Back when R&B singer-songwriter-producer Jhyve was growing up in the mostly minority Toronto suburbs, there was no black radio in the city that became the Six. Now you can’t flip the dial without hearing hip-hop and R&B, and it’s largely homegrown — be it superstars like Drake and The Weeknd or second-wavers like Daniel Caesar, Alessia Cara and Majid Jordan.
With guitar in hand, Jhyve is the latest star emerging from Toronto’s musical firmament thanks to his singular soul-focused sound.
Born Jamaal Desmond Bowry, Jhyve comes by his genre blend honestly. His mother sings in a gospel choir and his father is a former DJ who bumped soca and calypso at community parties with his own “big ass” soundsystem. Jhyve took those influences from his parents, immigrants from the Caribbean island of St. Kits, mixed them with the late-90s R&B he grew up on and added alt-rock picked up from his university dorm-mates who played guitar and got high all day. Everything filtered in.
“I wouldn’t have the sound I have today if I didn’t have all these honest prolonged exposures to different types of music coming up,” he says. But while his music is influenced by the past, it still sounds cutting-edge. “People confuse paying homage to duplication. There has to be reinvention. Don’t be brothers, be cousins.”
Jhyve’s early work was done entirely by himself. “If I’m going to be my own voice, on my terms, I have to start building it from the ground up,” he thought, and so began writing, performing, producing and recording everything, though he later collaborated with Jessie Reyez before she blew up.
His music should appeal to fans of boundary-pushing artists like Miguel and SZA, and his latest EP is Conversations, a five-song cycle about relationships that displays an introspection and vulnerability rarely seen in modern R&B, at least from the guys.
“Men hardly get out of a position of strength and nobility in love songs,” Jhyve says. “We always come at it from receiving the best love ever or being hurt by a bitch. It’s very rare that you get more range of emotion. Conversations covers that range.”
The title track is about how men aren’t just about one thing, but actually enjoy conversation, too, while “Feel Something” is about romantic disconnection and “Convince Me” is about insecurity. The dark and moody “Human,” with a cinematic video to match, stems from a messy breakup in Jhyve’s past that inspired lines like: “you got problems like the rest of us / fighting demons like the best of us.” While “Keep Doing You” is about catharsis and closure, set after a relationship and offering redemption and emotional release as it ties in with his own experience chasing his dreams.
Dreams that are now being realized, as the charismatic, multi-talented performer prepares to bring his music from Toronto to the world.