Rapper L. Jordan’s ‘T.I.M.E.’ is almost here
The MC explores ‘Black Fatherhood’ and his recently discovered inspirations for making music on a new album releasing in May
Before L. Jordan begins rapping on “Black Fatherhood,” the piano-laced emotional centerpiece of his new album, For the First T.I.M.E. (Thoughts I Must Express), he lets out a deep sigh, as if steeling himself for the outpouring to come.
Over the next four minutes, Jordan unravels everything from his wife’s 2020 miscarriage, which happened in the midst of the pandemic right as a fresh round of Black lives matter protests erupted in the city — “I start breaking down because I don’t know how to fix this,” he raps as he removes the ultrasound picture from the refrigerator — to the difficulties of raising Black children in a world where their lives are at risk the moment they leave the home. “As a Black male, gotta teach ’em how we hunted,” Jordan raps, going on to describe the need to make sure his kids are “weather-resistant” in the face of any potentially looming storms.
“One of the scary things right now is that [our son] is looking to get his driver’s license over the summer, and he’s already taken his temps, so we’re just having those conversations ... because now there are going to be situations where we’re not present, and the way he responds may put his life on the line,” Jordan said by phone in mid-April. “And even though those conversations are not new, as he crosses different milestones the conversations have to change, too.”
Prior to recording “Black Fatherhood,” Jordan had all but set aside a music career, content with raising a family and running an investment business that experienced a boom as people scrambled to get their finances in order amid the coronavirus pandemic and the attendant financial panic. But, following his wife’s miscarriage, Jordan started to feel that familiar tug, and so he recorded the song as a means of coping with the tragedy, never intending it for wider release. “So if tears flow, it’s real, bro," he raps on the track. "This is therapy to let my pains and my fear go."
In the process of making the song, however, Jordan uncovered a motivation he said he lacked during his initial forays into music in the early 2000s. At the time, he said music felt like an obligation, and he often rapped because he had the skills but never pursued it beyond a casual interest because there was nothing else driving him. Jordan said that push only arrived more recently via his family, and in particular his teenage son, who started to express an interest in making music of his own. As a result, after finishing "Black Fatherhood," Jordan moved on to record “The Spark,” building the track atop an instrumental pulled from “Pour Out a Little Liquor” by his son’s favorite artist, Tupac Shakur, and then jamming it with as many references to the late-rapper as he could flip.
“It was almost like a writing exercise, just showing him the different ways to stay on topic,” said Jordan, who drew further inspiration for the album from a spate of local releases that surfaced in 2020, including I Appreciate Your Patience by Trek Manifest and Root of Evol by L.O.O.T. “And my son liked it, and my wife loved it, so I started to think, ‘OK, there might be something to this.’”
On the album-opening “Piece of Cake,” Jordan explores the roots of this transformation, describing himself as directionless in his earlier years (“I was young and dumb,” he raps bluntly) and then tracing his evolution into a family-first businessman, which followed a stint in prison in the mid-2000s for armed burglary that the MC described as “a wake-up call.”
“A lot of people in prison were saying, ‘You don’t belong here,’ and not because [I didn't do it]. I did what I was charged with, but I’m smarter than that, and even the people that didn’t really know me were saying the same thing that my family and friends were saying,” Jordan said. “And so I listened, and I said I was going to do what I needed to do to get out of there and make something of this potential that everybody seemed to think I had.”
Following his release, Jordan enrolled in school, and then following graduation he started a business, Smart Money Way, offering financial broker services. More importantly, though, he reinvested himself in family life, which he repeatedly describes as his prime motivator throughout For the First T.I.M.E. (The album, which had initially been planned for release on Friday, April 30, has now been delayed until early- to mid-May.)
“I think the feeling I was chasing with music [in the early 2000s] was really what I wanted with a family,” said Jordan, who came up alongside rappers such as Stalley, who remains a friend. “I believe in God and how he works things out, and I feel like I was almost spared from [having early success in music] because it wasn’t something I really wanted, and I think I would have grown to resent it. … And because of that I was able to focus on family. And now that family life is good, God’s like, ‘OK, now I’ll bring the music back, because there’s still something in it for you.’”
Admittedly, even that “something” is different now. Rather than th fame or fortune Jordan might have pined for in earlier years, he now embraces the artform as a means of helping make sense of a world that has felt dizzying at times in this last year, as well as a means of fostering a deeper connection with his son, who exhibits similar talents on the microphone as his father.
“Doing music just makes more sense now, and it feels like I can do what I want and on my own terms,” Jordan said. “And the biggest thing, my son, he’s interested, so now I can get active and help be that blueprint for him. It’s like I get to do two things at once. Music is still a passion of mine, so I get to check something off my list, so to speak, and do an album. But then it’s still me doing dad stuff, because I’m showing him the ropes. So it just made sense. It gave me a purpose. Now I know why I’m doing it.”