At only 20-years-old, Jorja Smith has gone from a high school student and part-time Starbucks barista to releasing tracks on Spotify that garner millions of listens in only a couple of days. Smith hails from Walsall, West Midlands, UK where she met her manager at the age of 15. Despite her youth, she has already worked with some of the most prominent names in the R&B/Hip-Hop such as producer Black Coffee. She was even featured on two tracks (“Get it Together” and “Jorja Interlude”) off Drake’s recent mixtape, More Life. Let’s take a look at her past and present.
It should come as no surprise that she has risen so rapidly in popularity within the last two years. One quick search of her name on YouTube and immediately numerous videos pop-up showcasing her incredible talents. In BBC Radio 1’s Piano Sessions, Smith showcased her insane vocal chops while covering “Let Me Love You.” Seamlessly, she transitions from her brand-name rapsy, chest voice to a nearly faultless falsetto (such as when she performs “Don’t Let Me Cry”).
Smith’s passion for music not only started at a young age, but was also supported by familial influences as her father was in the neo-soul band 2nd Naicha. To this day, he helps Smith with her music, offering to read her lyrics and give feedback. Smith discovered her talent young, starting to write music at eleven and learning about a variety of genres including classical and jazz. Even though her music falls under R&B, she utilizes different influences and samples in her tracks to blend the lines between genres. One of her early releases, “A Prince,” released April 2016, features a sample from “A Prince of Glorious Race Descended” by Henry Purcell to showcase Smith’s continued love of classical music.
“Blue Lights,” released in February of 2016, helped to introduce Smith as an artist wise beyond her years. The song addresses police brutality, a societal issue that was especially prominent in the headlines at the time. Smith specifically wrote the song as a tribute to her male friends who experienced prejudice by police due to the color of their skin. She sings “What have you done? / There’s no need to run / If you done nothing wrong / Blue lights should just pass you by hmm.”
Although Smith falls within Generation Z, she prefers not to follow societal trends. She instead focuses on projecting her old soul through her sophisticated sound. Already, she has been compared to the talents of Amy Winehouse, who happens to also be one of Smith’s greatest inspirations. While one of her most popular tracks, “Teenage Fantasy” seems to be a commentary on her youth, she actually reveals her maturity with lyrics like “Want it when we can’t have it / When we got it we don’t seem to want it.”