Amongst the cluttered debris of UK rap, burgeoning greenery spouts once a while. Some are overwatered, rise to quickly and end up being cut down by their own ego or lack of relevant continuity. Others however, I nurtured, weathering the storms of evolution and flourish when the season is right. Right now, Croydon rapper Jords is blooming.
First appearing as a key player in the promising alternative rap scene of the 10s, Jords has since progressed into a lane of his own, borrowing from an eclectic array of genres from grime to jazz to garage to concoct a sound that is distinctive to the artist’s sonic universe. 2023 is set to be the most fruitful year of Jords’ career to date, with a highly anticipated, much awaited full length body of work just around the corner. Last month, we were treated to the first glimpse into the LP in the form of “Drill vs Grime” a collaborative single with pioneering figure Lil Sykes, which showcased both rappers nuance at stylistic diversity, combining seamlessly for a boisterous and compelling cut.
Refusing to bow down to artistic norms, Jords has really pushed the boat out with his sophomore album teaser. A double-sided single – “Mobay” with Tay Iwar and “Stay Close” with Kranium – is accompanied by a subtle and engrossing short film, that manages to be simultaneously moving, compelling and entertaining. Working with award-winning British Nigerian photographer and film director Renee Osubu, the visuals take a poignant look at the duality of celebration and grief, painting a vivid picture through stunning cinematography, using the vibrance of the music to elevate the emotion and ideologies that the creatives are portraying.
We had the utmost pleasure of catching up with Jords, delving deep into his musical origins, his outlook on the UK rap scene, the intricacies of collaboration, and his new singles.
Watch the short film…
Read the full interview…
Who and what influences you to create?
It’s really about my environment, you know. So if I were talking specifically about “Drill Vs Grime”, it was Sykes that motivated me when I went to the studio with him. I’d say he’s a pioneer of drill in the UK. Really great music makes me want to write. But when I hear great music, I just started writing it motivated me to rap.
From starting to write and enjoying writing, when did you start kind of taking it seriously and thinking it could be like what you wanted to do?
From the age of 16 I always wanted to do it. It was actually a thing that I could do, I didn’t really foresee that for the most part. I just really enjoyed making lyrics. I saw people like Krept & Konan rising up, seeing people were making it from living in the same area that I’m growing up in made it seem a bit more tangible. Then I think when I’ve got to the age of 21, I was working a job and I quit my job to do music full time. That’s when it became all in.
How did you find the bravery to do that?
I didn’t want to do anything else. There wasn’t much thought behind it. The job was boring. I tried to go uni for a bit but that was just boring too. The only thing that really spoke to my soul and I felt passionately about was making music. I became a bit obsessed with it, it was the only thing I wanted to do.
How would you describe like the essence of your sound?
The essence of my sound is soulful. It’s everything that I grew up on. It’s my first 16 years of life that still influences the music that I make today.
Do you think you’ve fully found your sound at this point?
100%, yeah. When it comes to being a rapper, specifically, first you find your voice, and then you find your sound. I think with this album, I’ve finally found my sound and been able to use every part of every component that makes me up.
So it’s been it’s been a bit of a journey to get to finding that?
Yeah, you go through different personalities. Before I was making a lot smoother stuff, a bit more mellow. I thought it was cool but I’m also a person that loves grime. I’m also a person that loves drill, I love garage, house, jazz. How can I blend all of these sounds and make it make sense? Then I’ve kind of stopped thinking about it subconsciously and just started being truthful with myself and who I am. Then that carried through to the music.
What do you think it is about you that stands out?
I’m not trying to. I think that’s the main thing. The people that cut through that resonate with me are the people that don’t really care about the outcome or they’re not so bothered about how they’re perceived by the world. I just really love making music. I really love my album. I love the video. I love every part of it. That seems to resonate with people.
How have you worked to reach a point of comfort on the mic where you can just be honest about your actual feelings?
I think it’s the same thing what I said before – I stopped thinking about what people think, almost selfishly, but I do this for me. I like the music that I make. That’s the one thing that can’t be controlled and can’t be put into a box. I do this for me, this is my therapy. Being able to look in the mirror at myself and be like, you know what, this is exactly who you are, and saying that on a mic. I think it’s freeing.
I guess it’s the only place in life where you can control your own narrative.
100%. So often, I think people are told in life what they should and shouldn’t do by people that don’t necessarily know the person. I think with music, there’s a lot of pressure put on the outcome. Which, for me as an artist, I can’t tell you how many people are gonna listen to my song. I can’t determine that. What I can determine is how good the music is going to be and how good I feel about it. It’s just me wearing my heart on my sleeve.
How do you feel looking back on last year’s EP Swings & Roundabouts?
It did what it needed to do. Better, to be honest. A few tracks were actually meant to be on the album, but as carried on making more music, it just didn’t fit with what the feeling I was putting across on the album. But I thought, you know, I can’t just keep these songs for me.
What’s the story behind “Drill vs Grime”?
Sykes actually went to my school, a few years below me. He made a song called “Fresh Home”. I’ve known him for years. I just wanted to see him in a studio. I just wanted to link him in the studio because it’d been a while. When there he’s playing drill beats and I’m rapping and we just had a really cool conversation about the differences and the similarities between drill and grime. And then the song ended up being the song, we really wanted to go back to back like how they do in grime. Obviously, the beat is predominantly a drill beat until the end, but I got involved in the production as I wanted to bring it into my world a little bit. He brought out a proper energy in me that I’d not felt in a while. Same with him hopefully, I got to teach him a few things about how to write and how to pen lyrics differently and the energy that you can bring. We both did it for each other. The song doesn’t work without either of us on it.
It feels very much like a collaboration not a feature – it feels like very much you’re fully present.
I think there’s a phrase for it that I’ve actually got tattooed on my chest. ‘Now it was mine until it was ours’. That’s how I feel about most people I work with. It’s my song featuring you, but it’s our song. I don’t say, this is my song and you’re on this. We’ve made this together. I like working together when I do features. I like building the beat from scratch with the feature as well. So it’s like, let me bring you into my world, but in your way. If that makes sense.
Why do you think more people don’t create like that, because the amount of times I hear an artist just be like, Oh, I just got sent the beat and I just rapped on that?
It takes a bit more effort and people don’t always want to make the effort. I think nowadays people aren’t intentional about features all the time. It’s just like who are we going to put on this song to give it clout or who are we going to put on a song so we can boost it on TikTok or whatever. I think about who is going to compliment the song in the best possible way.
What do you think of the way that the UK rap scene’s working right now?
I really like the fact that for example, someone like Knucks is getting their shine. Yeah. I’ve known Knucks for years, we both did our first radio interview together back in 2015. When everyone’s getting their shine I think it’s great. I still think there’s nothing you can be completely happy with but at the same time I’m in my own world, just watching everything. I’m not too heavily involved with the politics of it all.
Do you think alternative rap can be the kind of phenomenon that something like drill is? Would you want it to be?
I wouldn’t want it to be. I think what I’m building here and what we’re building here as a scene, it’s more about longevity. With drill, it’s sick and the best songs are gonna stand the test of time. But I think a big reason why drill went down so well is because of the controversy. I don’t necessarily think the alt rap scene is as controversial. But it builds for moments that last – musical moments that last.
Yeah, it’s like it’s actually a scene where it’s like the drill scene is just like a load of individuals that are kind of at each other’s necks.
Yeah, and then now it’s like what What a shit drill was that songs and drove and that’s all it’s all like, flashes in the pan and TikTok dances and for me that takes so much away from what it actually is. Yeah, I don’t know I would never I could never be the type of person to be doing that. Yeah, I don’t I can’t speak on whether other people will do that but for me that’s not really my type of thing.
How did you begin working with Renee Osubu, and what was it about collaboration that worked so well?
I had worked with Andre (from some such) about 6 years prior, and we had always spoken about working on a bigger project. So when I found out Andre had helped set this up with Renee I was excited, and since then, it had all felt quite organic and divine. Renee and myself aligned on so many touch points through the film , and the way Renee interpreted the music and told a story that was so in line with my culture, made a lot of sense.
What are you trying to convey through the short film?
I want to make people feel, and talk. I think there are a lot of conversation points that the film starts – loving through grief for example, and by displaying heritage and the beauty in my heritage , I hope I can help people do that.
Why did you choose the track “Mo Bay” as the centre piece for the film?
It’s the centre piece for the first part, I think it sets a mood for the film that shows all sides of our artistry with intention.
How was working with Tay Iwar on the track itself?
Tay was a cool breeze on a summers day. He provided the song with everything we needed.
What was the process of the album like making it?
It was heavy, it took a long time. The first song I wrote, I didn’t know it was for this album. I wrote the first song for the album, it was actually the last one on the album, in 2018. All the music I’ve written since then I’ve been holding that song for the right thing. We changed the album a lot. There was a moment when I thought it was done and it wasn’t done. And I went back to the drawing board. I was also going through a lot of life things as well. And I had to dig deeper than I ever had before, internally to make that work, which is great now, but in the moment you’re processing a lot of emotions, recording whilst you’re processing those emotions, which gets heavy, but the process is beautiful, I wouldn’t change anything about it.
What would you say listeners can expect from the album?
Everything that they’ve heard and liked from me. Every type of different genre, but more, if that makes sense. I really went all the way with every aspect.
What are you hoping the album’s gonna achieve for you?
I don’t have any expectations. It would be nice to tour and go to different countries and play this album. That’s the main thing that I want to do.
On the grander scale of things like, where do you want to take your artistry?
I already feel like it’s getting to the place where I’m limitless with what I can create. With the visuals, like we’re doing a short film, for example. So the fact that it’s not the generic music video release is already in a place where it’s bigger than music. So I think yeah, just maintaining the limitlessness. I’d love to make a feature film, and have an album be the soundtrack to the feature film. That’s where I really want things to go. Manifest and it will happen.
Cross media just like, it doesn’t happen as much as it could.
There’s reasons why it doesn’t happen, a lot of it is probably budget. Before I’d say I’m the only person that’s ever thought of doing that. But I think one thing that we’ve really got, we’ve really done well over the last few years is executing ideas. We’ve really managed to execute things and do things to, you know, surprise people, even the fact that we’re bringing, essentially a drill song right now, it’s unexpected. But of course, at the same time, it’s not expected, but it’s not really unexpected, because I can do that. So, yeah, that’s what I like.
If one bar that you’ve written could like sum you up, what would it be?
It changes all the time, it changes because I change. Right now, from one of the songs from the album is a song called “Cage”: ‘cage birds singing in rooms with glass ceilings’. That’s it.