Jessie Reyez’s Gatekeeper Addresses Sexual Assault in the Music Industry

{*UPDATE. Since the release of this article, the unnamed producer referred to by Reyez has been identified as Noel “Detail” Fisher. In May of 2018 Fisher was accused of rape by two female artists, at which time Reyez confirmed on social media that Gatekeeper was in fact about the producer. “One Night, over 6 years ago Noel ‘Detail’ Fisher tried this on me. I was lucky and got out before it got to this. I didn’t know what to say or who to tell. I was scared. Fear is a real thing. The girls that came out are brave as hell,” Reyez wrote on Twitter. The singer also took to Instagram writing “Yes this is who Gatekeeper is about. My experience didn’t get this awful. I hope these women find justice.”}

“We are the gatekeepers
Spread your legs, open up
You could be famous
You know we’re holding the dreams that you’re chasing
You know you’re supposed to get drunk and get naked”

Powerful words from Canada-born Colombian singer/songwriter Jessie Reyez, expressed in her latest song Gatekeeper. The record is one of 7 tracks appearing on Reyez’s Kiddo EP released in April. What does Gatekeeper tell us? An unfortunate truth. The song paints the harsh reality of how [some] men in power in the music industry, referred to by Reyez as the “Gatekeepers”, use their status to sexually abuse, blackmail, manipulate, and take advantage of women who want an opportunity to make it.

With lyrics like “30 million people want a shot, how much would it take for you to spread those legs apart?” Reyez sugarcoats nothing; and her blatant lack of subtly amplifies the message of the song. There’s nothing subtle about men who exploit, mistreat, and sexually harass women; so why should a song about it be subtle? The way Reyez chooses to put it in our faces in such a raw and real form says so much on its own. The message I took from her approach: We’re tired of being silent. We’re tired of dealing with this behind closed doors. We’re tired of tiptoeing around the topic. THIS is the reality and I’m going to make you feel uncomfortable about it; because it should make you uncomfortable that it’s happening. Gatekeeper speaks loudly, and boldly pulls the curtain wide open on an issue that’s been swept under the rug for too long.

While the lyrics are strong enough on their own, the singer dropped a powerful 12-minute short film to accompany the song. Opening with a young girl (representing Reyez) mouthing the song’s lyrics in a home video and taking us on the twisted journey of an older Reyez being sexually pressured by one of these “Gatekeepers”, the visuals are poetically dark.

This is the story of many women, but it was Reyez’s story as well. Upon releasing the track and video, the singer revealed that the song was inspired by a personal experience she had with a big-time music producer. While she won’t reveal his name, Reyez’s music video depicts the producer’s aggressive attempts at trying to pressure her into having sex with him. Exploiting her desire to make it in the music industry, Reyez details how the producer told her it’s what she had to do to be famous. In an open letter to her assailant Reyez wrote, “You’re lucky I’ve decided not to use your name because I don’t want to give you any sort of light. With you faceless, I hope to unify anyone else that has had to deal with your type of evil.” The letter, which was posted on Reyez’s Instagram account, shows three words concealed with scribble following the word “To”; leaving much to the imagination as to whom the three-lettered name belongs to.


As a woman who has weaved in and out of many aspects of the industry, Gatekeeper spoke volumes to me. Reyez’s song and video weren’t in any way a stretch of the imagination, although I wish they were. It happens, and it happens far too often. Ultimately Reyez rejected the producer’s advances and made it out of the situation unscathed, but not everyone is so lucky.

So what do we do about it? Well what Reyez has done is a good start, and it’s clear from the response she’s gotten that speaking her truth has helped many women cope with their own traumas. So let’s speak up, speak out, and make the days of silence and turning a blind eye obsolete. If you see it happening, stop it. If you can help someone, do it. Women; let’s look out for each other, support one another, and stick together. Men; look out for women. Think about how your actions affect women and ask yourselves what you’d want for your mothers, sisters, daughters, female friends, etc. Because the more good men there are out there fighting FOR us, the better chance we have at stopping the ones fighting against us.

We just want to succeed, share our art, create, be heard. And none of those desires should cost us our bodies, morals, dignity, or ability to consent. It’s about time we become our own Gatekeepers.