The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
Jesy Nelson has officially gone solo.
The U.K. singer teamed up with American rapper Nicki Minaj on Nelson’s debut single “Boyz,” her first release since leaving her former girl group Little Mix last December 2020, for the sake of her mental health.
The song heavily samples rapper P. Diddy’s 2001 song “Bad Boy for Life.” Nelson sings over the original beat from Diddy’s song, talking about her unapologetic habit of choosing bad boys to love. The music video for “Boyz” is a nearly perfect, frame-by-frame recreation of Diddy’s original music video. Some memorable shots include Nelson hitting a golf ball off the roof of a house and Minaj rapping against a hot pink car. Diddy himself makes a cameo in Nelson’s video as her next-door neighbor whose window was broken by her rogue golf ball.
Fans are split in their opinion of the song. Perhaps it’s shock value—“Boyz” is a total 180 from the kind of dance-pop music Nelson created during her time with Little Mix. Besides its genre shift, the hip-hop song is filled with lyrics that are more explicit than Little Mix’s typically subtle innuendos (Little Mix may have a song called “Wasabi,” but it’s certainly less spicy than the raunchy sashimi line in “Boyz”). But Nelson couldn’t be happier with her new sound. In an interview with Vulture, Nelson said, “My passion is R&B and hip-hop from the ’90s and early 2000s. That’s what I grew up on. It’s the music I’ve always wanted to make, so it feels quite liberating.” Fans can assume that Nelson will continue to explore her love of R&B in her upcoming music.
The release of “Boyz” has raised concerns about Nelson blackfishing, or if she’s using aesthetics related to black culture for her personal gain. This isn’t the first time Nelson has been accused of blackfishing; her questionable spray tans and certain hairstyles have brought up the issue countless times before. In her same Vulture interview, Nelson claims that she has never intentionally done anything to appear racially ambiguous, delivering a bold message: “I want to be authentic and true to myself, and if people don’t like that, don’t be my fan. Don’t be a part of my journey.” Insider reports that the singer canceled follow-up calls to give a more direct statement addressing the accusations.
In the October digital cover issue of Glamour magazine, Nelson candidly acknowledged her former Little Mix bandmates (Perrie Edwards, Jade Thirlwall and Leigh-Anne Pinnock) for the first time since announcing her departure from the group. Nelson revealed that she hasn’t spoken to the girls out of a need to distance herself from her past, but maintains hope that they can come back together at some point in the future.
This much-anticipated Little Mix reunion may have to wait. A few days after “Boyz” was released, all three of Nelson’s ex-bandmates unfollowed her on all social media platforms. Edwards even unfollowed Nelson from her dog’s Instagram account. There’s no word on what motivated the unfollowing spree; maybe Nelson’s not the only one who needs space.
No matter what people may think of her new brand, one thing is clear: Jesy Nelson is the happiest she’s ever been, and she’s even more excited about what’s to come.