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The New Locals: Jordan Dennis

The Melbourne rapper talks his debut EP, putting himself out there as a solo act, and why lyricism is still important today. 

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Jordan Dennis has been making a name for himself in the Australian rap scene for a minute now, just not by himself. Listening to tracks like Billy Davis’s ‘Golden’, you’ll hear the Melbourne rapper burst onto the song, his passionate wordplay enhancing Billy’s keyboard wizardry. He also contributed standout verses on songs like ‘Headspace’ and is a core member of Billy’s band the Good Lords. But now, Jordan’s ready for a solo run.

Jordan recently dropped ‘Glide Freestyle’, an energetic offering that features a trap beat and 808s on the side. It serves as a precursor to the main course; his debut EP HDMI1, which dropped today. It’s a change in style from the smoothness he displayed on his first single ‘Crumbs’, but it shows that no matter what genres Jordan explores, he’s always eating the track up. To learn more about this hunger, I connected with Jordan via email to talk about the new EP, putting himself out there as a solo act, and why lyricism is still important today. 

Hey Jordan. The new EP is on the horizon. How are you feeling?
I’m feeling a little nervous but overall really excited for this project to finally be out there in the world for everybody to hear and hopefully enjoy! My big bro Jujo Beats and I have put in a lot of hard work into this, as well as many others along the way. It’s been a long time coming for this project to drop so I’m super excited.

This is your debut EP. How does it feel putting yourself out there as a solo act?
I mean it’s definitely a little daunting, but that’s purely because ‘Crumbs’ has gotten an overwhelming amount of love, and this project is very different sonically. So I’m hoping people receive it well. In terms of being out there as a solo act though, that was always my intention, so I’m not stressed about that. 

Can you tell us about yourself and how you got into making music?
I’ve always been the creative type, but art and design was more my field of expertise. My love and appreciation for music has always been there thanks to my dad, who introduced me to hip-hop and R&B. But it was never something I thought to pursue. My best friend Thatkidmaz and I used to freestyle at lunch time during high school, but it wasn’t until after we finished year 12 that him and my cousin Emmanuel told me that I might actually be able to do this music thing for real. So I decided to work on my craft more, and eventually fell in love with it. I never used to share my writing with anyone except those two primarily, but my cousin Josh, who drums for Billy Davis and Kaiit, helped me with some pointers, and pretty much got me started with Billy Davis. It’s all kept going from there. 

You seem to have a soulful style. Where did your love of that sound come from?
I think it came from growing up in church, and then hearing works of art like Kendrick’s To Pimp A Butterfly. Also working with Billy and the Good Lords crew exposed me to a lot of artists I had never heard of before, and I really liked the sound that they were dishing out. But I think the biggest shift came when my other close friends put me onto Smino. His album Blkswn meshed soulful melodies and intricate flows like I’d never heard before. That changed the game for me.

Your new track ‘Glide Freestyle’ is pretty different to your earlier work. It’s lyrics-heavy and heart pumping. How did that song come together?
Yeah so ‘Glide’ is definitely a good window into what this EP is going to be like. It  definitely represents me more as an artist, as it communicates the sound I always wanted to put out. It all came together at a wonderful place we like to call The Holiday Haven, and my guy Jujo just started cooking up this beat while I was taking a break, shooting some hoops. I came back inside like “DAMN WHAT IS THIS?” I said “Bro you need to let me hit this beat,” and he said, “Be my guest.” Just under a couple hours later we finished the track.

A lot of people talk about how lyrics have been placed on the backburner in modern rap. But if you look at acts like J.I.D and Earthgang, it seems like it’ll always be valued. Why is lyricism important to you?
I’m so glad that you put J.I.D and Earthgang in this because they’re a few of my favorite artists. I don’t think it will or should ever leave because it’s such an integral part of what makes the craft great, as well as what makes someone great at the craft. Mick Jenkins is criminally underrated, and in my opinion, one of the best lyricists out right now. When I listen to flows and wordplay, and I catch on to punchlines that make me go “Wow, that excites me! That inspires me!” Or better yet, storytelling from legends like J. Cole, that’s untouchable to me. You have to be meticulous in the words you choose, because that’s what you’re ultimately conveying to your audience. And whether it’s a bop or it’s deep, you’ve still gotta think of the picture you’re trying to paint.  That’s why lyricism is so important because, words have so much power, and that’s the type of stuff that sticks with people.

What does the title HDMI1 represent?
The title for the EP was inspired by all the tracks. When I finished all these tracks, I never intended for them to be a project. But after listening to them, and hearing how they flowed together, I realised how I had gone about choosing each song topic in a similar way. And that was by picking characters and people that you only really see on TV. Analyzing how a beat made me feel, and what character or person I would place over that beat as a personal. Everybody had people they look up to that they can either relate to or want to try and emulate, and each of these tracks encompasses those components for me in one way or another. At the end of the project we get the song ‘Jan 29th’ and it’s purely me with the mask off. I feel a lot of people will be able to relate to that.

Lastly, what’s next for Jordan Dennis?
I’m just going to keep working on music. We have a few tracks in the vault right now, as well as a couple feature tracks I did coming out later this year. Denzel Maz and I have also been working with my DJ/producer Swerv on some new heat so stay ready for that. I’m on my way to Singapore next week for Music Matters, and we got the HDMI1 EP launch x Soulection party hosted by The Operatives happening, so come through for that on October 12. We’re going to be doing a set for Melbourne Music Week, but we’ll keep you posted with that all! 

Jordan Dennis’s debut EP ‘HDMI1’ is out now. Follow him here for more.  

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