With all the K-pop groups out there such as IU, BLACKPINK, and Red Velvet it may be hard to keep up with all the new emerging talent. Graced with a voice so distinct, however, there’s no mistaking it’s her—even when she’s hiding behind a mask—Jessi emerged from the depths of the K-pop jungle with dynamic energy and free-spirited personality. After all, she did say she’s a different type of beast. Here’s your ultimate guide to Jessi, along with this incredible soloist’s full discography.
- Who Dat B?: Jessi’s Early Life
- Rebirth: Jessi Launches Her Career
- Jessie-Nu(nu)na(na): Rise to Fame
- Jessi Today: Life is Good
- Jessi Complete Discography
Who Dat B?: Jessi’s Early Life
Born Jessica Ho on December 17th, 1988, in Queens, Jessi grew up in New Jersey and dreamed of something bigger. At the age of 14, she made the life-changing decision to travel across the globe to become a singer, reconnecting with her roots in the process.
In Seoul, she resided with her grandmother and enrolled in the Korea Kent Foreign School. Jessi’s classmates included SNSD’s Tiffany Young and Jessica Jung, with whom she had successfully auditioned at SM Entertainment. Unlike them, however, Jessi parted ways with the company, believing SM’s style didn’t mesh with hers.
Jessi then kickstarted her career with Doremi Media as Jessica H.O. in 2005 with her debut album and song Get Up. This release showed the significant influence of artists like TLC and Mariah Carey on Jessi’s style.
The following year, she became the lead vocalist in the hip-hop group Uptown and released Testimony. Then in 2009, she dropped the H.O. from her stage name and released her second album, The Rebirth, before going on hiatus.
Later in her career, Jessi confessed that she took a break and returned to the States due to bullying within the industry for being a new singer—and an unconventional one at that, challenging the country’s standards at the time in a big way.
Rebirth: Jessi Launches Her Career
Fast forward to 2014. Jessi returned hot and debuted as part of the hip-hop trio Lucky J, under YMC Entertainment. By this time, she had changed her stage name to simply Jessi.
The group released the single “Can You Hear Me,” as well as contributions for the drama Temptation in that same year.
Come 2015, Jessi joined reality show Unpretty Rapstar. She quickly became a household name after winning second place.
It was also through Unpretty Rapstar that she cemented her authenticity—not just as an artist, but also as a person. On the tails of this newfound popularity came a feature on JYP’s “Who’s Your Mama?” The track became a massive hit in South Korea.
In July 2017, Jessi released her debut EP: Un2verse. Its five songs were written by Jessi herself, including the title track “Gucci.”
The EP solidified Jessi as a triple threat: singer-rapper-songwriter. Commercially, Un2verse was a huge success. It debuted and peaked at #31 on the Gaon Album Chart, and at #4 on the US World Albums Chart.
In 2018, Jessi released the single “Down”—again co-written by her—which also marked her parting ways with YMC Entertainment.
Jessie-Nu(nu)na(na): Rise to Fame
In early 2019, Jessi became the first artist in Psy’s label, P Nation, through which she released hip-hop EP Nuna. The EP’s first single, “Who Dat B,” was released in September and peaked at #8 on the World Digital Songs Sales Chart.
This EP delivered trap single “Drip,” featuring fellow Korean-American rapper Jay Park. Nuna also included the pop-rap single co-written with Psy, “Nunu Nana.”
The track skyrocketed as a commercial success in South Korea. It peaked at #2 on the Gaon Digital Chart and the Billboard Korea K-pop Hot 100, and eventually received a nomination for Song of the Year at the Gaon Chart Music Awards.
And the video, featuring veteran first-generation K-pop star Lee Hyori, was no less successful. In fact, this was Jessi’s first music video to exceed 100 million views.
To top it all off, Jessi went home with the award for Best Solo Artist at the 2021 Golden Disc Awards—her very first win and nomination from the acclaimed awards show.
In October 2020, Jessi—alongside Uhm Jung Hwa, Lee Hyori, and MAMAMOO’s Hwasa—joined the quartet Refund Sisters.
Each member took on new stage names for this project. The group was crafted after Lee Hyori’s idea of a dream girl group. From there, they released the charismatic “Don’t Touch Me,” which became the fastest song by a girl group to enter the Flo Top 10. It took only 5 hours.
Best of all, all the profits from “Don’t Touch Me” were donated to charities around the country.
In the first quarter of 2021, Jessi released the digital single “What Type of X.” This much-awaited follow-up to Nuna, and the singer’s second co-written and co-composed track with producer PSY, became the new self-love anthem of the year.
Jessi Today: Life is Good
In addition to her own releases, Jessi’s lent her voice to various K-drama OSTs and created her own variety show, Jessi’s Showterview, on YouTube. She’s interviewed countless contemporaries, including Oscar Winner Emma Stone.
Her journey was far from smooth, but through her artistry, rock-solid principles, and unshakable character, Jessi has made a name for herself—and an undeniable impression on the industry that will never fade.
Jessi Complete Discography
Get Up (December 1, 2005)
Heralding her girlboss-like career is Jessi’s debut album from 2005, Get Up. The album highlights U.S. influences from 90s R&B and hip-hop, throwing in a bit of Jay-Z and TLC.
Setting the mood is the bass-heavy rap track “W.T.H.,” which delivers catchy, angsty hooks and transitions perfectly into “Missin’ U.” This laid-back R&B track boasts Jessi’s vocal techniques, and is complemented by an English version near the album’s close.
Ending Get Up is a rendition of “The Christmas Song,” a fitting reimagined classic: it feels like Jessi’s gift to the world.
- Missin’ U (Korean Version)
- Get Up
- 1 – 2 Step (Korean Version)
- Give It All
- Missin’ U (English Version)
- All I Need… (1 – 2 Step) [English Version]
- The Christmas Song
Un2verse (July 13, 2017)
Un2verse is Jessi’s debut EP with YMC Ent. Staying true to her roots, Jessi brings back the K-rap and blends it with trap and R&B in this five-track album.
Trumpet-laden title track “Gucci” is upbeat, empowered, and highly reminiscent of acclaimed rapper Nicki Minaj.
The next two are collab tracks, though they contrast each other in every way: “Boing” borders on mad and groovy, and incorporates more autotune compared to the other tracks. Meanwhile, “My Walk” takes pride in hypnotic piano and Jessi’s melancholic vocals. Spitfire rap verses by Year of the OX make the track shine even more.
- Boing (feat. Changmo)
- My Walk (feat. Year of the OX)
- Spirit Animal
Nuna (July 30, 2020)
Marking her debut with P Nation, Jessi returns with her 3rd mini album, Nuna. Compared to her previous releases, Nuna combines more K-pop elements with the K-hip-hop that Jessi is known for today.
The infectious title track, “Nunu Nana,” encompasses that beloved “I don’t care what you think” attitude of hers, making it a hit among both Jebbies and casual listeners.
Taking listeners aback with acoustic guitar and Jessi’s heavenly voice is “Star,” a bittersweet track that bares her soul.
Next, the pop-club genre shines in the collab “Put it On Ya.” Its sexy down-tempo makes for a great song to vibe to, while giving equal focus to its three artists.
Ending the EP with a loud bang is “Drip,” which treads more in the territory of Jessi’s classic trap/R&B style. It’s made even more fiery with the rap verse by Jay Park.
- Nunu Nana
- Put It On Ya (feat. KARD’s BM and nafla)
- Who Dat B
- Drip (feat. Jay Park)
Digital Singles and Projects
The Rebirth (January 15, 2009)
Released as a digital single and packaged as a single album, The Rebirth includes the solo track “Life is Good.”
Power courses through this song’s veins from start to finish, and is made even more impactful by Jessi’s power vocals and intense strings in the background reminiscent of Destiny’s Child.
Ssenunni (September 15, 2015)
After gaining traction from Unpretty Rapstar, Jessi released her digital solo, “Ssenunni.” Literally meaning “fierce unnie,” the track makes good on its promise and showcases Jessi’s incomparable boldness.
Borrowing elements from classic Y2K hip-hop à la Mary J Blige and Missy Elliott, Jessi also name-drops other Korean rappers in the first verse to keep things…spicy.
Don’t Touch Me (October 10, 2020)
With the coming together of the four horsewomen of the K-popocalypse, it should come as no surprise then that the project track “Don’t Touch Me” teems with raw power and badass-ery.
Pure charisma fuels every moment of the song. Nobody can escape the addicting beats of this brilliant collaboration.
What Type of X (March 17, 2021)
Filled with angst, viciousness, and plenty of sick guitar riffs, What Type of X perfectly marries the power of rock instruments with Jessi’s characteristic rough and powerful voice.
It combines these elements so well, in fact, you’ll ask yourself, How haven’t I heard this Jessi before?
Confident feminism drips from every line and in every move, undoubtedly making it one of Jessi’s best songs to date.
The ultimate comeback kid, Jessi used the rough start to her career to her full advantage, carving out a sizable niche for herself in the international K-pop world. Her signature voice and power leave fans constantly wanting more—and she never fails to deliver. Some of her work is definitely among the best K-pop songs and music videos out there.