Jordan Mackampa starts our interview with a crisp and clear declaration: “I’m gonna be very candid and be very honest. With this second record, I just stopped giving a fuck”. This is a statement very fitting to even our little Zoom setup, with his camera being decidedly turned off for the entire duration of the interview. But even more telling of the implied given fucks that shaped his first album. Mackampa tells me that for his first record, Foreigner, he felt like having to satisfy any- and everyone listening to his music. It felt like “forcing these shared experiences” in order for an audience to relate to his songs and stories. To “make it feel as though I wasn’t the only one going through something because of whatever it is I was experiencing; I wanted to see if I believed in it that way”.

Cut to now, where every aspect and detail of this second album is tailored to their exact vision. Describing some of the behind-the-scenes, Mackampa tells me how they would enter each recording session: “I walked into all of these sessions with a manifesto that was 33 pages long of what this record was gonna look like, sound like, the music videos, the song titles, the aspirations behind every individual song of the record, what the campaign’s gonna look like… I walked in knowing exactly what I wanted.”

A Different Lens

This confidence in his work, and being, didn’t fall from the skies. Jordan Mackampa worked on Foreigner when he was in his early 20s. Welcome Home, Kid! on the other hand was created by an almost 30-year-old who has done a lot more “of world-seeing, -understanding in between those two records”. Narratively, Welcome Home, Kid! tells stories from Mackampa’s living experiences, consciously told from an ‘I’ perspective:

Photo by Aidan Harmitt Williams

“It wouldn’t have made that much sense to use such inclusive language when talking about myself and my own experiences. Changing it into ‘I did this’, ‘I was here’, ‘I experienced this’ and ‘this is how myself felt through those things’ was going to get me the same shared ‘we’ experiences that I spoke about in the past but through a different lens. […] I realized some of my favorite songs and some of my favorite artists, what they do so well is write for them and write for themselves and then just let the audience relate to what they wrote if they want to. They give them that choice.”

Mackampa approached the songwriting for this album thusly with a heightened level of introspection. Like that, he managed to stay true to himself and not try to cater to any possible listener. He focused on his own experiences as a Black, queer, non-binary person, growing up in Great Britain. When asked whether or not it feels like a possible advocate role, with Black and queer being one of the main terms used to describe his album, he answered:

“I always existed in that space. It doesn’t feel like I’m advocating for it because I always just existed as me, as those things. As a person that’s non-binary, a person that’s queer, a person that’s Black. It’s always just been so intertwined into my DNA. I couldn’t imagine being anything else. […] I feel like through the making of this album I’ve only gained a stronger sense of identity in those things because at least now they are being explored musically, more so than I have done so in the past.”

Inhale & Exhale

This heightened sense of identity plus a change of perspective are some of the aspects that allowed Jordan Mackampa to focus more on the grand scale of things. Another factor aiding them in that process was finding their sonic route for the record: It was such a weight lifted off my shoulders the minute I knew what kind of direction this was taking. […] I wanted to make sure that I honored this gut instinctual feeling that I had, to follow this road and really just see where this is going”.  The musical influences of Welcome Home, Kid! pay very much homage to Black musical traditions:

“This album for me is very much a Black sounding album in terms of music with elements of R’n’B, for sure, hip-hop, rap. There’s funk in there, there’s gospel in there. It’s just a collection of music that I have grown up listening to for my entire existence I couldn’t imagine not being influenced by when I made this record.”

The producing team behind the scenes, namely The Orphanage and Blake Strauss, enhanced Mackampa’s vision. The artist explains: “They [The Orphanage’s] have a great understanding of production and understanding what a song needs to be good. That for me was a super, super deal-making this record. Blake just having his finishing touches over songs like “I Know” and “I Found My Home in You” especially. […] I think the three of them, The Orphanage and Blake, were very happy to let me lead in a lot of the directions the songs would go in because of how much energy I was putting into making these songs and how important this record was going to be for me.”

Jordan Mackampa’s list of artists that inspired them in the making of this record ranges from Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye, Al Green, Teddy Pendergrass to Whitney Houston, Donna Summers, to even more new age R’n’B acts like Miguel, Frank Ocean, Ari Lennox, Jazmine Sullivan, and rappers like Wu-tang Clan and Tyler the Creator, or Smino.

“I’ve just taken influence from so many Black artists that I’ve been listening to for my entire life that I’m just trying to not necessarily pay my respect but make my stamp on the music that they created so well for so long and just be like ‘Yeah, this is something that I feel very comfortable to do for as long as I have air in my lungs.’”

A House of Memories

The before-mentioned manifesto that shaped the journey of Welcome Home, Kid! also included a clear concept for the album visuals. Jordan Mackampa describes to me how they imagined a neighborhood where each house represents a different song. “I just envisioned a home or a neighborhood or a cul-de-sac, a big house representing different phases of my life. I hoped that people would see these different houses and understand that each house represents one of the songs. Each house represents a different story.” This initial metaphor however bugged them. It again felt like they were telling other people’s stories with their voice. So instead, the artist condensed the idea into one house with each room representing a different story and song.

Album Cover “Welcome Home, Kid!”

This change allowed the whole narrative to flow that much more smoothly. The album cover already sets the tone. Mackampa is re-entering home or maybe even awaiting to enter it with you, the listener, and the audience. Even the detail of a closed or open door was much food for thought for Mackampa: “I feel like it [the album cover] means very different things to an audience. With the door open and the title ‘Welcome Home, Kid’ you’re either letting people into your home, letting them see you, the real you, for all that you have and put you in the center of your songs. With the door closed you’re guarding some of yourself. I didn’t want that for myself.”

“I wanted this album to feel like I’ve invited you for dinner. Each of the rooms of the house represent different parts of my life and different songs.”

Room Tour

The allegory of a home as a holder of memories beautifully encapsulates the core themes Jordan Mackampa conveys with these songs. For example, “Proud of You” is a living room song for Mackampa. In the living room, the center of the home, happy memories of watching TV together co-exist with memories of discussions and fights. The song celebrates the act of reaching back into the past, acknowledging hardship, and overcoming it in order to enjoy the present. “Proud of You” perfectly envelopes these mixed memories and allows us to embrace the future. “April Fools” has an almost hypnotic beat, smooth melodies, and lyrics filled with desire, doubt, anxiety, and longing. The song is classified as a bedroom song by Mackampa. The joyous and celebratory “Step by Step” is a kitchen banger. And the music video catches the sentiment of family and friends coming together and enjoying each other’s company.

Personal highlights include “Mary” with its stripped-down bareness of someone just laying out their last biddings and prayers of getting back together with that person who has given them so many chances before but maybe now won’t turn a blind eye again. “Black and Blue (PTSD)” is giving me Miguel and Lucky Daye, with all their harmonies, complex beats and runs, just all these good, good neo-soul vibes in their most concentrated form.

Jordan Mackampa returned with a big bang. Welcome Home, Kid! shines with its clear sonic landscape and accompanying visuals. It is an album that invites everyone to listen, watch, and enjoy this journey of self-acceptance, self-confidence, and Black joy.

Welcome Home, Kid! is out now via AWAL Recordings. Listen to it on Spotify, Apple Music, or Tidal