Jords is not your every day South London MC. Most rappers hailing from the same area, and generally throughout the UK, detail a certain lifestyle in their lyrics, at times with aggression, but sometimes with lament. The perfect example would be Krept and Konan, who like Jords, hail from Croydon. One could contrast a song like ‘My Story’, a song of woe, with ‘Certified’, a track with themes that the mainstream generally associate with Rap music. Similar artists are comparable in this regard for example the likes of Bonkaz, Stormzy, Section Boyz, who are also from Croydon. However Jords has gone against the grain, combining his reflective lyrics with more laidback instrumentals. In fact, his debut studio album, ‘Means To An Ends’, is focused on growing up in Thornton Heath, and looking back on various situations he encountered during that time. An R&B fan, who cites D’Angelo’s ‘Voodoo’, and Usher’s ‘Confessions’ as two of his favourite albums growing up, you can hear the soul in his music. Influenced by Wretch 32’s ‘Wretchrospective’, you can tell that he focuses on the art of lyricism, all the while documenting what he has experienced thus far in his life. We had the chance to sit down with Jords and have a conversation about a number of topics including his most recent headline show, the creative process behind his album, his thoughts on a tragic loss close to home, his ambition to release a film, and more. Check out the interview below now:
TP: So you had your first headline show a few weeks ago. How did that go?
Jords: It was really special because there were a lot of faces I recognized from primary and secondary school. There were also new faces, I invited Sidney (Bespoke Mag co-founder) down, and everyone had the same energy, there was no hype. I mean, there was hype when there needed to be hype, like, as soon as I came out I performed ‘The Drive’, first, and I didn’t even say the line but everyone started singing. It eased the nerves a bit…
Because everyone reacted to the track straight away?
Yeah, as soon as I came out, everyone started singing along which made me comfortable.
That’s interesting man. I saw Mick Jenkins perform very recently, he started with his most popular song, ‘Jazz’ and it was sick but I was thinking, “why is he starting off with that?!” But I realized it gets the crowd going…
Yeah, yeah, yeah, you’ve got to get them in. So on the album, we’ve got ‘Your Mind’, which is probably the other most popular song along with ‘The Drive’, and so we did that at the end of the show. So it was like two bookends, you’re going to have a sick beginning and a sick ending. So you start as you mean to go on, and you end by giving people something to remember. And obviously in between, it carried well, but those were the two where you wanted people to leave with the best impression.
How did you plan the show? Did you want it to go in a certain way in terms of the ebb and flow of the audience?
Yeah, I wanted to have peaks and troughs…because it was unplugged live, so it was stripped back/acoustic for most of it, but we did ‘The Drive’ and ‘Mrs. Chamber’s Kitchen’ together, as they flow into each-other. So I wanted to do those two together without any breaks, then we went into the DJ set, with ‘‘08’ at the beginning, so the Kano beat…which got everyone gassed straight away. It kind of…. I wanted to carry the mood, so as soon as it got hyped, after it got very mellow, so we did the second part of ‘Way Back When’, and then it got hype again that’s how I wanted it to flow.
You can sing as well…what drew you primarily to being a rapper?
I say this story a lot, but I remember when I was 16, I watched Wretch 32 do an acapella Westwood freestyle, and I was like “yeah, this is the type of the thing I need to be doing”. At the time I was in sixth form, when I was doing Maths and Physics, and it was going alright, but… there was a little purpose I felt that was missing, and as soon as I saw that I thought “that’s what I want to do, let me try run with that”. I then released something that was predominantly rap and it got a very sick reaction. So I was rap at first, and then I started experimenting with singing when I felt more comfortable with the musicality of what I was doing. But I will always be a rapper first, and a singer second, but who knows in ten years I could only be singing…pop music, who knows but, I enjoy singing live, because I feel people…for example the hook on ‘The Drive’, it really resonates with people, without having to say a lot. Its quite a general message, but people find their own reason to like it, and their own reason to find solace in it. Whereas in rapping it’s a bit more self centred, its more ‘my story’. I feel that there’s a balance by doing both.
So you first started rapping at the age of 16?
Yeah I started at age 16, but took it seriously at 18/19, and then started taking it really seriously in terms of developing a proper album, at the age of 21. It took a while, but I got there in the end.
So with the album, what was the creative process behind it?
Well it was meant to be an EP, so we made ‘The Drive’ and ‘Mrs. Chamber’s Kitchen’ last year in February. And we thought that we needed to make an EP, or a project with a story as both songs flowed in to each other nicely. After that we made ‘Means To An Ends’, with Olivia Louise on it, and that was the other end of the spectrum as it had that trap sound. So I thought there’s a lot more I need to cover, as there’s a wide topic talking about your ends and your story, I didn’t feel I could cover that in 5 or 6 songs. Even on ‘‘08’, the bars I used at the end, I wrote in 2008, so everything kept flowing and coming organically. I was waiting for every piece of the story to come together, so it wasn’t a situation where I had to sit down and lock myself in the studio. It was more, when the idea came, I got it down, and came back to it. That’s how it grew really?
The album as a whole is very reflective, what made you want to tell your story on the album?
People I was listening to at the time, for example J Cole, ‘Forest Hills Drive’, I think everyone kind of picked up that was a heavy influence. That was very much the story of him going back to his hometown, at the same time, until 2014, I was touring quite a lot, I wasn’t in Croydon or London, whereas in 2015, I was in Croydon most of the year. So you’re a reflection of your surroundings, and so coming back into the ends, I was able to look around, and revisiting relationships and friendships rather than me just talking about it. I took myself back to those places, and put myself in those situations. Like ‘‘08’, I linked all those lot I used to spit with, and took inspiration from that and turned that into the song.
The end of ‘‘08’, transitions from rap to grime… did you used to do grime before rap?
Yeah, at 13, I used to write bars with my brother and record songs on the computer with a £1 microphone, so it was kind of nice, and I feel that part of the album was for the friends from 2008. And a lot of the music I was making before the album, there wasn’t much stuff like that. There wasn’t a lot of music for the people that knew me from the age of 12, so for them to see that, it’s brought everyone back together and feel some sort of nostalgia to them in 2008 rather than just myself with.
Have you stayed tight with those guys?
You drift from them, but it was never any bad blood. Even one of boys, we used to spit bars back in the day, roll around doing all sorts and he made a cup company. When the album was made, we linked up on a business ting, just talking how far we’ve come since then. So he does cups for everyone including 67, Linkup TV etc. so its nice everyone has kept on doing their thing, and when everyone links its all love.
Has he done any cups for you?
Yeah I got a few little cups with the Jords logo on it…
So the structure of your songs… at the end, there always seems to be a mad transition, even like with ‘The Drive’ flowing into ‘Mrs Chamber’s Kitchen’… what made you want to do that?
I wanted it to be like a soundtrack to a film, so whilst every song can be listened to individually, you can listen to them together. And not know where each song finishes and where the next one begins. It has a flow to it, and gives you an experience, because I also don’t feel like… my life has a perfect structure. Even with ‘Mrs Chamber’s Kitchen’, that’s probably the perfect example, because I was at my Grandma’s. And I got a phone call from someone in the ends-
So that actually happened?
Yeah! That was a real thing, so I kind of wanted it to be, one minute you’re in a nice area and next minute you might not be, and so you can see both sides of the spectrum. So Croydon for example, it can be a nice area but also a not so nice area at the same time, and that’s why ‘‘08’ is probably my favourite track because you’re listening to a chilled Hip-hop song, and then it transitions to Grime. And that’s what life was like, you’d never know if you were going to get caught up in something.
So what happened when your friend left that voicemail?
It wasn’t actually a voicemail but he called me basically saying “yo, you haven’t been in ends in time, I’m out here”, so I just went back and visited him and we spoke for a long time. He’s actually the guy at the beginning of ‘‘08’, and he’s involved in certain things that I don’t indulge in myself. But he’s a real guy, he will always be one hundred with you, and you need those kind of people around you regardless of what they might be doing.
So when you say those kind of things that you used to indulge in, when did you stop?
You always got to move, but probably in the last couple of years. Even he was one of the people who told me “you don’t need to do this anymore, you’ve got your thing, if you ever need something like that taken care of, let me handle it, because I believe in you so much”. He sat me down and told me not to do any of this nonsense because he believes in my talent. It was a real moment man.
So growing up in Thornton Heath, you talk about your environment a lot in your music, and convey its not an easy place to grow up. What were some of the difficulties you faced growing up and how has music helped in those situations?
Its like… even J. Cole said “there’s a beauty in the struggle” (‘Love Yourz’), you could be at a house party, and its all going well, but then your boy who hasn’t reached yet has been robbed outside, but at the time you don’t really see it as a struggle, you just see it as where you are at. In hindsight, that time when, my boy got stuck up in the rave, and I had to run down and help him out, people are looking at it like its mad, but to me that’s just Saturday.
Yeah, yeah…but music helped because as soon as music came in, it gave me a way to vent those kind of feelings…rather than it to be a way to get out, for me it was therapeutic. It was a way for me to speak about things I couldn’t always speak about with my dad or my mum or mandem for example. Then the mandem would listen to my music and be like “I hear that, I’ve been going through the same type of things”, so it opens doors for you to be more open with your friends and family. So yeah, I find it quite therapeutic.
I feel like music is like that for a lot of people coming from that environment, its important to let kind of stuff out. Because it could manifest in a certain way which is not positive-
Yeah, yeah, yeah
And that’s a positive way to do so
That’s how a lot of people do it anyway, I think a lot of rappers come into criticism for that kind of stuff and they are meant to be role models, but if that’s what you know, that’s what you’re going to talk about. I think the way I speak about it is in a different way, its kind of like “I know it, I don’t indulge in it, but I do understand why people indulge in it”, whereas some people are like “this is what I do, this is my life”. But you can’t really knock someone for being a product of their environment, it’s the way they’ve been raised. Its interesting, especially speaking with mandem… who are on that kind of stuff, the way their mind is set up is quite intriguing. They have morals at the centre of like “I’ll back my brother to the death”, so its quite interesting when you actually ask them about it. People paint everyone with the same brush.
That’s very true… so what do you think about guys like 67 for example, where its not as much about reflective music, they’re more speaking about what they are doing?
Yeah, they’re living that man, it serves a purpose, its sick (laughs), it gasses me, you gotta have that- even like the ‘Robbery’ song by Abra Cadabra, I’ll listen to it and get gassed. But I don’t know, it’s interesting, because there are so many points. They’re role models and might be influencing people, but at the same time, that’s what they’ve grown up in and they have to talk about it. Obviously they can find different perspectives, but that’s where they are at right now. Maybe a couple years down the line, they may see a different perspective and think “you know what, that’s not right”, but even with their influence, its more shown in what they’re achieving. For example, Abra Cadabra, winning a MOBO, he’s shown a way out through his music, so does he have to reflect on his environment? He’s shown its possible without having to reflect, so it’s not necessary for everyone to do that.
Yeah I get what you’re saying… in your music you mention Shakilus Townsend. I think it was very important that you mentioned that, because an outsider only gets information from the news, but you don’t always hear from someone close to the situation talk about it. So what made you decide to speak about it?
Literally, that was my environment in 2008. So Beulah church, that’s where I went youth club, by there you have Beulah Crescent, and right down there is where he died. It was so close to home, I felt like I was obliged to talk about it. Not like its my duty, but that was my influence at the time. I remember going youth club, going home and the area being cordoned off the next day, and I remember people saying “its not for you to understand”. It was confusing at the time, and I was looking at it on the TV thinking “that’s a plot gap, that’s a plot gap”. And I’m not going to name any names, but I know people from both sides, some who could have been perpetrators, some who know the victim, and its hard to see it from both ways because I’ve got brothers in jail. They’ve done their wrongs but… they’re not bad people, it’s the same thing again, they’re products of their environment.
That’s the way they sorted out what they had to sort out, but with the Shakilus situation like…. It was so deep, and I remember being with the brothers in a state of confusion and being told “this is not for you to know about”, but this is right next to my youth club, this is right in my ends, so I have to know what happened. It kind of showed you that, at that age, people still saw you as kids, even though you’re faced with an adult situation, such as someone dying, which no-one should be seeing at that young of an age in hindsight. But they literally were telling us, “this is not for you to see”. I felt like I had to show that perspective, even though I don’t feel like I spoke on it enough on the album, I wanted to know more…
I think you spoke enough…I mean you caused a reaction out of me, and I think you would have brought a reaction out of a lot of people, who listened to it. As you were saying there was only so much depth you could go into…so how come- I mean I could be wrong and missing something, but how come you didn’t have any tracks on your brothers?
I touched on it briefly, for example ‘Ben’s Room’, but I think the whole album is an ode to the brothers. It’s us going…even like in ‘‘08’ “yeah back in Heath, rolling not on my own, I’m with the brothers”
So its like, if it was to be a film, it wouldn’t just be me in the film, it would be a band of like four or five brothers, just going through the ends and what we all saw as four or five people rather than talking about everyone’s story individually. From our perspective, and not necessarily my perspective. There are points I touch on for example, ‘Ben’s Room’, my brother’s name is Benjamin. So the voice note conversation at the beginning is all of us just chilling, and doing what we do, so the whole thing is kind of an ode to the brothers. So ‘Mrs Chambers Kitchen’, that’s a conversation with one of the brothers. ‘‘08’, is me freestyling on the corner with the brothers, its not just me freestyling on my ones.
‘Mrs Chamber’s Kitchen’, I love that track, its just…its very real.
I think that…that verse (‘Mrs Chamber’s Kitchen’) I didn’t even have to write down, like the first part. It just…I knew, it sounds cliché, but it wrote itself, I kind of went into autopilot, and stepped out of it, and then the next bit just flowed from it, it was quite natural. And the whole album is quite like that, that’s why it took so long, because I was waiting on the right moment to write the song, rather than forcing it out. I remember sitting down, and someone said “you should write a song about your mum”, and I was like “yeah let me write a song about my mum” so I was sitting down for time trying to write lines, and it was dead!
Bare force! But with ‘Mrs. Chamber’s Kitchen’ it just flowed right off, so…the song about my mum is in me, but that might be for the next project.
So with your grandma, no-one told you to write a song about your grandma, it just came to you?
Yeah, I think the whole album, no-one told me to do anything…there was a different version of ‘Your Mind’, everything was my decision…because I was there for the whole production of it, no-one sent me the beats for it, I was there for the whole thing. And I already had the story in my mind, so I knew…I was piecing the story together. We didn’t make one song, starting as track one, we started on track 2 and track 3, went to track 5 then track 8, but I knew there were gaps on there that needed to be filled. So no-one really told me what to do, and I think you hear that as nothing is very radio friendly, and I like that it is uncompromising.
Yeah, but I think ‘Your Mind’–
Na, ‘Your Mind’, is radio friendly
But not in the sense that it’s some next pop tune, its just a banger!
Yeah, that again was organic, because I made it and showed it to my manager, and he was like “na this ain’t the one”. And I was like “trust me, I’ve got the idea and I’ve got the right guy”, so I called Randy (Valentine), and he came. We didn’t even work that long, we were just in the studio, chilling, smoking, and talking. And he recorded the verse on the last part of the chorus in one take, and that was it. The entire recording took about ten minutes, but we were there for hours. Yeah…
I’m not gonna lie, when I first heard the chorus, I thought it was Randy singing, but its you-
Yeah, yeah (laughs), its me at the beginning and then its Randy at the end. Randy is sick. I worked with him about four years ago…everyone on the album I’d known for about three to four years-
Because I was going to ask how you got all those collaborators together, even Jordan Rakei-
Jordan Rakei, was the only one I didn’t know. Thea (Gajic) brought him to the studio, after I asked her to come record her part for ‘The Drive’, and she was like “can I bring my friend?” And I was like “yeah cool”, and she said “oh, you should look him up, his name is Jordan Rakei”, and I was like “Jordan Rakei? Yeah bring him down he’s the guy!”
And then yeah, he started playing the keys, we all had the first part done, and the idea was to get Thea on the third verse of that part of the keys. But then Jordan Rakei was jamming and he was like “na, I’m going to do something on this”, and he changed the chord progression, that last two minute bit was just everyone chilling and vibing. And yeah it was really natural…with Olivia (Louise), she came down to London, and same again, we just chilled for a day, made the music, it was the same process for most people. Chilling with people for a day, see what we could come up with, and that was it really. Nothing was through management, everything was…like I have everyone’s number so…
I think like, also, if it’s through past relationships, it sounds a lot more natural
Yeah definitely, even collaborating with Proton, and the fact he did a poem on it, was sick, because it was him outside of his comfort zone. The fact that Randy was predominantly Reggae but he was on what people see as a Rap song, Olivia on a Trap song, I think it worked, got everyone out of their comfort zone, but into a space where it works for them.
That’s the thing, so with ‘Your Mind’, it is a rap song, but it does have-
It does have that island influence
Yeah…would you want to do a track based on your Jamaican heritage?
Well there was a different version to it, and then I started hearing, listening to reggae for ages. And its such an important part of my life, I’m a Jamaican man, a proud Jamaican man, so I should be able to work something together, but I think the chords are still quite R&B. That was one, which I was quite involved in, production wise. It had to be, because it’s another important part of me, as much as Thornton Heath is, Jamaica is an important to me, so I wanted to get that influence. So even on the ‘Your Mind Prelude’, where you have the yardies talking in the barbershop at the end, it kind of led into it nicely.
Do you ever go back to Jamaica?
Yeah I haven’t been for nearly three years, but I want to go back in the next couple of years, but I want to make music out there.
You could even shoot a video for ‘Your Mind’ out there, it would fit the vibe
I need a video, but it needs to be the right video, because even ‘Back in the Day’, doing the video, the main body of that would be in Thornton Heath, because it makes sense but ‘Your Mind’ I’m trying to find what would make sense.
Maybe like a Dancehall rave…
Yeah it has to be something like that, but I think once its done, it will be sick.
Definitely… so your style is very smooth…I was listening back to your ‘Persian Rugs’ (Partynextdoor remix), which was wavy…what made you lean to making more soulful rap music?
I think just my upbringing…like my cousin, is a songwriter but he writes R&B, my dad was in a Jazz band, and that’s the kind of music I’ve always enjoyed. As much as I enjoy grime, Rap, Hip-hop…I love R&B, Soul and Gospel music, like Kirk Franklin, that soulful Gospel. So I want to make music that I can listen to, on all types of days, so R&B is my one go to music. And I’m a naturally laid back person, I’m not the most amped person so I want to do something I’m comfortable with. As much as the album is something that pushed me outside my comfort zone, R&B smooth kind of stuff is where it centres.
What would you say are your top three R&B albums?
D’Angelo – ‘Voodoo’….Usher – ‘Confessions’… I remember listening to it at the time and that’s all I listened to for like four months… R Kelly – Chocolate Factory, because at that time, that’s what my mum used to play in the car, those were the first three that came to my head. Like if I had to think hard, I might choose differently, but those were the one’s that came straight to me.
What would you say generally… what albums inspired your music?
Definitely J Cole – ‘Forest Hills Drive’….Wretch 32 – ‘Wretchrospective’, that’s like one of my favourite projects… Kano – ‘Home Sweet Home’. I’d stick with those three- oh and Kanye West – ‘Graduation’.
Speaking of albums, I saw you tweet “One album, one tour and I’m done”. Are you done with music?
I’m not finishing, but this phase is this phase. This phase of the album and the tour, we can draw a line under that. Whether it’s an album or it’s a film, I want to try different things, and push the boundaries, because I’ve always wanted to release an album. People think releasing an album at this stage of my career is too soon, but it’s always something I wanted to do. And then the next thing that I wanted to do was make a film, and I’d rather focus on making a film than another album. Because I’ve accomplished that, like I can retire and say I’ve made an album, so the next thing on the list is to make a film. And then where we go after that is where we go after that.
So when you say film…do you mean documentary, or like a proper movie?
Na, like a film, I’ve written something actually, a storyline and I’ll be working on that next year fingers crossed. But yeah man, that’s my target, like in 2014 my main target was to perform at a festival – done that, in 2015 was to do an album, I’ve done that- 2016 is now to make a film, so I’m pretty confident I’ll do that. I just want it to be similar to the album, not something that gets boxed in any category…
That’s sick that you set goals, and actually achieve them, not many people stick to what they set out
Yeah I’m quite meticulous like that… I’m quite compulsive, when I set my eyes on something I have to do it, and I’m going to do it. Like, I want to perform at Boxpark Croydon, so I have to do it. To the people around me, its quite stubborn but I know what I want.
That’s how successful people achieve things man. Performing at Boxpark Croydon would be sick.
That’s gonna be sick, that’s the next one…I’m meant to be going there tonight actually, Hardy (Caprio) is performing
I think I saw you tweet that out actually, the Reprezent Radio thing…
Yeah, that’s my boy (Hardy) from early, I’ve known him since I was fourteen/fifteen…everyone in Croydon knows each other, because he used to roll with- Proton, helped him out with a lot of his stuff back in the day, he’s on…we did a ‘Don’t Waste My Time Remix’ years ago
No way (laughs), I need to find that
(Laughs), yeah its out there somewhere, its not even hard to find…but yeah that’s my boy man, I’m happy to see him doing what he’s doing…
Yeah, he’s definitely making moves…so with guys like Krept and Konan, Section (Boyz), Stormzy, does that give you a lot of confidence in terms of progressing, given they’re where you are from?
Yeah, I mean…I worked with Bonkaz a couple of years ago, and like everyone knows each other, Stormzy knows my older brother quite well, through school, Harris Academy, Archbishop Tenison’s, its good to see everyone doing well, especially, Krept and Konan. I don’t know them but I’ve always listened to them from back in the day. And Cadet, he did a freestyle back in 2011, and that day, I went down to the video shoot, and we were in the Cadet video. Thea was there as well. Its weird how things tie in together, but yeah, just to see Cadet’s growth as well, and where he is, its sick. Its good, everyone is keep it within the community so, you’ve got to be proud of that.
Like when you think about how small the area is, but globally, people have popped
Its like Compton, Compton is responsible for so much of the music in the USA, so I think Croydon is getting to that, although it will take a while
I think it’s a mindset as well, when you see people around you achieving something, then you’re also gain confidence in yourself to drive forward with it.
Yeah like everyone says “Croydon’s a shithole”, and its not that bad, everyone who’s there has some sort of education, but at the same time, there was enough struggle, for people to think, I don’t want to go back to that. Or there are people around that you see and think “I don’t want to be that guy”, and the only way to not be that guy, is to do what you do which is either music or football. We’ve even got people like Wilfried (Zaha) who went Palace, and he used to play at ‘Goals’, so it ties in, that everyone knows each other, and I think you’re seeing the fruition of that seed that was planted five to ten years ago.
Yeah definitely man…so final question, you’re an independent artist…what would be your advice to other independent artists?
Stay independent man…stay independent for as long as you can, do everything you can to stay independent. Try and do everything else, but also collaborate with people who see your vision, so with a show, I didn’t want to do a show where I’m booked as a headliner, I wanted to do my own thing. Book my own artist, book the DJ, meticulously plan everything, and we linked up with these guys called Purple Vibe, who saw the vision and told us “we see exactly what you want, we’re going to let you do everything that you want, just let us take care of getting the venue and catering to your needs”. So when you let the marketing people control everything, that’s when things go to pot. But in our case, when you let the creatives control everything, then you have innovation. Its like major labels, if you let them control too much, they fuck everything up, so that’s how I see it. I’m not ready to sign with anyone until they can sign me a label, where I can sign my own friends, and control it. But yeah, be independent for as long as you can.
Sick interview man-
Been a pleasure chatting to you
Credit: Elizabeth Bejide