As he releases new single "Proud of You", the artist talks the three year break between his debut and upcoming sophomore record Welcome Home, Kid! and achieving undiluted self-expression.
“The expression 'Black Boy Joy' is something I definitely felt while making this record,” Jordan Mackampa tells Man About Town of upcoming sophomore album Welcome Home, Kid!. The opus follows 2020 debut Foreigner and presents Mackampa in full, unadulterated glory, no longer inhibited on expressing his complete identity in his work, dextrously charting his journey hitherto and the kaleidoscopic nature of the Black and queer experience. Notwithstanding tracks that handle the burdens of heartbreak and loss, the project is brimming with moments of rapture and the blissful confidence of becoming your most assured self. New single “Proud of You”, a case in point, is an appraisal with younger versions of himself that sees Mackampa honour the irrepressible growth that’s seen him become the artist and person he is today.
“For me this whole album is a win,” he continues. “Being able to talk about myself and my life up until this point and give no fucks about how it sounds or what I’m saying is genuinely the best feeling in the world.” Recorded in LA, with production credits from the likes of The Orphanage (Lizzo, Kehlani) and Blake Strauss (Khalid, Duckwrth), the album's cocktail of R&B, soul, funk and gospel, with sonics that descend from heavyweight ‘90s groups like Blackstreet and Dru Hill, sees Mackampa undoubtedly apace with international frontrunners of such genres today, and then some.
Ahead of the announcement of Welcome Home, Kid!, he sat down with us to talk carving a manifesto for this epoch of his career, his journey to unvarnished self-expression and why introspection has been integral to his second album’s creation.
Hey Jordan! How are you? Congratulations on Welcome Home, Kid! What was your starting point for making this album?
Thank you! I’m doing a lot better, and honestly, I'm happy to be back making music again. The starting point was a lot earlier than I thought it had been in my mind — I’ve been saying it was the day I released the “Come Around” EP in January 2021, but some of these songs are at least four/five years old in their creation, according to old voice notes I’ve had saved in my phone. But even then, I don’t think that would be an accurate answer, only because I’ve been trying to get back to this sound, this place of comfortability, since the release of my first single, “Same Faces”. Once I knew this was where I was heading sonically, it was as easy as breathing.
Then it was a case of creating a manifesto that included a track list and references, a visual mood board, potential brand deal campaigns and music video storyboards — I didn’t want any detail overlooked, mainly as I’ve been away for so long, I wanted to have all of my ducks in line before pushing the big red button on the first single.
It’s three years since you dropped your debut. How would you say your creative process has evolved since then?
Introspection. It was a big theme for me in writing these songs, putting myself at the forefront of everything, which, in turn, made me put the guitar down more and stand centre stage, alone. Doing that made me trust the musicians I have around me more, whereas previously, I had something to hide behind if there was a technical difficulty on stage; I’d do a few songs accapella, and we’d be back on track. But now I feel like I have people who want this to work as much as I do, so they give 1000% because they get the vision.
This new album feels even more naked now — I use more self-language of ‘I’ over ‘we’. All these stories are about me still, just in more depth than the first record touched upon. In my three years away, I allowed myself to be more open about everything I’ve always been but never really touched on within my music. My debut [album] was me figuring out sh*t, this [one] is where it all clicks.
There is a real vulnerability in how your music explores Blackness and queerness. Do you ever find it difficult to be open about your identity?
That isn’t easy to answer. It feels like a double-edged sword as there’s a myriad of responses and so much detail I could give, but I’ll do my best to sum it up.
I’m very aware of how privileged I am to be straight/cis-gendered passing, even though I haven’t been either for a very long time. My journey as a Black queer man has had its conflicts, but in terms of it being difficult to be open about my identity now, I’d say no. It took a lot of inner work/ therapy later on in life to understand that I could be Black, queer and still be loved.
Being a Black person who had their Blackness questioned by other Black and white folk, while being seen as nothing but Black through the eyes of the law by the time I was 13, induced very complex feelings about my identity. I was also a very late bloomer when it came to accepting that I was queer, being raised religiously and being of African cultural descent… you know the rest. However, thanks to a multitude of experiences I cultivated for myself, I came to understand that my Blackness and queerness are two sides of the same coin. One side might wear a skirt and make-up, the other listens to Wu Tung and MF DOOM. Both are perfectly acceptable.
The videos for this album have a really joyful quality to them. Can you tell us about why it was important for your visuals to be celebratory on this one?
The title Welcome Home, Kid! felt celebratory in its nature. This whole album-making process, from the songs to the visuals, has all felt like a returning-home, full circle moment both musically and personally. I’ve always wanted a concept music video that was more than just performing to the camera. I want people to see these videos and feel the love come through. Especially with all the videos being shot in one house, linking from one to another, my goal was to give them a home movie energy. I know that the concept of going back home means different things to a lot of people, some good experiences, some not, but what I would want for anyone watching these videos is to feel like whatever kind of home they came from, they are always welcome at mine.
You’re currently boasting recent features on tracks by Jords, Che Lingo and Blackwave, how have you been finding teaming up with other artists?Also, who’s at the top of your list for another collab that your fans might not expect?
I love collaborating with other artists, especially ones I highly respect and look up to. I’m currently five for five when it comes to features, so my record for teaming up with other artists speaks for itself!
There’s an ever-changing list when it comes to other artists I’d like to collab with, but right now, my top four are: SZA, Sampha, Summer Walker and Paramore because that new album (like every album) has got me in a chokehold I’m delighted to be in. These are also artists who I took inspiration from with this new record too. They’ve all been able to deliver consistent, incredible bodies of work, staying true to what they know works while pushing the limits that make for such classic records.
Having now ticked off your sophomore album, what advice do you think you would give to a younger Jordan starting out as a musician?
The advice I’d give to the younger me is to know that not every no means it’s the end of the line and not every opinion (usually presented as fact) that you hear given by a label, management or friend is something you have to take on when it comes to your music. I’m very protective when it comes to my artistry; that’s partly the reason why I’m still here almost eight years in. In the grand scheme, I’m still at the beginning of what I know will be a very long, successful career, so I don’t get too upset at some A&R who thinks I’m “the next Black Ed Sheeran” anymore. People want what’s best for you, understandably, but if I listened to everything anyone ever told me when it came to creating my music, I’d get nowhere because I’d be making what they hear, not what I know I feel.
It’s completely ok to be selfish and leave anyone behind who doesn’t see where you’re going, or, more importantly, is obstructing your view. What you know in your gut is ultimately the best decision-maker because it will be you and your intuition singing these songs for life, and it’ll be you and your intuition standing in the flames if it crashes and burns. The ones giving you opinions won’t be sweeping the ashes with you either once they see there is nothing left, because no one offers you their opinion without wanting something in return. So does one opinion now, really matter in the long run?
Finally, how do you want people to feel after listening to Welcome Home, Kid!?
I like to think of this album as having three parts, the first being my voyage through grief, loss and finding your way back to yourself and your persons. The second part is love: platonic love, leaning into self-love when you’ve been made to feel unlovable, romantic love that can cause more pain than pleasure and confusing feelings of love during sex. The last part is growth. Reaching different milestones and looking back at where you started. So pairing all this up with the notion that all the songs felt like they lived within separate rooms under one roof, one body, one lived-through journey. Welcome Home, Kid! is the chronicle of going back to where you started, with more empathy for how you got to where you are.
Welcome Home, Kid!, out 16th February 2024.
Photographyby Aiden Harmitt-Williams