Any other budding young singer in Jorja Smith’s shoes would have begun hyperventilating after receiving a private Instagram message from Drake, before ripping through her phone directory to tearily trumpet the news to all her girlfriends, send- ing a screen shot off to the entire world and, finally, doing a triumphant backflip in her living room. Instead, Smith replied with a simple “Oh, thank you, it’s cool” to the Canadian rapper, who praised her to the skies after listening to one of her tracks,Where Did I Go?, on SoundCloud.
That was in 2016, when Smith was just 18 and, despite the song’stitle, she knew exactly where she was going. Hailing from Walsall, an industrial town in the Midlands, she hasn’t let herself be dazzled by the lucky stars shining over the cradle of her singing career. Without the slightest arrogance, she even seemed to find it normal that Drake, in the wake of his declaration, should invite her to record a duet, Get It Together, on his album More Life, on which she was also treated to a Jorja Interlude rapped out by the master of ceremonies himself. And appar- ently it was just as normal that Kendrick Lamar should immediately offer her a track, I Am, on the soundtrack of Black Panther; nor- mal, too, that Drake should perform with her at one of her concerts, go- ing so far as to visit her in Walsall; normal to have been named one of the 15 most promising U.K. talents in the BBC’s 2017 list; normal to have been awarded the 2018 Critics’ Choice at the Brit Awards, following in the footsteps of previous winners such as Adele or her namesake Sam Smith; normal, again, to release a first album three days before her 21st birthday. Entitled Lost & Found, it has been unanimously praised as one of the best examples of British soul these past few years. “My songs were very quickly shared and lis- tened to, so I had to get used to this fame which came out of nowhere,” she says with disconcerting cool- ness. “I didn’t get the codes, didn’t have the reflexes, but at the same time it was fascinating to find myself so brutally pushed into the limelight. It doesn’t frighten me, I know I’m still Jorja to those who know me. Not Jorja Smith, the singer. Just Jorja. I didn’t expect anything when I madeBlue Lights, I didn’t even think any- one other than my parents would like the song. The social-media snowball effect was so quick that I didn’t even have time to get stressed.”
“My songs were very quickly shared and listened to, soIhadtogetused to this fame which came out of nowhere. I didn’t get the codes, didn’t have the reflexes, but at the same time it was fascinating to find myself so brutally pushed into the limelight. The social-media snowball effect was so quick that I didn’t even have time to get stressed.”