Exclusives Interviews 9 May 2023
Author: Niall Smith

GRM Exclusive: Jords Talks New Album ‘Dirt In The Diamond’, Recording With Prince’s Equipment & More

9 May 2023

On a busy Friday afternoon, I caught up with Jords at the legendary RAK Studio in North-West London. A studio made famous by Adele, Roy Ayers and Pink Floyd over the years—Jords sat comfortably in the ornate brown sofa dressed in Avirex gear.

After gazing at the storied and historical records on the wall, Jords and I turned our conversation to the current UK rap scene, what’s currently in our recent musical rotation, and of course, his brand new third studio album, Dirt In The Diamond.

Jords is an enigmatic figure in the UK rap scene. Trends or algorithms do not bind him. In his own words, Jords wants to create great art. Jords caught viral fame with his 2019 single “Glide”. With “Glide” sitting comfortably at seven million streams on Spotify alone, Jords has demonstrated his work is equally catchy and emotionally poignant. From a technical standpoint, “Glide” says a lot about Jords. It features a euphoric soul sample—courtesy of Anthony Hamilton’s 2003 number “Better Days”—and uplifting bars that explore the mantra of self-preservation. 

Jords has ventured further into the realm of experimentation with his latest drop, “iPray”, alongside Wretch 32, Miles from Kinshasa and Mrs Chambers. Sounding more like a song by Tracy Chapman than your typical UK rap banger, “iPray” pulls cues from folk music, minimalistic soul and the darkest corners of Jords’ hippocampus.

Hailing from the almost dystopian, gridlocked streets of Croydon, South London: Jords has seen both greazy street politics and minor glimpses of the music industry from a young age. His uncle, Gordon Chambers, is a renowned songwriter and producer famous for penning the Grammy-nominated 1994 R&B hit “If You Love Me” by Brownstone.

With two albums under his belt, Jords is now ready to share his updated perspective on life with us. Read on as we invite Jords to GRM Daily for a sit-down conversation.

GRM Daily: Jords, what do you pick up when you go to your local corner shop or off-licence?

Jords: “I’m on a health kick right now, but I used to get two sweets for 99p, all fizzy, of course. Now, I’d also get a pack of Airwaves gum and a Tropical Rhythms Mango Carrot drink.”

Congratulations. Dirt in the Diamond is an excellent album. What inspired the title?

 “I made a different version of the album with that title, but then I scrapped it and started working on what we have now. I changed the album because I felt the original name didn’t fit the theme of that project. 

“I get told I’m a diamond in the rough or a diamond in the dirt. I don’t believe that. I think everyone’s a diamond, but we carry dirt and impurity on our shoulders. Pressure makes a diamond the same way life shapes you into a more refined person.”

You’ve been in the industry since 2016. What’s something you’d tell your younger self?

“I’d say to my younger self that it’ll all be okay; your time will come. If I signed to a label early on, I wouldn’t be in a good place right now. Timing is everything with music. Stylistically, my new music isn’t even that different from what I made in 2016, but my changing headspace is everything.

“I’m more intentional about what I’m going to do these days. For example, I wrote a short film and script for my first album, Means To An Ends. Because of budget issues, it never properly came out.

“With my second album, Almost An Adult, we did get around to making a short film, but I felt like I could’ve been a little better if I had more time with it. This time around, I think I’ve got it right with my latest short film for Dirt in the Diamond. Now that I’ve been through that pressure, it’s made me into the artist I am today.”

What’s one of the most musically challenging things you found when making this album?

“I had to work on my rapping skills. I could always rap, but I was trying to make it the best it could be. You always hear the story of the rapper who wants to sing, but I think with this album, the singing and crooning was the easy part. I grew up on R&B and soul—so the singing fell into place. But the rapping, yeah? I had to challenge myself.”

This album has some big features ranging from Masego to Wretch 32. Who was the first collaborator you thought of for Dirt in the Diamond?

“Great question. It was between Tamaraebi and Masego. We made a demo version of “The Pot of Gold” in 2018 before settling on what we have today—we worked on it several times. Masego was the first person I thought of when I knew I was making this album. During the COVID-19 quarantine, Masego caught my film for Almost An Adult—no label setup at all. I remember the day now. I had just made the demo for “Rice & P’s” and “Enemies”, and Masego hit me up, and I swear I just went back to sleep [laughs]. I thought to myself that it couldn’t have really happened. We briefly exchanged DMs, and he sent me some of his unreleased music at the time.

“I sent him “Rice & P’s” and “Enemies” to return the favour. I wasn’t expecting anything from it; I just wanted to connect. I’m still gassed that I heard “Mystery Lady” before it dropped. Masego then hit me back, saying ‘I did a little something on “Enemies”. Let me know what you think’, and that was that.”

You’ve spoken a lot about your short film work, so you’re clearly a movie buff. If someone was to portray you in a movie—who would play you, who would direct it, and what kind of film would it be?

“I gotta think about this one. I know who I’d want to direct. Right off the top of my head, Steve McQueen comes to mind. He’s a legend in the making. I’d probably like an unknown actor to play me, one of those movies where you might know the cast but not the leading role, you get me? In terms of genre, I’d want my movie to be a coming-of-age film—a bit like The Perks of Being a Wallflower.”

Your song with Lil Sykes, “Drill vs Grime”, has sparked a lot of online discussions. How did that track come to fruition?

“That song spawned from conversations I used to have. Man are always contesting whether [Dave and Stormzy’s song] “Clash” is a drill or grime tune, and there are fair arguments on both sides of the fence, you know? With Lil Sykes, I’ve known him from young, and I see him as a pioneer of drill music in the UK. I caught on with drill music when Unknown T came onto the scene. Me and Lil Sykes went studio one day, and we just structured the song like a conversation—it was a lot of fun. It was cool to have that discourse between old and new and get people thinking. As artists, we’re the spokesmen for the culture, and I think the song is crucial.”

Your album has a vintage feel to it. Talk to me more about the production and recording process.

“We recorded this album the old-school way. We used analogue equipment, not digital when we mixed it. That’s why it sounds the way it does. I’m on Motown Records, and I think it’s made the whole recording process come full circle. I remember I was in my vest smoking like I was in the 1970s or something [laughs]. I don’t think anyone knows this, but we recorded the album on the same desk that Prince used for Purple Rain. Crazy.”

Where do you see yourself five years from now, Jords?

“Performing. I love the UK scene, my people, and where I come from, but I’d love to take my music to the world stage. If I can get paid to do what I love, exercise a wider reach, expand my fanbase and whatnot, that would be sick. I can’t control charts, accolades and awards, but I can see myself on the road five years from now. I guess I’ll have to wait and see.”

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