ReSrface Bargains With the Universe on Lost and Found

ReSrface, a.k.a. Jesse Santana, will open for Kota the Friend at Cervantes this Friday.
ReSrface, a.k.a. Jesse Santana, will open for Kota the Friend at Cervantes this Friday. Drew Dettke
Jesse Santana, better known in the Denver rap scene as ReSrface, is a perfectionist, an over-thinker and his own toughest critic. Luckily for us, Santana's natural penchant for introspection and self-scrutiny translates into some of the strongest hip-hop Colorado has seen in recent years, including the nine tracks on his latest release, Lost and Found. On Friday, September 9, he'll celebrate the new project with a performance at Cervantes' Masterpiece Ballroom, opening for indie rap phenomenon Kota the Friend.

While Santana's music has always been personal and anecdotal, the 24-year-old embraces a new level of vulnerability on  Lost and Found, trading in the boastful hypotheticals that marked his previous album for heartfelt reflections on his lived experiences. "Every song on here is really, truly something that I wrote to make myself feel better. Even if it has a negative tone, it's coming from a place of, 'Okay, you should feel that negativity, because it's important.' It's a release," he says.

The title of the album represents the give and take of being immersed in the struggle while still fighting his way out of it: "Over the last year, I've been pretty depressed — and depression kind of takes away your ability to do a lot of things. When that happens, it's easy to get lost in things that make you feel temporary happiness, like an emotional Band-Aid. I'm at a point now where I understand that to find yourself again is really hard to do, but probably the most important thing that all of us have to be able to do. I lost myself for a little bit, but now I feel like I'm at a good point where I can find myself again."

It's not that the Montbello native lost faith in himself, as he makes clear on tracks such as "I Believe" and "Prodigy," but that he felt at odds with the world around him. "'I Believe' is a song that I released a long time ago, but I thought it was an important first song on this album because it's how I've always felt. I've always felt like I was almost made for this job. I can reach back to my early childhood and think of things that I did at the time that have made rapping easier for me or that have made me better on stage," he explains. "I've always wanted to be an artist, and now that I'm old enough where I've gone through some of the stuff to try and make that happen, I still do believe that's what I'm made for. So it was important to me to kick off the album with some inspiration."

He channeled his cosmic frustrations into "Sunsh!ne," a song including Malcolm Whyz3 that Santana says is not the love song many would assume it is. "The song is actually a story I wrote, not to a person or anything, but more toward karma itself," he says. "When I wrote the hook, that's who it was referencing. 'Could you be my sunshine, when the rain dries up?' — [meaning] 'Will you come back out, will you restore my belief in the fact that if you put out good, you get good?'"
Santana (left) on stage with friend and frequent collaborator Malcolm Whyz3.
Raser Sharp Productions
But there are some love stories on Lost and Found. Whether he's expressing the sugar-coated innocence of puppy love on the pop-tinged track "Baby," or dealing with the fallout of a relationship gone sour like on "WhatYouWannaDo?," his voice is charged with emotion that can only come from personal encounters with love and heartbreak. "In the last few years, my life has changed drastically. So I do feel like I have more of a thought process related to things that really matter, and I feel like love probably matters the most, so I did want to talk about it more. 'WhatYouWannaDo?' is obviously about a breakup, and that was just nice to get onto paper," he says.

After releasing Virginia Place in May 2021, Santana set a goal to get better production and sampling, and Lost and Found demonstrates that he's made impressive progress on both fronts. All but three tracks ("I Believe," "Sunsh!ne" and "Hold Your Head High") on the project were produced and engineered by Santana, who cuts and rearranges samples from all different eras of music. The final product deftly blends contemporary beats with old-school samples, bringing to mind Kanye West's early mixtapes.
Lost and Found takes Santana's usual vulnerability into new territory.
Cleo Mirza
Santana cycled through five different versions of Lost and Found before finalizing the track list, and he's happy with how it finally turned out. "I wanted to drop something that really meant a lot to me — like even in ten years, I could go back and be like, 'Wow, that's like a journal entry.' I can look back on this and be teleported to a time capsule in my own mind," he says. "I love Virginia Place, but I know for a fact when I'm an older, mature man, in my gray years, I'm going to look back at this one and be like, 'You did a really good job, young Jesse.' This is the first time I've ever put anything out and felt like, in ten years I'll still love it."

Now that Lost and Found is out, Santana is focused on boosting the project's engagement with a series of music videos, each filmed in a single take at recognizable Denver locations including Commons Park and the Platte River.

A week after releasing the album, Santana got the call that he had been selected to perform at Kota the Friend's Flight Night tour stop in Denver, along with three other local acts (Jay Triiiple, Malcolm Whyz3 and Swizzy J). A champion of the DIY scene, Kota started the Flight Night series — a platform dedicated to uplifting independent hip-hop artists — while attending the Brooklyn High School of Performing Arts. In its early days, the Flight Night showcase featured the likes of Phony Ppl, Joey Bada$$ and the late, great Brooklyn MC Capital Steez. As a fan of Kota's music and DIY mentality, Santana is thrilled to get the opportunity to share a stage with him.

"First of all, it's an artist I know, an artist who is doing millions of monthly listens on Spotify alone. Somebody who a lot of my friends know," he says. "I was like, 'So you're just going to let me open for Kota's fans, who would probably fuck with my music, and there's probably going to be a whole bunch of people there? Thanks!' To be able to make a fan out of a random person is so, so valuable."

Kota's music pairs well with Colorado hip-hop, too, he adds. "Kota the Friend has one of the most Colorado-ish vibes that I've heard from a rapper in a long time. The synths are super relaxed, and a lot of his lyrics are about rivers and being outside, so obviously this outdoor-centric, weed-loving state is going to love that. He even has a song called 'Colorado,' so clearly he feels some type of way."
"I will never, ever be on stage and not give it my entire heart," Santana says.
Raser Sharp Productions
Perpetually wary of life's disappointments, Santana won't be celebrating the booking until his feet touch the stage. He's been burned by opportunities like this before (recently, he was booked to open for legendary rapper Twista, who never showed up to the venue), so his excitement is muted by caution.

"I've become a person who doesn't count my blessings anymore, because I get my hopes up about shit and it never really works out for me," he says. "But hypothetically, I will be on this lineup. And that's super exciting."

Kota the Friend with Special Guests ReSrface, Jay Triiiple, Malcolm Whyz3, Swizzy J and Jason Channel, 8 p.m. Friday, September 9, Cervantes' Masterpiece Ballroom, 2637 Welton Street. Tickets are $27.50.
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Cleo Mirza is a real-life Daria Morgendorfer who worships at the altar of Missy Elliot. She left the East Coast to live vicariously through Colorado's drag performers, and only returns for the pizza. Cleo has been a contributing writer for Westword since 2019, covering music, arts, and cannabis. She loves white wine, medical marijuana, and her possessed chihuahua, Rudy.
Contact: Cleo Mirza