To Peckham, where Jess Smyth lives in a house that's as minimal as her music
There’s a guy who lives near Jess Smyth who keeps bringing random shit to her house. She tells me about this when showing me yesterday’s drop – a blue carrier bag full of old Will Young CDs. It’s a story that she casually puts out there and smoothly glides away from, which befits the music she makes as Biig Piig: storytelling hip-hop that’s slow and heavy-lidded, and nonplussed by fussy details. Just as ‘Perdida’ has Smyth gently singing, “I just wanna lay here/ And smoke my cig/ And drink my wine/ And think”, stopping to question who the guy with the Will Young CDs is, or what the hell he’s playing at, is not really important. I’ll ask about it later.
Smyth has lived in Peckham for the last six months, but over the 21 years of her life she’s been prone to big moves – from where she was born in Cork, Ireland, to Marbella, Costa del Sol, back to Kerry and Waterford in Ireland, and then to West London where she became Biig Piig and started rapping as a member of the nine8 collective; a group of young musicians that includes her chief collaborator, producer Macwetha.
For now, the arts scene of Peckham seems to work well for Biig Piig, who at the end of last year put on a show at the local working men’s club and packed it with a bunch of friends and fans who dreamily nodded along to her Big Fan of the Sesh, Vol 1 EP. She tells me there was a completely different feel to her more recent show at the much bigger Village Underground in support of her new EP, A World Without Snooze, Vol 2 – it was leery.
Smyth’s room – in a house she shares with three friends currently studying graphic design and film – is as minimal as her music is. Her walls are plain but for a couple of film posters, a framed print she found in the street and a makeshift washing line with a few items of clothing pegged to it. While we’re talking she peels the back off of a Rebellion Extinction sticker from the recent climate change protests and slaps it on the wall too. There’s also a painting of Eve by the daughter of a family friend, of which Smyth says it wouldn’t feel like home without, and a small stack of books (“but I’m not a reader”). It’s a calming, clutter-less space, where found items are here and there, and a deck of cards which hark back to Smyth’s previous double life as a late-night poker dealer. She demonstrates her impressive shuffle, reads my tarot cards (also dropped off by her neighbour), and then talks me through her new home and the things in it.