Jordan Rakei On The Loop and Abbey Road


We’re always in the process of relearning the same lessons. For most of us, growing up is about unpacking, unlearning, then re-learning a set of repeated themes. And through each stage of our life, we view them differently and understand them more clearly. We might even think we’re done. Checked healing off the list and moved on — until, as we inevitably change, yet another version of these challenges confronts us. It might seem Sisyphian, but in Jordan Rakei’s latest release, The Loop, it’s satisfying, too.

For Rakei, The Loop is largely about parenting — not just his young son, but also understanding his parents, his own role as a parent, and parenting his inner child. The latter, tending to that tender child inside of you, is not new in his work. In previous albums like Wallflower, Origin, and What We Call Life, he has approached versions of this theme in a variety of contexts. But now, as a parent himself, Rakei is reflecting on his own boyhood with fresh eyes with The Loop.

Context, for an artist like Rakei, is what makes an album a cohesive project. He wants you to listen to it from top to bottom — which is why, for the most part — the singles appear at the top of the album. The album moves through styles and moods with the dexterity of an artist as prolific as Rakei, but still feels refreshingly novel, even to devoted fans.

His sound, honed through years as a songwriter and producer on his own projects and in collaborations, is as distinct and daring as ever. From groovy hooks to R&B-inspired tracks, The Loop is both a continuation and a return to form — both sonically and lyrically. We hear echoes of the artist’s younger self as he pulls from the same influences that inspired his first EPs. But this time with the mastery he’s gained in the years between.

The titular “Loop”, then, seems to be about reflection and recognition. It’s a nod to our past and present selves. It’s Rakei’s own journey back to himself through others. In some ways, this is a love album. Indeed, the lead single “Flowers” is about love. But the emotion transcends interpersonal and romantic relationships to reflections on love for each other, for our communities, and for ourselves. It’s the love for a child — the one you used to be and the ones we’re all leaving this world to.

But don’t think it’s hokey or saccharine. If The Loop is a mirror, Rakei is holding it up to the world. “We’re all just trying to do our best,” he tells me. Part of that is accepting the darker, more vulnerable parts of ourselves and others. The hopeful and uplifting moments are grounded by heavier ruminations on pain, trauma, fear, and doubt. Yet, these meditative moments feel just as earned as the more upbeat segments. The Loop is out in the world but Rakei has so much more coming this year. He was recently appointed the inaugural ‘Artist in Residence’ at the legendary Abbey Road Studios. This first-of-its-kind appointment promises to birth thrilling, groundbreaking collaborations.

Popdust spoke to Jordan Rakei about The Loop, Abbey Road, and his upcoming tour.

POPDUST: What are you most excited for people to hear in this album?

Jordan Rakei: I’m looking forward to it being out as a whole. When you have an album campaign, you have to release singles and build tension, but I think the album really is more of a full body of work. Sometimes singles need context, you know? For example, on the album, there are four quite heavy vibey songs in a row, and then it slows down. But if you were just to release that slower song by itself, it doesn’t quite fit in the grand scheme of things. So there was a lot of thought put into the tracklisting. And the feeling of the whole thing. So I just look forward to people hearing it as a whole record and the whole world I’ve tried to create. Because I’m really proud of the different places it goes and the vibes throughout.

POPDUST: The sequencing definitely feels intentional. How do you decide what goes on the album, and how do you logistically go about putting together a tracklist?

Jordan Rakei: I wanted to start with “Flowers.” And I wanted to end with the final track. And then I was thinking, okay, if I’m starting with that energy, I need to keep that energy for a little bit. It was a little bit of an energy thing, in terms of the sound. But it’s also a narrative thing. It starts off a bit more fun and it ends more on contemplation at the end. But I like to end on a, not somber, but introspective feeling. A lot of my albums have actually done that. Maybe cynically, naturally, a label pushes for that anyway, because people never make it to the end of an album. [Laughs] So they want the fun ones at the top. But it was a conscious decision. They felt better down there at the bottom. After a bit of breathing room.

POPDUST: We’re primed before we get to those contemplative tracks.

Jordan Rakei: Yeah. And again, that’s all about the context as well. If people started straightaway and they heard a track like “Everything, Everything,” they’d be like, Oh, this is quite heavy. It’s nice to hear it after a bit of fun earlier on. Definitely.

POPDUST: Sonically, what you were thinking about while making this album?

Jordan Rakei: So the story is about parenthood, or the whole entity of parenthood for me. For example, my relationship with my parents, my relationship with my new baby and being a parent, and then also parenting my inner child. Because that’s something I feel like we need to do more as a society — that little child gets neglected a lot. And when I became a parent, there was a lot of reflection on Jordan, the child, needing some nurturing and some love. And I was writing songs, for example, about my child, and I was thinking, wow, even me as a child didn’t get to go through that, or, or feel that security or anything like that. So it was a commentary on all those different elements of parenthood: love, joy, reflection, traumatic stuff. And it covers the whole scope of parenthood.

POPDUST: And you’ve said that this is the album that feels the most personal to you.

Jordan Rakei: Yeah, definitely. Because obviously, having a child, you have some new feelings. But it was more of an active choice to sit down at the piano, and not hide behind any metaphors anymore, or no production tricks. It was like, what do I, what do I want to say, right now, at this time of my life? What am I adding? What am I bringing to the world? Because I consider myself mid-career now. And I’ve said lots of things about lots of different things. So I was like, what do I really feel honest and raw about? And so I started just writing journals. No rhythm. Just poetry. No melodies. And then from there, I was seeing this theme of reflecting on being a parent. I was thinking a lot about my parents and their own lives with their parents. And I was like, God, we’re just, we’re all just struggling here. We’re all on this journey. We’re all just trying to do our best.

POPDUST: You mentioned parenting your inner child. Your album Wallflower (2017) approaches that theme, too. How have you evolved this and other themes you’ve been iterating on?

Jordan Rakei: I actually had guilt writing this album. I was like, it’s crazy. I wrote a whole album about [my inner child]. And then it’s been five years, and I’ve neglected that child again because I’m on this mission of success. You forget to sit and sit there and meditate and give that little child some love. And so it was part of that guilt as well. My therapist did an exercise of me sitting across from the room from myself, with that little boy, and saying, what would you say? How would you make them feel safe? That classic exercise. And I found it really hard. I found it actually really annoying.

I’m so guarded, even in front of myself. I always say, there’s an element of ourselves that we always perform, even to our loved ones. We’re trying to be the best version of ourselves, but it’s even hard to be real to yourself. But I thought that means it’s probably something good that I’m diving deep into that sort of thing.

POPDUST: How do you balance those personal revelations with universal themes in your lyrics? And when choosing what makes it onto the album?

Jordan Rakei: Whenever I felt resistance to something being too vulnerable, I actually leaned into it more because that means it’s going deeper. The world hasn’t seen that side of me yet. There are fewer metaphors in the new album, it’s more direct. Which is a challenge because I find that so hard to do as a songwriter. Less trickery, just straight up. “I love you,” or something like that — I find it either cheesy or not, not that exciting. But I learned a lot from that really just trying to write what I thought and just saying how I felt.

POPDUST: That also comes through sonically because this album is more orchestral and choral. It feels more stripped back, in a way. Was that on purpose?

Jordan Rakei: Yes, the same thing. I wanted to go back to the human side of it. I was trying to capture that vulnerability. Natural human timing or, sometimes I miss a bit of a pitch on a vocal. And in the past, I used to be like, oh, I need to do that again. But I was really just trying to embrace the imperfections. I was like, I want to write some songs, get in a room with lots of good musicians and just play them, and then see what happens.

POPDUST: Sonically, you’ve also tapped into some of your earlier influences. Did that younger version of yourself shape the sound of this album?

Jordan Rakei: In the last few years, even with my last album, my mindset was very analytical. And I lost a bit of that joy and love I used to have with music when I was a teenager. Your favorite artists come from that 15 to 24 age range. Whoever you were listening to then, they’re still your favorite artist. And that EP or album is still your favorite album from them. And I’m the same. I loved Stevie Wonder when I was 17 and I still love him so much. And basically, I was just trying to capture the love again. So I literally went back and listened to all the music I used to when I walked to high school – A Tribe Called Quest, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, even R&B. And I listened to lots of Jill Scott, Angie Stone. Musiq Soulchild. And I didn’t judge any of it. With this new album, I was like, whatever happens is part of me.

POPDUST: You have a ton of exciting stuff coming up. Abbey Road, Glasto, a tour, and all the stuff that you’re working on now. What are you most excited about?

Jordan Rakei: The Abbey Road thing is crazy. Because I mean, I was the DIY producer in my bedroom for basically most of my career. From the age of 11 basically all the way up to Wallflower. And to be now the first — it’s not only the fact that Abbey Road even want to work with me, but that I’m the first artist they’ve chosen — I still have a bit of impostor syndrome about it. Because I’m like you can choose anyone in the world — like Stevie Wonder, Herbie Hancock, some legends. So it really is one of the pinnacles of my career because I’m more of a studio person as a songwriter. It’s like my safe space. So I’m looking forward to collaborating loads, maybe writing more music, sampling people, working with up-and-coming artists. I just want to use it as a massive hub to do anything, really. And just have fun again, trying to embrace that young Jordan that was a bit more fearless. It’s a pretty crazy year up ahead on just the Abbey Road front alone, but all the shows coming up all around the world is just super exciting.

POPDUST: Speaking of collaborations, they don’t often appear on the albums themselves but I’m very interested in how those come about. How do you find something synergistic? And how do you balance your sound and theirs?

Jordan Rakei: My agreeable nature hurts me sometimes but in music, it really helps because I’m so adaptable. To a rapper, a singer, or whoever wants to work with me, when they want to go a certain direction. Just naturally my sound comes through, but I like putting myself in their world and thinking, what’s my sound in this world? That’s the way I approach it. But they come really naturally — usually just through friends and word of mouth. I’ve just been really lucky to have great collabs over the years. In terms of my own music, I’ve only got X amount of verses on the album. I’m always like, I want to be singing my own verses. I’m just selfish.

See Jordan Rakei perform The Loop live on tour on one of his International tour dates — with a new North American leg just announced!


November 1—Washington, DC—Lincoln Theatre

November 2—Brooklyn, NY—Warsaw

November 3—Boston, MA—Brighton Music Hall

November 5—Montreal, QC—Le Studio TD

November 6—Toronto, ON—The Opera House

November 9—Los Angeles, CA—The Fonda Theatre

November 10—San Francisco, CA— The Fillmore


September 3—Porto—M.Ou.Co
September 4—Madrid—Lula
September 5—Barcelona—Razzmatazz 2
September 7—Milan—Magazzini Generali
September 8— Munich—Muffathalle
September 10— Vienna—Arena
September 11— Berlin—Huxleys
September 12—Hamburg—Ballsaal
September 14— Stockholm—Kägelbanan
September 15—Oslo—Rockefeller
September 16—Copenhagen—Vega
September 18—Amsterdam—Paradiso
September 19—Amsterdam—Paradiso (SOLD OUT)
September 20—Amsterdam—Paradiso (SOLD OUT)
September 22—Brussels —AB
September 23—Cologne—Stadthalle
September 24—Paris—Élysée Monmartre
September 26—Manchester—Albert Hall
September 27—Bristol—Bristol Beacon
October 1—London—Royal Albert Hall (SOLD OUT)
October 4—London—Royal Albert Hall

Stream The Loop wherever you listen to music!

Originally Posted Here

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