Wesley Joseph spent 2020 releasing a series of exceptional debut singles accompanied by self-directed visual pieces that revealed a tempting glimpse into his unique world. The songs – including the Joy Orbison co-produced “Ghostin’” – laid a critically acclaimed path for what is set to be a breakthrough 2021.
The first release is “Thrilla,” an anthemic, game-changing cut produced by Wesley and mixed by Jai Paul collaborator Lexxx. The song is shared alongside another extraordinary, self-directed music video, existing in Wesley’s space of magic realism and featuring one of two working DeLoreans in the UK.
Wesley says of the single and video:
“I started writing ‘Thrilla’ off the rum and orange juice in a neon blue London studio about a year ago. It became clear what the scope of the song could be as soon as I added the first 808, and the vibe was instant. A few of my boys came by that night and I freestyled a loose version of the hook – it was enough to keep us going crazy until the morning. The name ‘Thrilla’ literally comes from that gassed drunk freestyle and it just stuck – the song is true to that bigger than life feeling you get in those moments.
Six months passed and I had started to slowly take the song apart to restructure it with absolute attention to detail. I wanted to make something that felt big, but also had depth and a sense of journey to it. That needed to be seamless: like you forgot how you got there, but at the same time it feels like it shouldn’t have been any other way. I finished the song at Lexxx’s studio near the sea. I would be working round the clock, experimenting with different transition ideas, or throwing in new licks, samples, and grooves to glue the whole thing together without losing anything, and he helped hugely at that stage of the puzzle.
When I was writing the song, images were already coming to mind visually, and I knew how the video was meant to feel texturally and metaphorically, too. Directing this one really developed the relationship I have with myself as a musician and filmmaker. A lot of people said it wasn’t going to be possible and the idea wasn’t realistic, so I’m hugely thankful for everyone who cared and worked their asses off to make it real.”
Since emerging last year with his self-produced debut single – the skittering, jazz-flecked “Imaginary Friends” – 24-year-old rapper-singer Wesley Joseph has written, directed and scored his own short film, Pandomony, as well as directing the video for his undulating second single, “Martyrs.” While he delegated the animated visuals for glitchy “Ghostin’” to Pixar’s former technical director Najeeb Tarazi, the video’s fusion of the hyperreal and the mundane marries purposefully with the intention of his music.
Born in Birmingham where he was a member of the OG Horse collective alongside Jorja Smith, Joseph moved to London in 2016 to study film. He also started making beats on his laptop, converting his bedroom into a makeshift studio. That ad-hoc, DIY ethos permeates everything he does, with the lyrics to “Ghostin’” written quickly on the bus home from a session with the song’s producer, electronic pioneer Joy Orbison. He’s also working closely with Jai Paul associate Lexxx on a debut project set for release this summer.