Ubuntu: ‘I am because of who we all are’.
On World Mental Health Day Clash sat down with Jords, a bright spark in the dynamic UK Hip Hop scene, to understand him beyond being a rapper, singer, writer and producer.
Everyone, at least once, has felt the feeling where they can’t shake a thought or are determined to not rest until they have executed something to the best of their abilities. “When I get an idea, I can’t sleep til it’s been executed in some shape or form”, he admits. “I’m an ideas guy”.
It must be pretty exhausting having that feeling constantly, but Jords doesn’t seem at all fazed. While the last two years have seen their ups and downs for the world, Jords is resolute in his self-belief and passion for music and how him and his team can make wider change. Whether that’s raising awareness of inequalities with his Pikni Uniforms initiative that has brought school uniforms to hundreds of children in Croydon, to hosting a podcast alongside close friends talking about issues affecting young people today, to running a successful studio allowing other artists to flourish, to most importantly keeping his mind, body and spirit healthy.
Currently, he’s reading three books. “One when I wake up, one at like 1pm and then one before bed”. One of them is Malcolm Gladwell’s classic Outliers, the birthplace of the ‘10,000 hour rule’. Another is Malcolm X’s biography (which he has read several times) and another is George Orwell’s 1984 on audiobook. An interesting mix that brings forward many of Jords’ facets: the businessman, the activist and the storyteller.
To keep up this level of work and leisure Jords has had to develop a strategy to protect his energy and peace. Not only through going to the gym regularly but also by scheduling in what he calls his “J Days”. A day here and a day there where can he totally disconnect from the outside world and meet with his inner child again. “Cartoons, it’s essential, whatever cartoon it is. When I was young I used to bring my duvet down and sit on my sofa and slap on cartoons. Started on Pokemon, then Simpsons, South Park, South Park became Rick and Morty, Bojack Horseman. So yeah cartoons, a hot chocolate. If you need to rest and relax I’m the guy. Sofa, probably some fast food. You need the least amount of movement. I try and bring everything I need for the whole day downstairs so I don’t have to leave all day.”
When Jords is back in the studio he resumes the role of musical curator. “I like curation, I believe in curation. Just because I produce myself, at the same time there are songs that I work with other producers… it could be like I’m not that great at keys and bring someone in for that… There’s a bigger picture…”
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“The team around me trust me, they know when I have something in my mind, the vision.”
“…Let’s say it’s a building, the foundation is the production, consistencies are like the windows, for example, saxophone might be running through the entire project and then I’ll manoeuvre between dancehall, house, hip hop to grime and it still sounds quite cohesive and then you have the features where they’re meant to be better than you. They’re meant to have the best verse of their life on your track. You’re just curating this magical bigger picture. There’s nothing wrong with letting someone else do what they’re good at as long as it helps the bigger picture.” For example on his last album, 'Almost An Adult', “We had a week in the studio, we assembled all the avengers. All the musicians, it was just a sick week. Everyone came in and re-did their verses, everyone helped each other out. But to see it and be the project manager, watching everyone do their thing it was pretty cool.”
For artists coming up in the scene Jords has this advice: “Put in your grind, put in your 10,000 hours, because I studied music production, run it like a bit of a business, learnt to write a bio, press releases, and I did that myself until someone else could do it…It’s always good to learn everything about it. It gives you a better future. In Jords’ future he may well become a label manager or artists developer, the possibilities are endless when you want them to be.
As well as being musically-minded and the project manager of his own brand, Jords is also incredibly aware of his position within his family and social groups. He’s the listening ear and the shoulder for others to lean on, which carries its own responsibility and weight. “As important as all these things are, it can be emotionally draining. People confiding in you, you end up holding up everyone else’s problems, you’re then a vessel for everyone else, it can be draining 100%… I don’t tell people how to live their lives, all you do is hold a mirror so they can see themselves. And when they see themselves clearly, then they can work it out themselves.”
“But if you don't rest you're just gonna burn out.”
So every year, when things are quietening down, Jords sets out to “go to the mountains”, not a place necessarily but a mindset, an “extended J Day” where he doesn’t stay on the sofa every day but where he can “have some serious conversations” and “fall in love with himself” again. He might spend time in the studio, but it’s less about work and more about him being in his natural state: creating. Jords is clear in his message: “It’s not about me, none of it. The only thing that’s about me is the music. That’s my passion. Everything else are just things I believe should be the right thing to do and I’m attaching the Jords brand to it. If I could be a silent partner I would. I now know the power of the Jords brand and it’s beneficial to the mission. I’m naturally a helper, someone comes to me with a question I’ll answer it or I’ll find the answer. I’m just trying to answer the questions. That’s it.”
“You have to learn about yourself, no teacher can tell you about yourself.”
When we talk about how we all learn differently, Jords remarks on the school system: “it’s tapped, the way they’re trying to get us [to learn], they just do what they want. Which I understand because it would be too expensive and time consuming to try and understand what the best form of learning for every individual. But then again, you can’t judge people for not wanting to learn the same way.” Jords’ final words relate to the term “Ubuntu”, a Xhosa/Zulu word used primarily in South Africa to explain that we are all human through the humanity of others. If anyone represents this it’s Jords, a true musical humanitarian.
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Words: PJ Somervelle
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