Rap Game Chose Jordy 🏆

Words: Yemi Abiade
Photography: Misha Meghna

The day you release your new project can drum up a wave of emotions. That feeling of letting go of something that was yours for so long, constructed with love and intention, now shared with the world for critiques and opinions to swarm. Second guessing may kick in—“Will they like it? Did I do a good enough job?”—but this is often part and parcel of letting go and embracing what comes next.

Jordy, so often the calmest person in the room, clutches onto a range of emotions as we settle in a nondescript member’s club in East London. It’s the morning of the release of his new project, SNM, his sixth in just under three years, yet new drop days can humble most. “I’m confident for the most part, but I don’t think anxiety discriminates—everyone should feel it,” he shares, carefully opening a bottle of ginger press juice. “I think I deal with it pretty well, especially as someone whose job it is to leave myself open to criticism. You never know what you can open your phone to, on any morning.”

To the untrained eye, Jordy’s ascent may seem quiet, but only if you’ve not been paying attention. At this point, the Tottenham-born, Essex-based artist—active for nearly a decade—is approaching ‘your favourite rapper's favourite rapper’ status in the UK, having been on tracks with legends such as Wretch 32, Jme and Ghetts, exuding poise with tight penmanship, addictive punchlines and absorbing storytelling. He expands on this world throughout his own catalogue, laced with brooding, minimalist, sometimes grime-leaning production often by cousins Elt Cheekz, Jojo Mukeza and Daniel Miles, with whom he founded the Flat 10 record label. His music is a peek through the curtain of his life, sometimes leaning towards uncomfortable listening, almost like we shouldn’t be hearing it.

Jordy is candid about committing crime (“Tour Money”), sleeping on floors (“Why Do I Bother?’) and his sister’s sickle cell anaemia condition (“Tax Time”). But therein lies his powers: the ability to be candid about himself while reciting his life, growing stronger at every turn. And then there are the bangers like “Wonderkid”, “Enemies” and “A13”, exercises in just how busy he gets on the microphone. Speaking of busy, Jordy, along with some other notable faces, front Filthy Fellas, the football podcast that has had everyone from Rio Ferdinand to Micah Richards through their doors.

As we speak, it becomes clear that we could’ve met several lifetimes ago. Had I checked my inboxes over the years, I may have seen music sent by a precocious young MC starting out who wanted the world to hear him. He’s grateful I didn’t, because his present reflects a truer to life, intentional artistic being. It’s what you see on soulful projects like Prophets In Their Own Town—gloomy and reflective Jordy—or The Love Ting, an ode to love and romance. Rooted in advancing the fortunes of his family and those around him, more so than any material wealth rap can generate, Jordy has his head screwed on. “I’m actually glad I’m coming up at this age,” he says. “If I had started as early as I wanted to start, I would’ve been a mess, because fame and accolades would’ve been what I was chasing. All I really care about is my little community of people fighting for and supporting me. That’s an accolade for me.”

Read on as we hear from Jordy about creativity, music industry woes, and why community matters.

“Getting cussed is a great character builder. I think we should do it more.”

Yemi Abiade: It’s crazy to think that you have a career mainly because you got dissed by a kid in school.

Jordy: Exactly! Getting cussed is a great character builder. I think we should do it more. I come from a family that’s cussed each other out for years, so there’s nothing you can tell me [laughs].

Your new project is called SNM, following projects like KMT and SMH. What significance do you place on those titles?

I know I’ve told the mandem something really cool before, but I don’t know why I’ve called them that. I just know that I use those terms a lot. I’m moody and miserable, but I think those terms also come from my hunger. SMH [shake my head] is like frustration, KMT [kiss my teeth] is pent up frustration and you know when someone says SNM [say no more], you have to watch out for them. That’s what I’m trying to say with the project: just watch out for me.

In what ways is SNM a step up from your previous work?

I think the way I rap changes with every project. I always tinker with it. It’s like Pep Guardiola: every year he does something weird, tactically, and you think, “Why did he do that?” And then he wins the Premier League and it’s calm. When I started rapping, I used a lot more similes. Now, it’s a bit more direct. Forget this whole “left back like Evra” type stuff. I’m going to tell you that my boy found a tag on his car. That, and the story of what I’m going through, goes harder than any kind of simile.

Well, you have used a lot of those football-inspired lines in your music. What do you think has inspired this change to being more direct?

Growth, mainly. As I got older, what I wanted to hear from rappers is what they’re going through and who they are. I don’t wanna know what car you have that you don’t really have because you rented it. Or your chains. Tell me about how you go from A to B. I want to know who I'm listening to. So, I think if I want to hear that, it’s my responsibility to also give that and I think going forward, you’re going to get a lot more of it.

I read that you take inspiration from everyone from Skepta to James Blake. Were there any artists you referred to while making SNM?

Marnz Malone and Cleo Sol. What I get from them is just music. No big spectacle. Marnz just puts his pain on record; it’s just good music when it drops. I don’t need to take inspiration from sonics—I take inspiration from methods. I see how people move and that helps light a fire in me.

You’ve been very prolific over the last couple of years, releasing at least two EPs a year for the last three years. What inspired this creative spark?

Hunger. And the fact that I can! I think many people can and just don’t, but I can, so why not? We’re also in a fast-paced business where people want stuff in an instant—that’s why I’ve only dropped EPs—but I think I’m going to allow myself the time to build an album. I’m probably going to go away after this one, and not be as prolific as maybe people might like. But that’s because I wanna build something that is top-notch.

Do you have a lot of unreleased songs in the vault?

I get rid. I haven’t got a song that’s not out there. I know so many talented people who have about 70 songs on their hard drive, and I don't want to be that person. I’m pretty clinical.

How do you think your life up to this point has prepared you for the career you now have?

My cousins cussing me definitely gave me thick skin. I was born in Harlesden, raised in Tottenham for a while, then moved to Essex—three completely different worlds—so I can adjust to any kind of culture. I thought we had all the cultures in London until I moved to Essex and found a whole different kind of people. All of that has given me the tools to walk into any room and talk to anyone, to be more patient and understanding. And here I am!

You mentioned that you can be moody sometimes. Do you ever have to psych yourself up when you’re about to record music, perform live or even record with Filthy Fellas?

No, because most of my jobs are with my friends. I’m lucky in that I don’t have to flick a switch. Filthy Fellas are my boys; we go record, and it’s fun. Music is the same, performing live is the same, because people are singing back to me. I guess I’m just moody at home. Maybe I’m just left tired because I’ve been on all day.

“I’​m learning more and more as I get older that community is important. And it sets the precedent. I’m just trying to take care of my youngers so they can have a better foundation for when they’re older.”

There was quite a long period in your life where you didn’t rap at all and picked it back up. What was your motivation for wanting to rap again?

There’s a great feeling that comes from being told you’re good at rapping and releasing music and getting love. But, truthfully, if I didn’t rap, I wouldn’t be doing good stuff. And I’m a bad criminal as well [laughs]. I dropped out of college and, for a time, I was rapping but I wasn’t getting money. I worked at Debenhams and worked my way up. I only started rapping full-time last year; I felt like I had to take the plunge. Working was a little safety net but if you jump into water, your body will fight to float. I needed to take that risk and see what happens. Now I want to do more. I’ve never recorded music outside of London, so I want those experiences. I now have the choice to try and find new things.

What are some of the rules that you live by that dictate your musical journey?

I try not to compromise. Only with the people I trust. I try not to pander to the music industry and its rigid rules. I have to be authentically me! Like, with the industry, there are so many rules that shouldn’t be rules and people abide by it, for some reason. I don’t know why everyone drops on Fridays or puts things on TikTok. Actually, I do know why: the industry has put itself in a place where your fate is decided by an algorithm, and I don’t think that’s right. We need to start again in a lot of ways. I think we need to bring back physicals. We need to experience music better... I’m just trying to find a way to build my fanbase so I don’t need the industry stuff. The music industry, for an artist like me, has got to a place where creating the music is the best part but releasing it is the worst part. But I’m trying to make it easier.

You had your little brother in your new video for “Wonderkid” and you work frequently with your cousin, Elt Cheekz. Describe the feeling of bringing your family into your music.

Honestly, it’s a great feeling when I take a step back, but it’s second nature to me. They’ve always been around me; it’s not a model we came up with. Elt Cheekz made beats before he started rapping—my older cousins produced but got fed up with having reference tracks everywhere with no real base, so they wanted to nurture talent like me and Cheeky. Before you know it, we have a label, Flat 10, named after the house where it all started. And that’s where we are today.

You’ll make a project minimal and hard-hitting like SNM and drop something highly conceptual like The Love Ting. What kind of freedom comes with being able to tap into different parts of your creativity?

It all starts with an idea. How I feel and the type of thing I want to do. For me anyway, projects should have new themes and concepts each time. Kendrick Lamar is the best example; everything is different the next time he drops. I think that’s how it should be. Try something new, scare yourself, give the fans a shock. Some people didn’t like The Love Ting and some people think it’s my best work. I like starting conversations; I don’t wanna drop the same thing twice.

You represented the UK at the BET Hip-Hop Awards cypher last year. What did that mean to you?

It’s a milestone because you watched that stuff growing up. I remember when I got there, they tried to say I only had time for eight bars, but I had written about a minute’s worth of bars. They tried to negotiate, and I was just like, “No!” [Laughs]. They were rattled but we got there in the end. Everywhere I put myself, I want to put my best foot forward. I want to show you that I take this art form very seriously. I have to represent myself first, and that’s what you saw.

What are some of the more satisfying responses to your music that you’ve had so far?

Daniel Kaluuya has messaged me to show love. The American Russ has posted some of my songs. I went on tour with Pusha T—very friendly guy. A lot of watches. Being able to work with Wretch 32 and him wanting to work with me has been humbling. Being on Ghetts’ album, Ghetto Gospel: The New Testament… Just being able to work with people like Ghetts, Wretch and Jme, who I’ve always respected, is a big deal for me. I’m really scratching off my list at this point.

What kind of importance do you place on the idea of community?

I’m learning more and more as I get older that community is important. And it sets the precedent. I’m just trying to take care of my youngers so they can have a better foundation for when they’re older. That’s an award for me. I want my little brother to be nice when he’s older, to be able to pick whatever he wants to do. For a long time, the scene only gave you one view of rap and how it should look and how you should come up. But nah, man: do what you want! Just as long as you’re getting your coin, you’re getting it with integrity, and you’re taking care of yours.

What do you think making music has taught you about yourself as a person?

I’m learning new things every day. I think I came into rap wanting to be the biggest thing smoking, but now I’m rapping with freedom. You can’t really tell me what to do. I have an authority complex; I’m just someone that needs space. But I also know I have ideologies that probably won’t stay with me and some that will. That’s the beauty of my job: I’m open to change and allowed to. I just have to express it and package it well for you lot.

Posted on March 20, 2024