Not since Nelly, and more recently Smino, has St. Louis seen or heard artists properly making references in their music to repping St. Louis to the fullest. Nelly's "I'm from the 'Lou and I'm proud" is a classic example, along with Smino's sensual double entendre of "Arch that thang like where I'm from." Now, a new artist from the city's "soufside," as he calls it, is making waves with a love for his hometown — and picking up steam in the process.
In October, rapper Soufside Jerei released the single "Bag Szn," a cool yet bouncy track that is the single for Jerei's album Groovy Blues, along with an accompanying music video shot by visual artist Louis Quatorze, a.k.a. Mike Roth. "Gotta thank God I'm in my bag today," Jerei raps over the smooth and wavy beat. As he rides through the city, Jerei makes stops at several local landmarks, including Busch Stadium, Soulard Farmers Market and Eckert's Farm. It is an anthem, and a visual love letter to St. Louis.
While Jerei is relatively new to the local scene, he says the talent has been there for several years. The rapper was briefly discouraged from making music, mainly because he didn't know many people doing what he was interested in at the time.
"I was always a fan of music in general," he says. "When I started developing my own taste, that's when I knew I could make music."
Jerei's sound is fluid. It's swaggy and emits the kind of arrogant confidence one would have while washing their car on a 70-degree day in February. "Bag Szn" is the type of song meant to be played at the golden time of day, during unseasonably warm weather in St. Louis. And Jerei knows how to write a hook. His music is catchy, and the vibe on his album ranges from chill to turnt up to reflective and back again.
Groovy Blues was birthed through loss, grief, happiness and hope. Jerei says he once dreamed about "better days," and has since realized he's now living them. He wants his music to inspire others, as well as be a resource for young people living in the city.
A south-city native, Jerei has no shortage of local references in his music and visuals. His videos make stops at Ted Drewes, employ drone views of the Lemp Brewery and ride through Tower Grove. Cultivating relationships and perfecting his sound, Jerei has found his rhythm on Groovy Blues. It's an album about growth, and it shows.
In the last couple years, rap artists in the city have received considerable recognition for their music, with a drill rap type of sound coming from grittier artists such as Jizzle Buckz, LA4SSS and the like. Jerei's music is as much about family, love, friendship and loss as it is about confidence, arrogance and influence. While heavier sounds that involve street life, drugs and incarceration have prominence on the St. Louis underground music scene, Jerei's Groovy Blues is a refreshing change.
"If anything, I just have to be me," he says. "My story is gonna be what sticks to people, more than me trying to mimic anybody else's style."
Jerei's style is unlike anything coming from the St. Louis rap scene right now, and his voice on the mic is one to remember. On Groovy Blues, Jerei uses this to his advantage, playing with higher octaves and trying out melodies and harmonies. On "Bag Szn," the rapper teams up with jazz musician and singer/songwriter Katarra Parson, who sings parts of the hook.
Jerei makes full use of his beats, rarely leaving breathing room for unnecessary bars or empty space. This is mainly due to his artistic relationship with his producer Akeda Keyz. Groovy Blues is the second project the pair have collaborated on since 2018's drop of Jiggy Keyz. While the first project was an EP, Groovy Blues showcases an artist who's found his sound and a producer who has helped make that happen.
"The whole concept on the album is about our growth together as artists since Jiggy Keyz — as people and as homies," Jerei says.
In October, Jerei offered his fans and supporters the opportunity to preview his album and get to know the backstory of Groovy Blues through a series of "Jiggy Jam Sessions" offered around the southside. The artist performed stripped-down versions of the songs off his debut LP, culminating in a full project listening session at vintage store Mesa Home on Cherokee Street.
The jam sessions were not the first time Jerei has opened his art up to criticism from the public. Last fall, he was featured at Lo-Fi Cherokee, where he performed with Mycol-Vynn and Akeda Keyz.
Soufside Jerei remains a bit low-key and is not an artist that presents himself as aggressive or as a gimmick. He's being himself the whole way. His music stems from his life, like most artists, but in a way that isn't shocking, horrifying or unrelatable.
"I'd rather make real music, and if it comes out sad, then so be it," he says. "I'd rather make bouncy shit."