UK R&B star-in-the-making Jorja Smith joined Julie Adenuga on Beats 1 on Apple Music to discuss Smith’s burgeoning career and pivotal moments that have helped her to feel free as an artist. Amidst revealing advice from she received from Drake ("Whatever you want, do it.") and talking about the sacrifices she's had to make thus far in her career, Smith recalled an inspiring moment with Kendrick Lamar during the Black Panther The Album studio sessions.
“I get a DM from Tunji [Balogun] [while in LA] saying, ‘Hey, do you want to work with Kendrick?’” Smith said of the initial connection. “I said, ‘Yeah.’ He said, ‘Okay, I’ll connect you with his manager.’ So Kendrick said, ‘Meet Dave.’ Dave Free, Kendrick’s manager, is really cool. He’s like, ‘Do you want to write tonight?’ ‘Yes.’
“I didn’t even know he listened to my music at all… Get to his studio house at about seven… It’s Kendrick, Dave, and Sounwave… Then I get to the studio, he left the room, but he was like, ‘You can just mess around.’ So I was… getting a melody started. He comes back in, then we play that… He told me that he wanted to work with me for awhile but it just wasn’t the right time. So I was like, ‘I didn’t even know you knew my music like that.’”
That’s right: Kendrick Lamar is a Jorja Smith fan.
As we know, the pair went on to craft her grand and warbling standout “I Am.” Smith, whose success is also due in part to her uncanny ability to capture heartache without sounding like a money grab, can now tell this story as a beacon of light to upcoming indie artists.
You never know who is pressing play when you throw your music into the endless void of the internet. The moral here is to keep honing your craft and creating as if you have an audience of your idols, not a grip of listeners just passing through. It will make you a more mindful artist, and will eventually make for a fantastic interview story.
Smith's debut album, Lost & Found, is slated for release this Friday, June 8.