An often overlooked but nonetheless powerful sign of an accomplished musician is the point at which, upon listening to a track or entire body of work, we struggle to pin down the age, place, and time of the artist behind it. With a fistful of highly praised releases under his belt and a soulful, jazz and hip-hop driven sound that recalls his predecessors The Roots and peers The Internet, Nick Hakim and Hiatus Kaiyote, 26 year-old multi-instrumentalist, vocalist and producer Jordan Rakei is a rare talent whose artistry transcends the confines of age.
Jordan was originally born in the quiet town of Hamilton, New Zealand but moved to Brisbane, Australia at the age of three. Though he spent the majority of his life in Australia, he identifies as a New Zealander and attributes the country’s music - along with classic pop and R&B from the US - as a major influence in his own sound. His mother (New Zealand born) and father, a Pacific Islander hailing from the Cook Islands, played an important role in shaping Jordan’s musical DNA, often playing vintage American soul, Frank Zappa, and Pink Floyd in their family home when Jordan was a child. Such exposure led him to the piano and later to beat-making, two elements that would become touchstones for his career as a producer, songwriter and instrumentalist.
Aged 18, Jordan self-released his debut EP “Franklin’s Room” in 2013 via Bandcamp. Getting his start as a “bedroom producer”, he spent most of his days fine-tuning his production and songwriting skills but quickly outgrew the humble moniker as he began to establish himself as a diverse artist able to effortlessly blend soul, jazz and hip-hop. The more time he spent in Brisbane, however, the more he found himself “stuck in a bubble”, burrowing deeper into his natural lean toward introversion and struggling to connect with others socially. It wasn’t until the release of “Groove Curse”, the 2014 EP that garnered strong support from North America and Europe, that Jordan felt the pull away from Brisbane and decided to make the 10,000 mile journey to London.
With his feet on the ground in London - a city three times smaller in size than Brisbane but far more congested in population - Jordan had no choice but to throw himself into London’s music scene and he made efforts to connect with everyone he could. “I had no idea what I was getting myself into”, he explains. “When I moved to London I had to deal with my introversion through ‘exposure therapy’. Everyday I met new people for a whole year. I met every producer, songwriter, and musician I could. You have to improve as a person to improve as an artist”.
Serendipitously, Jordan’s introversion and social exposure was the kindling that resulted in his 2016 release “Cloak”, the debut album that shifted his entire songwriting and musical approach, stripped back his tendencies to keep others out of reach from his creative process, and saw him tour the record across sold out venues in Europe, the UK, Asia, Australia, and dates at Pitchfork Paris and Annie Mac’s AMP.
Already having furnished a name for himself collaborating with Taku, Tom Misch, FKJ, and lending vocals on ‘Masterpiece’, from Disclosure’s 2015 album “Caracal”, Jordan’s new perception of himself and his music caught the attention of an even wider peer audience. He became close with many of the figures in the South London scene including Bradley Zero, founder of the dance label and party Rhythm Section, who encouraged him to try his hand at a collection of dancefloor driven tunes. These tracks became the EP “Joy, Ease, Lightness”, released by the label in late 2016 under the alias Dan Kye and which received support from the likes of Bonobo, Mary Anne Hobbs, Gilles Peterson, Mixmag and more.
Since releasing his 2017 second album, ‘Wallflower’, Rakei has scaled up his ambitions, and is more confident in the way he goes about achieving them. Acclaimed by the the likes of The FADER, Evening Standard and Mixmag, he has clocked up over 100m Spotify streams, been voted as the #2 Album of the Year at Gilles Peterson’s Worldwide Awards, had four singles included on the BBC 6 Music playlist, and performed live at BBC’s legendary Maida Vale studios with Moses Boyd, Joe Armon-Jones, Oscar Jerome and Binker Golding for BBC 1Xtra, as well as in session for Lauren Laverne, Gilles Peterson and Cerys Matthews on 6 Music, plus NPR, KCRW MBE, COLORS Berlin and Boiler Room. He’s performed at iconic venues and festivals, including Glastonbury, Pitchfork Avant-Garde Block Party, SXSW, Pukkelpop, BBC Biggest Weekend 2018, and Alexandra Palace (supporting Bonobo and appearing as a guest vocalist during his performance), played two sold out nights at Ronnie Scott’s, a DJ set at Fabric (under his Dan Kye alias) and sold out US and Australian headline tours.
On 26th February 2019, back from an extended studio hibernation, Jordan Rakei released new single ‘Mind’s Eye’. It’s his first solo material since 2018’s ‘Wildfire’ single and the first new music in what promises to be a busy 2019. It follows a string of live and studio collaborations with his friends Tom Misch, Alfa Mist and Barney Artist (aka the Are We Live collective); Loyle Carner (Jordan wrote and produced recent single ‘Ottolenghi’); Richard Spaven (Flying Lotus, Jose James, Mala); and Rosie Lowe. Jordan will also play a handful of intimate European and US headline shows in May and June including London’s EartH.
Photo Credit: Ellis Scott