MEET JORDS, THE SOUTH LONDON MC ON AN OLD SCHOOL FLEX
Jords’ ‘Gardening not Architecture’ approach to creativity, both as an MC and a producer, has allowed him to organically elevate the intricacy of his sound, the complexity of his craft, and the external expectations of his future. Besides making a massive push in 2021 for school uniform access through his charity Pickni Uniforms, Jords has continued to contribute to and empower his South London community with every standard-raising riddim, conscious soul-nourishing chorus and unsuspecting collaboration.
At the tail end of 2021, he capped off what had already been a map marking year, building on the unbridled success of records like ‘Rice & P’s’, ‘24/7 feat Lotto Ash’ and ‘Black & Ready’. After dropping three masterful mixes toward the end of the year, including an unforgettable feature performance from D Double E on ‘Old School Flex’, he shelled it down at his first headline show in London alongside the aforementioned Grime scene pioneer. His humble and childlike reverence for the process of songwriting as well as his shoot-to-kill quick-witted lyrical ability on the MIC has landed him atop both the ‘BBC 1XTRA Hot for 2022’ list and the list of most sought after producers to work with this year.
We sat down with Jords in the wake of his standout performance on Tiffany Calvers ‘Pain is Essence’ Cypher for 1Xtra to reflect on the winding road to ‘Hot List’ hegemony. We also had to discuss his recent work producing for Ellie Parris, his ethos for dealing with burnout and the possibility of a brand new 14 track album dropping this year!
Do you ascribe to the “New Year New Me” hysteria that surrounds the New Year? 2021 was such a good year for you career-wise so do you find yourself in more of a continuation mode right now rather than on a clean slate vibe?
Right now it’s all about elevation! I definitely understand the need to have a time to take stock and re-evaluate whether that’s the first of January or at another time. I like to try and take as much time in December off as possible to recuperate and recharge before getting straight back to work in January. So to answer your question, yes…kind of haha. However, at the same time, nothing is stopping me from elevating at any other time of the year. I do think it’s massively important to have stillness so December really was the best month of my life due to locking off with family, especially in the midst of everything going on in the world.
I think you need stillness to be able to see what’s coming next in your life, it’s like standing back from the game so you can see everything that’s going on. It enables you to be able to find a path through it when you’re back.
You recently shelled it down on Tiffany Calvers ‘Pain is Essence’ cypher alongside your fellow 2022 classmates like Knucks, Adz & Trillary Banks. First off, what was it like filming that on the Abbey Road soundstage? Was it your first time there?
Absolutely, I had never been to Abbey Road Studio before. To be honest, I get imposter syndrome a lot, particularly in those kinds of situations, so when I was there I found myself operating almost on autopilot. I was feeling quite fatigued and wasn’t mentally in the right space so I wasn’t able to really take it in at the time but once the video dropped I thought to myself “wow I really did that!”.
Being someone from South London, as much as people say ‘Talking The Hardest’ by Giggs is our national anthem, if you’re really in the streets in the South then you know ‘Pain Is Essence’ by Juvie is really our anthem. So being able to rap to that beat in Abbey Road while surrounded by a load of other real rappers who are super authentic was definitely a mad moment in hindsight. At the same time, it took me stepping back to fully appreciate it.
As an outsider, I always wonder how competitive those cyphers are and how much of it is more like a networking event. When you have the hottest rappers in the UK all in one space, is it awkward? Or is it freeing getting to be surrounded by other artists in your position?
Hahah i can’t lie bro I’m on everyones neck. There is definitely a friendly competitiveness, don’t get it twisted, but because we had all been invited to this amazing opportunity I think everyone was just super happy to be there. At the same time though, I get to a point where I’m thinking “Come on, play the beat man!” and I’m back to being 14 and trying to be the best rapper out there. So there is definitely a bit of both going on. Although it may not look like it to the public, everyone on that cypher has been making music for time whether it was as producers before or as Grime MC’s on the block. That’s why I must say that, as cyphers go, that one was particularly high quality. Even the ‘Hot For 2022’ list that came out before the cypher, I know I may be a bit biased, but I think that’s the highest quality list I’ve seen in years.
Just before Christmas you shut down your own headline show with a guest appearance from D Double E. Obviously getting to jump on a track with Double is incredible enough, but to have him come out at one of your shows must have been an incredibly surreal experience?
It felt fake bro I actually couldn’t believe it. D Double E and that moment of being on stage together is the background on my phone at the moment haha! At the video shoot for ‘Old School Flex’, he gave me some words of wisdom, then again at the show he gave me some more words of wisdom, and then he also brought me out at his headline show in Manchester as well. So he has really become like my uncle in the game now, to be honest, and being able to say that alone gives me imposter syndrome. Like, I have D Double on my phone and if I call him right now he will probably pick up, which alone is just the craziest thing.
We have to talk about some of the incredible behind the scenes production work you have created recently. I actually received an email yesterday regarding Ellie Parris’ new 5 track project which to my surprise was exclusively produced by you. How did you come to link up with Ellie for this project?
I’ve known Ellie for years! I used to work with a clothing company whose owner was really good friends with Ellie so me and her gradually became friends. She used to come to a lot of my shows and I always thought she was an incredible talent. She actually had a track that I sampled and remixed purely because I love her music and just really wanted to work with her in some capacity. I wanted to see what I could bring to her sounds and offer her as a producer. When you are a featured artist you are always in your own zone focusing on how to best execute your own mission but learning to compliment somebody else’s vision is a whole different sport.
We made the track ‘Seasons’ first which was definitely one of my favourite tracks I’ve ever made, its one my dad could listen to on a Sunday when he doesn’t want to listen to any “rap shit” or me talking about “fuck the cops” haha.
Where the hell are you finding the time to create such smooth and intricate beats for others amongst all your own work?
I just love making music man! To me, it’s like going home and playing PlayStation or something. With Ellie though, I met up with her just to catch up and I had my piano with me. We started playing and vibing until I played a little riff that all of a sudden became ‘Seasons’, I couldn’t even tell you the whole process of it. I get in this zone when I’m making music and Ellie was writing to it and things just organically slot into place. Before we knew it we had five songs! To be honest it’s a project I’m extremely proud of because I had never executive produced anything before apart from my own stuff. It’s definitely a world I want to enter more, probably when I’ve hung my boots as an artist.
When you’re creating for someone else like on this project, do you ever create something and then think “damn this is lit, maybe I should have shelved this one for myself”? Or is it pointless worrying about saving a banger because another banger is always on the horizon?
That’s a good question. No, I don’t think I do actually, I think I’m just happy to be a part of someone else’s musical journey like that and I have bare songs of my own so there’s no shortage of quality ideas. I’ve made four songs just for myself this week so I don’t need to be precious about songs like that. What I’ve learned is that it’s not actually about releasing a song to the world but rather releasing the energy from within to make the song.
Still, a track like ‘Always’ for example has this beautiful bass note scale that’s just crying out to have a Jords verse on it haha!
Haha you’re right actually that track is very hip-hop because it has those hip-hop drums underlining it. I think I actually made a couple of different beats off the back of those drums so I think you’ll hear me on them at some point! But I think it’s important to let some songs go and allow them to grow in the world. Also, I was watching something this morning that was explaining how the creative process works and it described creativity as like ‘Gardening not Architecture’. With gardening, you plant a seed and help it get going before watching where it grows too alone whereas architecture is confined to the blueprint you start with so your end result will never be better than the base idea.
Obviously we are all dying for a new Jords album. You recently made a sneaky insta post that buried a hint for a 14 track album already existing on your mac. What is the latest update you can give us? Are you in the mastering stage? Are all features recorded and done? Have you got a title yet? We need answers!
Ahhhhhh, let me think what I can give you without doing too much haha! I would say that I’ve had the end goal in mind since 2020 so all the songs are there but in that time I’ve made a couple more that could easily fit in so I’m constantly deliberating on swapping out old tracks for new ones that make more sense. As I said, it’s gardening, not architecture so it’s constantly changing but I have a vision of what I want the finished feeling to be. I can say that we have some amazing features on it and I actually just got another one back this week which is going to spin your head around when you hear who it is haha!
Where are you finding yourself drifting musically at the moment? You’ve never been one to conform to one sound having always bounced between Gospel, Soul, Garage, Grime, Rock stems but I was wondering if you find yourself on crud or spitting from the soul more often these days?
I’m on smoke at the moment but it’s still full of a lot of soul if that makes sense? Last year, I processed a lot of the quote on quote ‘madness’ that happens around my area, reconnected with a lot of old friends and picked my boy up from jail. That made me realize that this next album isn’t just about me it’s about everyone me and everything I’ve accomplished thus far. It’s made me more hungry to succeed, hungrier than ever, and I’m rapping better than ever as well.
Your charity Pickni Uniforms did some incredible work outfitting the kids of Paxton Academy School with over 170 uniforms which traditionally cost over £70 pounds last year. What’s it been like being able to watch the attention to the charity grow as your own star rises? What’re your goals for this year with Pickni?
I think it’s a great conversation starter with a lot of these mainstream outlets but it’s definitely quite bewildering seeing the charity on the news and stuff like that. Like I was on ITV, BBC News and Good Morning Britain talking about Pickni but obviously, for me, it’s all about the movement and making as many kids as possible happy through it. It was funny though after I was on ITV I walked into my garden and all my neighbours came running to say “Oh my God we’ve just seen you on the telly!”
Specifically this year we are looking to partner with some larger organisations and brands to help fuel as many uniform donations as possible. So we are looking at finalising a partnership with QPR football club to put on a tournament, fund kids going to watch QPR or going to a studio to learn about music and meet people in a wider variety of careers so they know what options are out there. So we are really aiming to expand beyond uniforms whilst keeping that as our central purpose with everything feeding back into it.
What have you been rocking to over the festive season? Who’s been at the top of your playlist?
I’ve been listening to a lot of real Rap. Potter Payper, a lot of Benny The Butcher, Nas’ new album as well! I’ve also gone back and listened to a lot of Big Conspiracy by J Hus.
Lastly bro, when motivation is at an all-time low, what do you say or do to yourself to revive your self-belief in the mission that you’re on?
Rest! I rest and often circle back to quite a braggadocious bar that I wrote that says “The things you dream about are the things I complain about”. It sounds like I’m aiming it at other rappers but I’m actually talking to a younger me and reminding myself that I asked for all the struggles and things I’ve got going on now.
More on CULTED
See also: MEET GARDNA, THE BRISTOL DUB ARTIST EXPLODING THE SOUND SYSTEM