On his first Instagram video, Jay Jordan nods along to a beat he’s playing on his Akai MPK Mini. The fuzzy, low resolution footage matches Jordan’s music production style, which he describes as the lo-fi aesthetic. In the video, the words Vibe With Me flash sequentially across the screen, then sit in the bottom-right corner like a page number. They’re the same three words that headline his bio, serving as a warm welcome and a fitting introduction to his mellow and unassuming instrumentals.
Over the last two decades, hip hop has steadily moved away from the boom bap sample-based identity that originated in New York in the 90’s. Popular hip hop has gone in so many directions since then that referring to hip hop today can feel oddly unspecific. Just think about how diverse the music is from various popular artists today: Lil Uzi Vert operates in an entirely different space than Jay Z; Jay Z in a different space from Anderson .Paak; Anderson .Paak in a different space than Death Grips; and artists like Kanye West and Tyler, The Creator exist in sprawling musical worlds of their own. Hip hop has become the most fragmented type of popular music – and that’s a good thing.
Genre-blending and experimentalism are keys to keeping any style of music fresh and relevant; innovation keeps things interesting. But paying tribute to your roots can be equally as important, and Jay Jordan is out here making sure we don’t forget that. The young producer makes music for people who want to listen to hip hop in its purest and most fundamental form. He appreciates the beauty in the foundational elements of early hip hop music, and is savvy enough to recognize their timeless nature. Fully aware of this, Jordan goes back to the basics, crafting nostalgia-infused beats that glitch and glide with soulful purpose. With songs in his discography mostly clocking in at under 2 minutes long, he follows a template popularized by J Dilla and other great beat-makers. His beats come and go quickly, but there’s an energy that continues looping and pulsing, almost mechanically so, well beyond the timestamps. The amount of heritage, history, and legacy that is all consciously packed into Jordan’s work makes for a profound statement from an artist who’s just getting started.
Jay Jordan was generous enough to sit down with us (virtually) and answer some questions we had about his music, his process, and his life during the pandemic. After you read the interview, check out his music, and support him directly here or here if you can. Also, you can listen to some of his songs on our Hip Hop Meets Jazz playlist.
FP: Jay Jordan, thanks for taking the time to catch up with us. Before getting into some questions about your music, can you briefly introduce yourself?
JJ: My name is Jonvante, and I go by the stage name Jay Jordan. I’m 21 years old and I’ve spent the majority of my life growing up in South Jersey, so that’s home to me. How I got the name Jay Jordan is just wordplay with my real name: my first, middle, and last name all start with the letter J, and my middle name happens to be Jordan of course.
FP: I’d love to talk about your music a little bit. From listening to your beats, I’d guess you’re a big fan of classic 90’s hip hop – is that true?
Jay Jordan: When it comes to music I really am a big fan of 90s hip hop, and it reflects in my music to the point where it comes natural to me.
FP: What artists inspire your music? It it mostly acts from the 90’s?
JJ: Artists that inspire me are Kanye West, The Roots, J Dilla, Madlib, Q-Tip, MF Doom (rest in peace), and countless others – the list goes on and on. When it comes to artists that inspire me in this current timeline, it is Jansport J, Stlndrums, Knxwledge, Statik Selektah, Flying Lotus, Kaytranada, J.robb, and again the list goes on and on. There’s even people in South Jersey putting in work and making a name for themselves and I love that.
FP: What a lineup of great artists and producers. I definitely hear J Dilla, Madlib, and some of the others’ influence in your music. We’ll have to talk later about some of the up and coming people you know from South Jersey, but it’s great to hear people are making moves there.
So, you released your debut album The Source in 2019, and since then you’ve dropped two more EPs in 2020. Can you talk a little bit about your approach to sampling on these projects? How do you pick the samples you want to use?
JJ: How I approach sampling on these projects, like The Source, is I just spend days going through material… every genre of music that catches my ear & gives me a feeling. In most cases I sit on these tracks I collect for a while and if it’s meant to be it’ll find it’s way on a record.
FP: Can you talk about your favorite sample or your favorite beat?
JJ: My favorite beat is J Dilla’s Don’t Cry. That record has so much emotion in it, each time I press play I catch an unforgettable feeling.
FP: That’s a classic (and I hope everyone goes and checks that out). Thinking about your EPs from 2020: how has the pandemic changed the way you approach music?
JJ: The pandemic has been a lot for us all on a personal level and mental health level. Early in the pandemic lockdown period I had to find a peace of mind with everything going on in the outside world and put my focus on things I can control. I was able to sit down & do something I haven’t done in a while which is just create, and that’s how Knowledge Itself was born – a 4 track EP. It just showed me what happens when you got time for things you’ve got a passion for even when things ain’t looking good… in other words therapy
FP: Thanks for sharing that. Making art, or doing something creative, is probably the best therapy out there. Glad you were able to find that outlet. I love the Knowledge Itself tape… the opening beat is truly special.
Changing directions a little bit, I’m curious about something. You’re a producer that makes great, original beats. Do you have a lot of people asking to rap over your instrumentals?
JJ: Every now and then I have an artist approach me about using a track to rap or sing on. All I can say is if it’s meant to be it’ll find it’s way to the light, I’m not the type force things.
FP: What are you most looking forward to in 2021?
JJ: What I’m looking forward to most in 2021 is just to put out more music and grow with the people that’s been rocking with me so far in this journey and reach some new people and continue to water my seed I planted and watch it grow.
FP: We’re excited to watch it grow, too. Thanks for taking the time. 🍑
Listen to some of Jay Jordan’s music below, and make sure to follow him on IG, check out his merch, and show some love and support in general.