Reviewed by Stephen Pennell & Resolution Records
One of 2021’s biggest collaborations so far, 1000 Nights sees the meeting of Birmingham grime MC Jaykae and Walsall’s finest, Jorja Smith. The big man from Small Heath has been rubbing shoulders with the likes of Aitch, Mist, Ms Dynamite, Slowthai, Stormzy and Ed Sheeran in recent years, while the inimitable Jorja has collabed with Drake, Kendrick Lamar, Preditah and Kali Uchis. She is also one of the UK’s most talented singer-songwriters and one of the brightest voices UK soul has heard in a long time.
While both artists have been moving in similar circles (both had tracks featured in the glamorous and global TV smash Power) this is the first time they have joined forces musically, although Jaykae made a non-singing/rapping appearance in Jorja’s haunting Blue Lights video. It feels like a moment in Birmingham musical history and it sounds like one too.
Thematically, the bars from both artists deal in the hardship and struggles that people face everyday in a society where the less-fortunate have to resort to desperate measures to cope with the hand dealt to them. Both are deft, albeit contrasting, lyricists and can approach these topics with a grace and an accuracy that would trip up lesser writers. Jorja shows off a massive amount of versatility, first in a Skinner-esque rap in which her lovely, lilting accent makes a welcome appearance, and then with her gorgeous singing voice.
Jaykae’s usual intensity is tinged with just a hint of resignation and melancholy to match the heavy topics of his lyrics. If this and the recently-released Chop are a taste of things to come on the Small Heath MCs debut long-player Hooligan, his ever-growing fanbase are in for a treat, and he should comfortably hold on to his Best Male title at the Birmingham Music Awards as well as having a great shot at the best album prize. Another star here is the beat. With production from Ezrah, the 2-step bliss is pure UK garage heat – a roof-shaking banger offset by the subtle, delicate chord progression, striking a great balance between Jaykae’s aggression and Jorja’s smoothness. While it has some appropriately rough edges, 1000 Nights, with its fantastic beat and peak Jorja turn, definitely proves the point that the Walsall wonder makes in the fade out - 2 Js are better than 1 J.
"The track was written and recorded with me and Jorja in the studio together, rather than sending across vocal takes between studios, and I think you can hear that in the song. There’s a different energy about it. It’s got that classic garage sound but the storyline makes it relevant to today" - Jaykae