Among the likes of Sampa The Great and Genesis Owusu, Jesswar has helped to redefine the scene’s often-thought, boxed-in sound while ushering in prominent representation for ethnic and sexual minorities. The Fijian-Australian artist has been an early innovator of the new and diverse face of Australian music since their 2017 debut.

Fast forward five years later, the Gold Coast-raised rapper unveils their 12-track debut mixtape titled LIFE’S SHORT, LIVE BIG. The latest work is the follow-up to 2021’s TROPIXX EP that included bass-heavy tracks like ‘Venom’ and ‘Medusa’.

The first taste of LSLB arrived months after TROPIXX, through the boastful and anthemic ‘BAD LIKE RIRI’ featuring Texan rapper Erica Banks. While in the same breath covering Limp Bizkit’s ‘Rollin’ for Triple J’s Like A Version, Jesswar’s expanding sonic palette was becoming obvious. 

Returning this year with two vastly different singles, it’s now clear that Jesswar’s next move is, well, unclear. Their 2022 debut ‘Fell In Love’, an island-infused and pop-oriented vibe, is in stark contrast to ‘Hefty’ which they describe as “just 1 minute 50 of bars.”

“Keeping that freedom I think really keeps that spark in my creativity going.”

Jesswar on AUD’$.

On what inspired their creative process, Jesswar points to the bedroom pop genre and artists like GRAACE and Remi Wolf as key influences on LSLB. This is evident from the mixtape’s dynamic production and melodic moments that appear immediately on the intro ‘GOLDEN FOUR DRIVES’ and again, on the DVNA-assisted ‘SWEET’. 

There’s no shortage of rap, predominantly in the closing tracks, and the impassioned lyricism on ‘ANTISOCIAL’ remains a standout as they grapple with drug abuse, identity and social injustices. The rumbling and growling bass lines are a source of energy charging Jesswar up over the course of LSLB

Almost every track, particularly ‘CARAMEL BARS’ with its ticking instrumental, feels like an alarm clock trying to wake you up for something big. Jesswar embraces the title’s meaning and encourages listeners to do the same, often relaying the message – LIFE’S SHORT, LIVE BIG. 

“If I don’t do this for myself right now, I know that I’ll regret it so putting this project out is also like a mantra for me.”

Jesswar on AUD’$.

From a unanimous feeling of dreariness built up over the past couple of years, the main message is the title, and its one that resonates far and wide. Untethered from fear, Jesswar is able to be their most authentic self. That’s not to say their authenticity didn’t shine from the ‘Savage’ debut but only now do we hear them as their boldest and best on something more fleshed out.

Jesswar’s contribution to the scene laid the foundation for queer and POC artists in the new generation of stars (themselves included). Strong in their identity, this foundation comes with a mantra that the Queensland-based artist has now come to fully understand and transfers on through LIFE’S SHORT, LIVE BIG. Reflective on the music being made, it’s a thrilling time to be Jesswar and someone a part of Australian music as a whole.

“It still continues to go and grow. I feel like it’s not just in hip-hop – it’s in soul, it’s in R&B, it’s in pop, it’s in rock – like it’s across the board and it just makes me extremely, extremely excited.”

Jesswar on AUD’$.

Check out the interview between Matthew Craig and Jesswar below as they discuss the journey leading to LIFE’S SHORT, LIVE BIG, how they push themselves creativity and more on AUD’$.

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