Nashville's JORDAN Xx Drops Vulnerable Mosaic, 'Surfing: Highs N Lows'
Evan Dale // May 9, 2020
Where else could the project have begun than in the jazzy undertones of a saxophone? Disclaimer – an aptly titled introduction – feels especially necessary for JORDAN Xx whose debut project, Surfing: Highs N Lows – shadows its earliest SoundCloud predecessor by less than a year. And though he’s young and seemingly new to at least this strand of titular releases, he embodies the kind of veteran uniqueness, refinement, and embrace of his own aesthetic that these days seems to only come from the hip-hop youth of Nashville – and maybe Tennessee at large. Truly, Surfing’s introduction is a disclaimer on the range of musical and thematic discourse our protagonist belays on its subsequent eight tracks, while also owning a quick blurb of just how it is that JORDAN Xx ended up telling his story here and now.
Alright, now listen. While the whole world was waiting on perfect timing, there was a young bull all the way in Tennessee with a vision. Along the way, he was met with a lot of tension… and heartbreak. The ramifications of such trials will push a man into a great beyond, to a place where he no longer recognizes himself as he looks in the mirror.
Queue: a new chapter of Southern hip-hop bound together with depth, thoughtfulness, and encapsulating storyline but defined also by the cutting tongue of a poet whose other weapon of choice is relatability.
Everything else about JORDAN Xx’s self-made lane of hip-hop is uncurated, raw, and effortless. He stands alone in that lane, surrounded by friends of his equal craftsmanship and skill who, too, walk their own paths towards reassembling hip-hop for a more meaningful, lyrical, and dedicated future.
When JORDAN Xx released Friday Special some Friday’s ago, the emerging tone of Surfing was certainly placed into action. And for such a young artist with such a small canon, the ability to drop a four-track EP immediately en route to a debut full-length that sees only one prior inclusion speaks to the natural fluidity of his artistry.
As does the entirety of Surfing: Highs N Lows.
From its Disclaimer, the project slides straight into its titular track where JORDAN Xx wastes no time introducing the listener to each polished corner of his range. Through two minutes, he gives glimpses into his signature hypnotic, high-speed cadence, melodic choral progressions, self-supporting vocals, and ultimately a grey area between the two. For the coming 23 minutes, he dives deeper into each of them, rounding out his ability to do each with ease, and bring meaning with all. Lyricism is pillar he never pulls his weight from.
And, par for the course for Nashville and for hip-hop at large, JORDAN Xx also enlists an even wider-ranging swatch of artistry to bring different sounds to both juxtapose and join with his own. Chuck Indigo – who dropped a vibrant, wide-ranging album of his own last year with iNDigo Café – brings a sharp, cutting verse to JORDAN Xx’s mellow melodies on Illuh. Surfing’s third song plays the part of the lust-issues anthem made necessary and expected in music’s most outspoken and straight-to-the-point genre. Friend and frequent collaborator, Demo brings his own bars for Forever which opens with a brash display of lyricism from JORDAN Xx and ends with the same sort of poetic exhibition – yet so, so different – from Demo. The track takes on the identity of a street corner cypher, where the two trade hard-nosed, uncut verses overtop a low-fidelity beat. For the downtempo Gold, JORDAN Xx recruits the vocalism of Briana Boseman to harmonize with his own, setting the stage for the Surfing’s most thought-provoking track through a coming-of-age tale on self-discovery and struggles with doubt. Ryanne’s vocalism on Roses – the only track taken from Friday Special – appeals to a similar sensitivity, but in a more positivist, anthemic tone, to close out JORDAN Xx’s debut collection.
Through four collaborative tracks, Surfing’s storyline and soundscape is made even more complete than the wide-ranging JORDAN Xx could have achieved on his own.
And yet, it all comes back to JORDAN Xx.
By the end of a listen through Surfing: Highs N Lows, the 25-year-old artist is much less of a mystery than he was half-an-hour prior. The range of his creativity had been put on display through each of his releases leading up to this point, and though the album certainly explores each of them with more depth and in a space of well-rounded, shaped musicality, there was always an expectation that it was going to be as good as it is. But Surfing’s true strength exists in its vulnerability. JORDAN Xx is so new to the scene, that the personal side of his story hadn’t really been told before Surfing’s release. There was a glimpse of it in Friday Special – especially with the eventually included Roses – but there was so much unknown about the talented artist who seemingly had so much to say, and has always been poetic about how to say everything on his mind, that everyone listening just wanted to hear more.
Surfing: Highs N Lows is as open and telling as a debut gets. An emotional mosaic by an impossibly talented musician, JORDAN Xx shines a light on what’s to come, without skimping on dropping a classic.