Textured, open, and studious Jordan Mackampa in 2023 is immersive and exuberant finally at a place of comfortability in himself and his output as a singer and songwriter. He’s quick to point out musical forebearers like Brandy — to him, Full Moon is a seminal body of work for many an R&B artist. Conversations in and around music from his perspective articulate his grip on the art form and ordained vocation within the sector.
Jordan’s aptitude for musical expression was inherited from his mother’s ear. Not a musician herself, she would often fill the rooms of Jordan’s London-based childhood home with a diet of anyone from Curtis Mayfield to Whitney Houston, Diana Ross, and Marvin Gaye, nourishing the ears of an inquisitive, infant Mackampa. But his first, audacious experience with music, which led with him and was his own took place at a youth center near his home. “I knew I wanted to perform,” Jordan enthuses. Unsure as to whether it was his spirit, God, or a combination of the two forces, he signed up to perform for the first time at this juncture — a freshman in adolescence at the time.
“I knew that if I didn’t perform now, I never knew when another opportunity to do this would come up.” Penning an original production, Jordan Mackampa utilised a self-proclaimed ethos that still remains present in his contemporary musical approach. “I want to create music that adds to what’s missing in the musical landscape — I always write or approach my songs like that.” Jordan’s first original production ‘Angel Like You’ honed in on puppy love. “It was an 800-capacity show and I got a standing ovation,” he proclaims, still quietly confident years later. “That show was the jumping-off point, I had to carry on with music at that point.”
Juxtaposed with his audacity, is a willingness to always work at his craft — Jordan would lock himself in the recording studios at his youth center across his teenage years, also learning to perfect instruments such as the drums and guitars. “I got my first instrument in 2009 and my instructors Pete and H would teach me how to get accustomed to melody.” After years of submerging himself in informal instrumental production, Jordan trusts his ear abundantly.
It was around his latter-teen years that he decided to pursue music on his own terms, studying Popular Music Performance at Northampton — partly to satisfy his mother's request, but partially for more context around his field too. Jordan forms part of a generation of artists existing in a more democratised climate in music. Part of that involved the emergence of DSPs like Soundcloud, which allowed him to release demos to the masses at the push of a button. To his surprise, shortly into his digital expansion came institutional cosigns in the form of tastemaker Julie Adenuga during her tenure as a Beats 1 host. “Julie was a shining light and so supportive,” Jordan recalls. “I always cherish her consistency, it was my first industry sign of me feeling seen.” Premiering his debut single ‘Same Faces’ six years ago, the communal support extends to recently when the pair ran into each other at the airport. “It’s a full circle moment and a pinch yourself feeling.” The smokey, instantly rustic runs that cushion ‘Same Faces’ ooze of craftsmanship, diligence, and most of all comfort, Mackampa a natural at the delivery of vintage, velvet-smooth vocals.
With guaranteed premieres for subsequent singles, Mackampa developed and signed to AWAL after traction with his second EP Tales From The Broken. Rejecting lucrative major-label offers in favour of this one, allowed him room to retain autonomy which he took seriously. “There was so much time to really record professionally, make the move to London, and become proud of myself.” All of this led to the instrumental-heavy debut album Foreigner. Released amidst a global pandemic Jordan’s voice acted more tempered here, his diligence leading to him blending it with the other arrangement.
It was when Jordan got to perform his songs, at coveted stages such as BBC’s Radio 1 Weekender and his own shows, that he realised he wanted to put the guitar down, relinquish control temporarily and delve more into his eclectic childhood. “I finally grew ready to navigate my Blackness musically and my wider identities,” he rationalises. “Letting people like MckNasty manage my Radio 1 weekend was me relinquishing control, it allowed me to focus on the delivery of my voice, instead of instrumentals.” Jordan likens MckNasty to figures like Sean Bankhead and Teyana Taylor, acting as elevators.
Aptly titled Welcome Home, Kid! Jordan Mackampa intimately invites his emerging and existing fans to get acquainted with a 29-year-old deconstructed and at their most intimate on his sophomore album. The journey began last year in March, and then in November coveted figures such as Oak Felder and Sebastian Kole would eavesdrop on the album's manifestation acting as informal advisories for Jordan, not just as musicians, but as guides and anchors of encouragement and perseverance on his new trajectory. “They’d tell me to trust my instincts, interrogate my feelings on why things don’t sound right, and comfortability on my songs and lyricism. They were both quintessential in my learning.”
Welcome Home, Kid! Is quick to lean into Jordan’s second coming as an artist and is instantly bold in its canvassing of the new artist. Caressed in an unapologetic brand of soul, is the project's introduction ‘Playground’. Here, Jordan is poised, emotive, and mature in his rumination of his childhood. “Childhood and play are so important, there’s no shame in exploration as a child. We have to speak to our inner children as adults,” Jordan divulges. Having entered therapy in 2021, Jordan advocates for the relationship he has with his inner child and how healthy it has become. “A lot of this project was the catharsis that came with dealing with that part of me, understanding why I used to not appreciate being a child and love that part of life, we’re dealing with that now.”
The soft and tender beginnings are also found in the Orphanage produced ‘Proud Of You’. Led with abundant, piercing piano and violin runs, Jordan again with deeper, elongated croons narrates the pride of his journey to date. “I just want to tell you that I’m proud of you,” he assures his younger self. The beautifully nourishing number acts as a display of the soothing components of Jordan’s intonation. Here, when he leans into this aspect of his characterisation,
the overall composition is brilliantly introspective, simply effective, and authentic in a contemporary way. In a generation of people talking about mental health, Jordan acts as a vanguard for getting up and doing the work — relentlessly.
After the context of where Jordan has come from and why he contained a few emotional scars that have now been attended to, Jordan wholly debuts who he is now as the dawn of his 30s approaches — some of which, involve new lessons in the realms of interpersonal relationships. ‘Friends You’ve Made’ acts as a bold proclamation in this arena. Backed by executive producers the The Orphanage, the drum-focused number sees Mackampa push back on the environments he’s been handed by former friends around him that haven’t provided a holistic community.
“Maintaining adult friendships can be so hard. Thinking about the concept of friendship has made me reflect on how many people in my life could I lean on in the same way that they could lean on me.” Pondering on this thought and navigating his thoughts, atop the drums, he learns that elements like distance, time, or locality aren’t always the contributors to the strength of a friendship. “I call my friends on my phone, ‘cos I got some friends overseas // I got some friends that are neighbours but we ain’t spoken in weeks.” As we explore the topic, it’s clear that, in a timeshort generation prioritising community as much as we can is a priority to Jordan, a sign of emotional maturity and personal growth in his second album. Part of ‘Friends You’ve Made’ also reckons with Jordan’s remorseless grip on his queerness in a casual way. Whether its his more overt references to ‘shade’, a now large drag and LGBTQIA+ term or the personifying of the deeper elements of him as a ‘two-way mirror’ which, Jordan says, is in part a reference to the more nuanced hues of a person.
Jordan’s development as a person meant that he was ready to lean into discussing love; in fact, for Welcome Home, Kid! he specifically demanded a song for his future partner and eventual wedding. “I want a Jagged Edge ‘Let’s get Married’” he shares. ‘I’ve Found My Home In You’ bathes in the audacity and emboldened zest towards the topic that’s found in the aforementioned number, but in Jordan Mackampa-infused packaging. Here, psychedelic funk enters the ether, utilised with soul and R&B — the final product presents Jordan’s voice as caliginous with a refreshingly urgent tone as he wails his adornment for his prospective lover. “You have to go with it with songs like this,” he rationalises. “You have to sing like you’re singing in the rain there’s a lawlessness there, in R&B as a whole when you’re singing directly to your lover.” Harnessing his potent, refreshing, and anchored falsetto, Jordan Mackempa here is boldly embracing of his development as an artist, here showcasing for all to see. In prior iterations of his discography, the loudness of instrumentals hid the full range of his voice, it’s here, that listeners are able to see the power and potential as one of the future faces of R&B and Soul in Britain and abroad.
Elsewhere, Jordan’s embracing of his own flaws — is reflective of humans more broadly. ‘Mary’ is an on-the-nose reference to his religious upbringing and the deity figure; but also, a muse for introspection and honesty. A directly gospelly-tinged number Jords lays bare his character flaws. “I wanted to be optimistic and look inwards in that when I do make mistakes, I look to resolve and remedy situations,” he says. “Can't you see I’m fighting for you // ‘Cos I hate sleeping alone,” he warns. The warm and temperate number ushers in a similar place of yielding and openness that Welcome Home, Kid! began with, this time, focused on accountability towards others.
Beyond the contemporary Jordan Mackampa are nods towards who he’s becoming, not just as a person, but a force in the live arena. Ready to sometimes embrace his instrumentals again; this time accompanied by fuller bands and the assistance of the MckNasty’s of the world, Jordan also manifests a new character, which shares the name of the penultimate album number ‘Blaccjack the Mac’. “I wanted to lean into braggadocio and knew that funk is so confident and ownable that I had to channel it.” Listing bold contemporary pioneers like Silk Sonic, Miguel, and Janelle Monet, Jordan also takes reference from the relentless rap-sphere, where one has to have the confidence to even enter the ring. Here, Jordan’s goals of finding the missing link in the contemporary landscape are fulfilled. Etched into his second coming is a sorely missed showman ready to own that role in the contemporary British soul. Taking elements from a Prince, Bobby Brown, or Usher, Mackampa embraces these templates and more unapologetically adds a je ne sais quoi in how raw his manifestation of the mold is.
Overall, Welcome Home, Kid! acts as a much-needed embrace for both Jordan Mackampa and listeners. Both nourishing in its musical depth and in examination of self, it reveals the context behind why Jordan is the artist he is and the person. Ultimately Mackampa provides a refreshing quintessential edition to 2024’s first quarter odeing the canons of funk, R&B, gospel, and soul in its ardently honest lyricism and in Jordan’s aptitude for using his voice as the vast instrument that it is. “This project is one I want people to feel, it’s a project I want to show myself on,” he shares earnestly. Luckily for him, Welcome Home, Kid! is a potent leap into the light.