask how the often misogynistic nature of hip-hop aligns with her own views, she's quick to put me in my place.

"First of all, hip-hop is not the only genre that has had issues [with its treatment of women]," she says, adding: "But I do think it's really important to have voices that are not reflecting those sorts of view points."

And that's where she comes in.

"For me in New Zealand and as a minority - there aren't many female artists so it's really important for me to fly the flag for everything I believe in," she says.

"Obviously, as a woman I want to be empowering and shine a positive light on being female, but also be free to express my femininity or be a woman in the way that I want to, which may not necessarily be everyone's idea of what it should be, but that's okay too because I'm not judging the way that you do your thing, you know what I mean?

"[Being a female in rap] is just a newer area that's waiting to develop, there hasn't really been a mainstream female rapper in New Zealand who's been a household name yet, so it's really still a path that is being walked now. For me it's a personal expression mixed in with making sure that I'm creating the right messages for people who might need inspiration."

Who: JessB
What: Debut EP, Bloom
When: Out tomorrow