Covering Notion 92, Jords takes stock of his most successful year yet— from new music to mentoring and his various entrepreneurial ventures.
Driven by creativity and anchored by community, Jords is an entrepreneur as much as he is an artist. Taking a moment to process one of his busiest years yet, he reflects on his rise within the industry, the weight of success, and the importance of uplifting his peers along the way.
Humble and driven are two words that come to mind when speaking to Croydon-based songwriter and rapper Jordan Edwards-Wilks, better known as Jords.
Developing a sound that touches on the subtle hallmarks of hip-hop and R&B, Jords has concocted his own musical slant that has made him one of the UK’s most exciting artists around. Absorbing his life experiences and letting them unfurl into a discography that will stand the test of time, his lyrical storytelling and dextrous instrumentals paint a picture of his incredible journey so far.
Countless tunes could be plucked from his discography to document this journey — from the wonderfully nostalgic “Enemies”, to the tender “Halos”. Yet there’s one track that feels most relevant: 2021 single “Rudeboy Ting”. One of his most successful releases, the beautifully penned track reads as a sonic ode to London life, seeing him reach — and in turn, accept — the inevitable crossroads between global acclaim and staying true to his roots.‘It’s a rude boy ting, in the same ends’, he spits assertively, ‘might change whips but I’ll never change friends’.
Sitting down in November, we caught Jords at a time of deep introspection, finding himself trying to process one of his most successful years as an artist and an individual. Throughout our conversation, what becomes apparent is the artist’s commitment to those who’ve been there with him from the start. This is a conversation about leading from the front and understanding your assignment in life.
Whilst Jords’ success continues to snowball following his latest EP, ‘Swings & Roundabouts’, his musical universe still centres around Croydon as a source of constant inspiration. Surrounded by music from a young age — his father played in The Jazz Defektors, who released via the legendary Factory Records and supported the likes of Sade on tour — It was there he was raised on a healthy musical upbringing of jazz, R&B and reggae.
“It’s the place I can be myself. I still live five minutes away from where I went to school,”Jords shares, reflecting on his hometown.“There was a lot of shit that happened in the ends, a lot of traumatic experiences that we didn’t know were traumatic until years after. It makes me say to myself, ‘Wow, we’ve really been through a life together already’.”
Creating art in the face of tough lived experiences isn’t a new thing in Croydon, a London borough home to some of the country’s most revered artists. “There is a reason why there is such a tight-knit creative community here. We’ve gone through so much together,” Jords says.“Seeing everyone from Croydon doing their thing is incredible. People like Stormzy, Krept & Konan, Wilfried Zaha. I believe Croydon is like Compton — in Compton you’ve got Kendrick, Snoop, Pac. I feel like there will be a retrospective documentary about everyone who has come from Croydon in years to come.”
Throughout our interview, Jords constantly champions local artists, keen to show his unwavering support for the next generation.“There is an artist called Lil Sykes, who grew up round the corner from me,” he offers as one example. “He’s got a really interesting sound, man. I find it mad how you can create two completely different sounds from the same lived experience.”
As well as mentioning artists he’s helped mentor, Jords gives credit to those who guided him back in the day. “There are so many people who’ve helped me along the way,” he tells me. “The first person who comes to mind is Cadet. I met him at this video shoot, and after the shoot he asked me to freestyle. I remember getting home and Cadet tweeted me, ‘I’m your big brother now, if you ever need anything I’m here’. We used to meet and talk music all the time. He was someone who’s door was always open. RIP Cadet.”
In the midst of heightening success, Jords has acknowledged and subsequently embraced the new-found responsibilities of his stardom. “I’ve come to realise the importance of understanding your assignment, and I really think we should lift as we climb,” he asserts. “It’s important to show people there is a different way in life. The leaders we have in this country aren’t showing us the way, so it’s on us to do that.” Jords has gone far beyond music as a tool to uplift his community. He recently launched Pickni Uniforms alongside his childhood friend Jamahl Rowl, providing hundreds of secondary school children receiving free school meals with a free school blazer. “I’ve definitely come to realise responsibility comes in the form of what I do for the community around me,” Jords says. “A big thing this year is acknowledging that I’m a leader. With community, I was always taught that you should help others around you. I really hope what I do in and outside of music does that.”
He has also turned his hand to podcasting, launching his ‘Almost A Conversation’ series, also in partnership with Jamahland their friend Tobore, where they sit down with friends to have vital discussions we can all take wisdom from. Touching on a number of crucial topics ranging from mental health and grief to love and relationships, notable guests include Joy Crookes, George the Poet, Kai-Isaiah Jamal and Big Zuu.
Whilst Jords feels an immense sense of pride in how far he’s come, with his success also comes conflicting feelings. “I almost feel survivors’ guilt. I feel like we are in the midst of a great depression.” he reflects. “I’ve had my own moments, but I truly feel blessed to still be working full-time on my dreams, blessed to have finances. When I look all around me and I see everything going on in the midst of the great depression, it’s a bit conflicting. I feel like my life is one of juxtapositions. But I get through that knowing that hopefully my music helps people around me, so that’s a real motivator to keep things going.”
Jords is an artist who has understood his assignment, in music and in life. He has embraced the role of being a leader to rising musicians in his community, and with his own album and headline tour planned for 2023, he’ll be taking that role to new heights next year. Legacy is a word often overused in music, but for the world Jords is building, it feels incredibly apt.