Like the soul greats he grew up with and the grime artists he adores, Jordan Mackampa makes music to tells truths as much as entertain. His searing songs are documents of his life as an outsider, his sound a melting pot of cultures that stretch from his birthplace in the Republic of Congo to a hip hop-obsessed childhood in north London to teen years spent immersed in indie-rock in Coventry.
From his breakthrough in 2017 with the protest song "Battlecry" to this autumn’s acclaimed "What Am I", hailed a modern take on Marvin Gaye’s "What’s Going On", Jordan’s powerful message music has grown rapidly in scope and scale, soaking up new influences and becoming more complex.
A debut album due in March, produced by Dani Castelar, best known for his work with Paolo Nutini, sees Jordan scaling fresh heights, adding sumptuous strings, gospel backing vocals and grime influences on his contemporary soul fused with his Congolese roots.
“You’ll hear the Congolese influence across the album,” says Jordan. “It’s there in the rhythms, in the swing and syncopation that ties the tracks together. It’s a sound I’ve heard at home for as long as I can remember.
Featuring Nutini’s regular string players and a bevvy of brilliant backing vocalists, the album addresses subjects including Jordan’s upbringing, his struggles with his faith and, on Foreigner, a ballad that builds in to an epic immigration anthem, the racism he faced on moving to Britain from the war-torn Republic of Congo at the age of one, leaving his father and six half-siblings behind.
“My whole life I’ve never felt like I fitted in,” says Jordan. “Growing there were very few black families. I didn’t look like anyone else. I wasn’t allowed to play with the other kids.
“At school no one understood me because French was my first language. I learnt English very quickly, but if I spoke in English at home, my mum would tell me that I was losing touch with my culture. I felt torn between two worlds.”