It all started in January 2016, when Jorja Smith uploaded “Blue Lights” to Soundcloud, her self-released debut single. Since the age of 16, she’d been writing stories through music. Stories of observation, love, and anger. The stories that are unfolding around us all everyday, but that most of us are too distracted to notice. “Blue Lights” was one of those.

Written after watching Dizzee Rascal music videos while taking a break from her A-Level dissertation (titled: “Is Postcolonialism Still Present in Grime Music”) the song was inspired by the hostile situations innocent young black men were facing every day, not just in her local town of Walsall but around the world. The song blew up, earning the praise of Skrillex and Stormzy, before it was eventually included on Drake’s OVO radio show.

To Jorja, the most important thing in music is lyrics. She was always fascinated by the way Nas looked at the world and how Amy Winehouse managed to speak truth from the deepest recesses of her heart. “I’ve got little cousins who look up to me,” smiles Jorja Smith. “I grew up listening to honest artists like Amy, not rude or vulgar stuff. I want to be that honest figure for people.”

In 2017 she has completed a US headline tour, joined Bruno Mars on his US tour, and has finished writing her debut album. Featuring songs mostly written between the ages of 16-18, it’s a youthful exploration of love and anger, but also an album about self-discovery. She won’t be putting it out until 2018, though. Why? “Because I’m not in a rush. I’ve never rushed anything in my life.” After all, she’s still entirely independent, controlling every part of her artistic identity, from music video to artwork to release schedules.

“Also, I like 2018, because what does 2 plus 0 plus 1 plus 8 equal?” she says. “Eleven. Which is my favourite number in the world. So, I think it’s meant to be.”

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