From the second you press play on a Majid Jordan song, you’re transported into another world. Whether your initial experience was, like many, their appearance on Drake’s ‘Hold On, We’re Going Home’, or even before that under their former alias Good People, that first taste whisks you away and drops you into the imaginations of Majid Al Maskati and Jordan Ullman. Neon lights, fast cars and romance, a world that owes as much to the tech-noir and science fiction of the 80’s as it does to cutting edge trends and contemporary pop culture: with Majid Jordan in your headphones, something as mundane as walking to the grocery store becomes a cinematic adventure.
The duo are currently at home in Toronto where they’re taking some time to catch up with friends. This rare break lands between the release of their second album, ‘The Space Between’, and its accompanying world tour, which kicks off in January in Montreal, and doesn’t conclude until they return for a homecoming show in April. “We’re enjoying life,” says Jordan. “We’re living in the actual present.” Even so, as they allow themselves some time to soak in their hometown, the duo are constantly awash with inspiration. “Once [the album] is out you have something else to focus on, to start dreaming of,” says Majid. “So right now that’s what our conversations have been about. There’s really no breathing time. We’re enjoying the time we have right now and it’s like ‘OK, next we have these live shows coming up.’ [Thinking about] how to tie everything together.”
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We’re enjoying life... We’re living in the actual present.
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27-year-old Majid and 24-year-old Jordan first met in 2011, when the former was celebrating his 21st birthday at popular Toronto nightlife spot, the Beaconsfield, and an underage Jordan tagged along with his older cousin. After discovering a mutual passion for music - Majid as a vocalist, and Jordan a producer - they’d begin experimenting together, finding their unique blend of R&B, pop, house and film score in college dorm rooms at the University Of Toronto. Three weeks after the end of term, before Majid was scheduled to return home to Bahrain for the Summer, the pair holed up in Jordan’s parents house, where they completed their debut EP ‘afterhours’.
The eight track set existed only 24 hours on SoundCloud before the pair were contacted by Noah ’40’ Shebib, the producer behind Drake and co-founder of his OVO Sound label. While the pair were unfamiliar with 40 at the time, he’s gone on to make a huge impact on both of them since; not only for signing them, but also as a mentor. “[He’s taught us that] what you give in this world is what you get back,” says Majid. “He’s so generous with his time, experience, and knowledge, that I hope to be able to do that for one person in my life, let alone a group of people [as 40 has].” Within a year of signing with OVO Sound in 2013, Majid Jordan had put their stamp on the label’s sonics, co-writing and guesting on Drake’s triple-platinum hit ‘Hold On, We’re Going Home’, as well as assisting him in writing ‘Mine’ for Beyoncé’s self-titled album.
Their third release on the label, following acclaimed EP ‘A Place Like This’ and a self-titled debut album, ‘The Space Between’ continues to build upon their unique brand of late night jams. Tracks like ‘What You Do to Me’ leave you thinking that maybe love really can save the world, while the infectious rhythm of ‘Body Talk’ is perfectly crafted for dance floor flirtation. Sex is often at the centre of the songs, but without the vulgarity that’s become commonplace amongst their peers.
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Unfazed by anything that’s going on around them, Majid Jordan’s creative process is based entirely around pleasing their own tastes, and they seem genuinely appreciative whenever it’s mentioned that their songs have found a place in other people’s lives. Even after releasing a second full-length body of work on a major label, their ambitions remain humble. “There’s always a cool moment when people are listening to music and then they meet someone else who [they don’t realise] has also heard the same music. They put it on and the other person is like ‘Oh my God. That song! You know that song?’” describes Majid. “I hope that moment happens for some people.”
Majid Jordan’s music is communal. You can play it in your headphones as you go about your daily business, and it becomes the soundtrack to your life. But you’re also going to want to pass it along and share it with those who you deem like-minded, to bring them closer and express your commonality. It’s viral, not in the sense of being a here-today-gone-tomorrow online success, but because it lives and breathes, finding its way to the right listeners over time, without having to exploit Internet trends.
This is partly thanks to the openness of the writing: nothing feels too specific to apply to your own life narrative, and Majid Jordan are both happy for their music to be interpreted in whatever way best suits the listeners needs. “[When a song is released] I think it becomes elevated,” says Jordan. “It’s a great moment, as an artist, to see it actually become something with a real title, something that people can listen to on the road. That change is amazing.”
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The listeners and fans, they take those songs and give new life to them.
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I tell the pair that my wife and I had ‘Learn From Each Other’, from their first album, played during our wedding ceremony last summer. We chose the song for the celebration of mutual growth in the chorus, although the verses have Majid singing in past tense to a lover that’s since left him. “I think that’s how [songs] should be,” agrees Majid. “The fact that you played that song at your wedding - when we made that song we weren’t thinking that would be something that could happen. It’s amazing that these moments are happening. We’re happy to keep working on the music ourselves and seeing what life these songs can take on. The listeners and fans, they take those songs and give new life to them.”
This evolution - occurring as the song is exchanged between creator and consumer - is at the crux of the new album. “That’s what I think ‘The Space Between’ is, even just as a title,” says Majid. “It’s more about the feeling that the song gives you, than the exact direction that it’s pointing in.”
Understandably it can be difficult for a creative to share their work with the public, leaving it vulnerable for evaluation and interpretation. However, with the release of ‘The Space Between’ neither Majid nor Jordan suffered any reservations. “We were really ready with this album,” says Jordan. “We’re not sitting here like, ‘Aah, I wish I’d added this to ‘Gave Your Love Away’’ or ‘I wish I’d changed this on ‘OG Heartthrob.’’ I haven’t had one of those feelings, and when you walk away from a project [like that] it’s very rare.”
Majid believes that this is down to the fact that the creation process was somewhat intuitive, and many of the songs still sound very similar to the demos formed in their initial sessions. “Every song and every project is different,” he clarifies. “Sometimes you have this one idea but you’re just not satisfied with the way it comes out, those ideas sit for longer. It’s good to take time on certain things, because they can take experience and life in order to materialise.”
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Success is greatest when it’s shared, that’s the truth.
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This patience, and a deep understanding of time’s effect on art, feels key to Majid Jordan’s work and success. Their goal is to create something timeless and original, but equally accessible and universal. It’s no mean feat - a balancing act of subtleties that can’t be achieved in a hurry. “I think that’s something that develops over time with the more music we create,” offers Majid. “It’s something we’re moving towards every day. It’s not something that you can wake up with. It takes time, and we’re willing to put in that time to learn.”
Rather than looking to market trends and worrying about keeping up with their peers, Majid Jordan are focussed on longevity when they step into the studio. Their focus is on how their creations will fare a decade from release, rather than concerning themselves with first week sales figures. “In ten years, how is that moment going to translate?” Majid asks out loud, before answering himself: “It’s almost like we’re trapping it in this capsule. I think that’s amazing, and I love that it’s a moment in time for both of us, that we have together. Success is greatest when it’s shared, that’s the truth.” “That’s when you feel what it is,” Jordan affirms, as our conversation concludes. “Success is different for everybody, and I feel like for Maj and I, we’ve just really enjoyed watching the world listen for the first time. That’s success to us.”
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Words: Grant Brydon
Photography: Norman Wong
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