To say this has been a long time coming would be doing Jessi a disservice. Or, perhaps, a favor. The New Jersey-bred Korean singer/rapper has endured the kind of label politics, bad management, and release delays that would normally erase a Korean artist – several times over. Moving to Korea at the age of 15 to chase her dreams, she had a single out and was appearing on TV by 2005. Here we are in 2017: somehow, UN2VERSE is her debut release. This kind of arduous, painful, defeating process is the sort that any artist would happily brush under the rug – before tossing it in the fire, Persian or no.

Not Jessi. She wears her struggles and controversies like a badge of swag (forgive me), moreover, as her armor. In a country that tends to prefer its leading musical ladies sexy and cool - but not too vocal - Jessi couldn't find a fuck to give with a professional search time at her disposal. She openly scorns the sexism and judgments she encounters, brutally frank to the point of self-effacement at all times. Her sizable bust? She had them done, thank you very much, and in her own words, if the ladies bothered by her choices care so much, they should “have them done too.” She makes no apologies. “They staring at my ta-ta's,” she intones on ‘Spirit Animal’; “no worries.”

Comparable to the ever-present Hyuna (a friend of hers, naturally), she is either a cultural blight or breath of fresh air, all depending who you're talking to. Naturally, the latter is true. In a musical culture so panicked over maintaining an image, she lights her own fires. For years, she's been caught in something of a Catch-22: her huge personality and attitude are tailor made for American airwaves, but her Asian face? Try to name charting Asian rappers in the States. A female, no less. We'll wait.

Yep, not a chance. Even CL (of the mega-popular 2NE1) has failed to make even a dent after performing alongside the likes of Diplo, having Method Man pop up in her video, and being managed by Justin Bieber's damn team. So, Jessi has taken her game to where she hoped she might be allowed to play ball, only to again be treated as an outsider.

Somewhat surprisingly, her arrival seems unconcerned with courting her native fan base, with as much of her rapping here being in English as Korean, if not more. As to what exactly she intends this to accomplish, whether a shot in the dark at a career in the West, or something of a middle finger to the country that's already labeled her a foreigner in her own motherland anyway, who knows. It's certainly resulted in a gratifyingly essential breath of fresh air. If ever the regrettable term "flexing" has ever been applicable, it's here. UN2VERSE's admittedly brief 17 minutes play entirely as an exhale, years of pent up energy and talent barrelled with maximum force into our ears.

Jessi's presence and earnestness here cannot be given enough credit, along with her inexplicably soulful, husky voice. With the constant stream of K-rap minis (EPs, folks), this could easily – perhaps even should have been, by rights – a forgettable moment. Instead, it possesses a nearly inexplicable gravity, sucking a casual listener who may have intended to simply brush through, again and again. Whether she's leveling her haters into smoldering smithereens on single ‘Gucci’, parading her sexuality (and sex appeal) into the sarcastic bite of ‘Boing’, or allowing herself a victory lap after all her years of toil on the memorable ‘Spirit Animal’, which is so full of quotables it renders choosing one here futile (trying anyway, “Who ya callin unpretty?/ ya girl run cities”), Jessi makes this tiny little moment her own.

It all comes down to the closer, however, as she finally takes on the ascent. Mind you, this was a girl who spent her early years unsure she'd have a bed each night, and it shows. ‘Journey’ reminds us: it “took forever and a day.” While these sentiments could easily come off hollow in lesser hands, when she snarls, “It's hard to see who's fake or real/ I'm here to stay, I came to kill/ Now who the fuck gonna take it from me?/ I'm finally happy, I'm making money,” you feel it. Let's just hope they don't make her wait another decade before she gets to tear her arena asunder again. Either way, she doesn't seem concerned, leaving with the final word: “I ain't ever known a feeling this good/ don't give me a reason...bitch, I wish you would.”