Find out why media the world over are hailing this UK-born, Toronto-based singer “the future of R&B.”
Who: Rochelle Jordan a.k.a. ROJO is far more than just the latest R&B sensation to emerge from Toronto amid a chorus of comparisons to Drake. The U.K.-born singer-songwriter has been heralded as a voice that’s key to the genre’s comeback as she forges strong links between contemporary R&B’s last great period—that is, the 1990s—and its future.
Singing steadily since her teens, Jordan has spent the past five years focused on her songwriting chops. She found her signature sound—buttery-smooth vocals paired with stuttering, spacey beats—after beginning to work with future-minded Los Angeles producer Kelvin “Klash” Montgomery in 2009. Montgomery found Jordan on YouTube, pestered her to check his MySpace and convinced her to collaborate. Their Alien Phase EP, released independently in July of 2010, was the resulting calling card.
A year later, the two turned heads with Jordan’s “remix” of Drake’s “Marvin’s Room,” in which the songstress took on the persona of a seasoned, spurned lover with a thing or two to say. Last August, Jordan impressed with the 15-track digital album dubbed ROJO. Performing as the sweet-voiced, but heavy-hitting ROJO, Jordan brought an electronic edge to a laid-back set of songs that also showcased her ability to rap on occasion. ROJO included an interpretation of Radiohead (“Sleep”), the spartan standout “How to Feel” and radio-friendly smoothies like “Feel the Same Way.” ROJO, the performer, has range.
“I’ve been creating like this for three years, and since then I’ve really been trying to figure out who I am and how I want to be perceived both vocally and musically,” explains Jordan. “The writing is getting better as I mature, and everything you’ve heard so far has been recorded and vocally produced by myself. I’ve gotten time to know my vocals, to push myself and do what I want. Naturally, I’ve grown more confident in what I do so everything started sounding better. I’ve definitely got more space to grow, though.”
Why: This self-described dreamer has indeed grown considerably in a short period of time, working with core producers Klash (a.k.a. KLSH), Dre January, TJ, Pat Preezy and Busy under the banner of Protostar Entertainment to experiment heavily with soul and R&B while staying true to the ’90s sound she loves. Jordan showed these roots—and her mettle—by paying tribute to late R&B superstar Aaliyah last year. “King A,” a stunning, emotional interpretation of “Are You That Somebody,” received widespread acclaim and certified Jordan as one to watch.
“I was petrified [to cover Aaliyah], but at the end of the day, I did it because I love her and for no other reason,” Jordan shares. “It was a tribute from the heart. Thankfully, a lot of people really liked it! I was praying no one took it the wrong way or thought it wasn’t genuine. Aaliyah fans are no joke; they will tell you when they hate something you do with A’s name attached to it.”
More recently, ROJO has received heavy airplay from local radio station G 98.7 FM (“Take Time” is in daily rotation) and has been blogged about repeatedly on sites including Hypetrak, Okayplayer, TheSource.com and Vibe.com, which, in posting Jordan’s “How To Feel,” described the vocalist as “bringing people back to times of pure R&B.”
ROJO’s fans are a passionate bunch, interacting with her heavily via Jordan’s Facebook page and Twitter. Many have described her as “The future of R&B,” and it seems the folks at MTV UK agree.
In an article posted Jan. 13 titled “R&B, Where do we go from here?“, Jordan is mentioned alongside Frank Ocean, The Weeknd and Beyonce (specifically her 4 album) as one of a handful of artists connecting past to present to carry the torch.
“I’m so proud of my team and myself,” says Jordan of her career to date. “We did that all by ourselves, without many resources to rely on. Now we are getting armored up to push this thing to the next level.”
What’s Next: ROJO continues to come on strong. She ended 2011 with two very different singles, October’s “Shot” and December’s “Here I Go.” The latter, which has already received strong support, will be featured on ROJO II, a new full-length slated for early spring release. Jordan’s Kelis-sampling “Earth To Your Brain,” an audience favourite, was recently developed into a teaser video. Rumours have begun to swirl about labels bidding to sign her, but only time will tell.
“I plan on remaining independent until the right situation comes along,” she says. “We work hard because we want to make our sound fly, so that’s the plan: Just doing what I do until whatever happens happens.”
As for what she personally regards as success?
“At the end of the day, I just want the world to hear my music, feel something real, and fall in love with that feeling. Success in this industry would be getting to the top doing what I want to do while being known across the world, touching hearts and having people understand me and what I’m saying. Oh—and making a whole lotta money doing this. Hell yeah!”
Where & When: ROJO makes her live debut, accompanied by a four-member band, on Feb. 4 at Harbourfront Centre’s Brigantine Room (235 Queens Quay W.) as the featured performer at indie showcase The Known (Un)Known, co-produced and hosted by former MTV personality Tika Simone. Also performing are Shi Wisdom, 88 Days of Fortune’s KJ, Spek Won and Abstract Random, Savannah Re, J.R. Richy, The Jane and Finch Female Cypher, and DJ Ononymous. It’s all-ages and free.
“We got the band cracking and they are super dope,” says an excited Jordan. “Make sure you come and vibe it out with us.”
Shows in New York City are to follow, with further tour dates in the works.
Fun fact: “My biggest weakness is sour gummy worms, and sour apple candies.”