When Disclosure released Caracal at the end of September, the album featured an impressive roster of guest vocalists. Some were established stars—the Weeknd, Lorde, Miguel—while others, like Nao and Lion Babe, were buzzy up-and-comers. One name stood out for being mostly unknown: Jordan Rakei. He brings the album to a close by lending vocals to “Masterpiece.” (He’s also credited as a writer on “Molecules,” which appears on the deluxe edition of Caracal.)
Rakei is a young R&B singer from Australia; a friend of Disclosure’s saw him play in a basement bar and recommended that the electronic duo track him down. Rakei has a few EPs on SoundCloud; the most recent of which , Groove Curse, is full of airy post-Dilla soul. He’s also been featured on songs by two producers who have worked with the esteemed label/collective Soulection in the past: Rakei's vocals appear on Tom Misch’s Beat Tape 2 and Ta-Ku’s most recent project, Songs To Make Up To.
FADER caught up with Rakei to discuss the Australian R&B scene, working with Disclosure, and his appreciation for D’Angelo. The singer also shared a new single, titled "The Light." Listen and read below.
When did you start making music?
I was raised in a musical sort of family—my parents were both passionate about music and always had it playing around the house. My dad always had a guitar or a piano. I started playing piano. At the end of primary school in Australia I was making beats for my friends. That turned into making beats for rappers in high school. The first ever song I wrote is “Selfish,” which is on my first EP.
You were making beats when you were 11?
Me and my little brother loved Dr. Dre. So we were making this heavy Dr. Dre sort of beats on Fruity Loops.
Was that the first production program you used?
Yeah I started with Fruity Loops. Then I find another program that I forgot the name of—it was really basic, I could record guitar and me singing. This was when I was really young. I used to sing Stevie Wonder covers. I use Logic now.
What is the R&B scene like in Australia?
Not so much. The rise of Hiatus Kaiyote made everyone realize that it’s possible to do soul music out of Australia. It’s not really a thriving scene at the moment. That was partly the reason I did move to London—to see what the rest of the world had to offer. The soul scene is amazing here.
And that’s where you ran into Disclosure?
When I came to London I went on holiday to Ireland to hang out with my friends. I got an email saying, “Hey Jordan, this is Disclosure’s manager. Just interested to see if you want to get in the studio with us—are you still based in Australia?” I was like “this isn’t real; it must be one of those fake spam emails.” I didn’t respond for a while. I responded and said, “hey guys, funny story: I just moved to London.” They were like, “amazing! How about we get in the studio next week?” I still was sus about it—they’re huge, and I was tiny. I still am quite small! Even on the way to the studio I was like, this could be some guys pretending. But I got there, and it was Guy and Howard and Jimmy Napes. They said they found me from their friend in Australia who saw me play a really small show in a downstairs bar.
How did you connect with Tom Misch?
The reason I grew really rapidly online was due to Soulection sharing one of my songs on SoundCloud two years ago. They have such a massive following, it sort of blew up after they shared it. Tom was part of that whole affiliation. He reached out and asked if I wanted to work. I sang verses and sent them back over email. When I decided to go to London, we got to work on the track in person and finish that together. He’s an incredible producer and musician.
Disclosure compared you to D’Angelo?
I got to the studio when were writing “Masterpiece” and they were like, “hey man, we love your stuff, amazing grooves—you remind us of D’Angelo.” Obviously a massive compliment; I’ll take it. I got to see D’Angelo in London a few months ago and the whole time I was just dancing and nearly crying because I finally got to see him live. D’Angelo: the king.
What was the first D’Angelo song you heard?
I was late to the bandwagon. Five to six years ago, someone at University showed me “Spanish Joint.” I was like, “What is this?” That day changed my life. I went back and Youtube’d every single thing he did. Discovering D’Angelo changed my life.