Success is a perplexing concept. It's something without a singular, objective definition but it's something that everybody wants to attain. From an outsider's perspective, Majid Jordan appear to be successful for several reasons. One could be that they helped Drake make one of his biggest singles, 2013's "Hold On, We're Going Home." Another might be that they've been able to retain a loyal following and kickstart their own prosperous careers. They could also seem successful for the simple fact that they make good music. While these are definitely very good indicators, the Toronto duo seem to percieve these accomplishments simply as outcomes of being successfully-minded individuals. Success is not a surface-level result; it stems from much deeper character traits. Traits such as a strong belief in friendship and teamwork, having humility and the determination to overcome challenges without letting negativity get a foothold.
We caught up with vocalist Majid Al Maskati and producer Jordan Ullman during a promo run for their debut self-titled album to learn more about their definition of success. Not only did they share several keys, it wasn't hard to believe that they walked their talk just based off of their hospitable, warmhearted personalities. Both Majid and Jordan were very unafraid to open up about their humble beginnings and current challenges instead of taking the usual egocentric route many artists fall prey to. They promoted awareness, proactivity, the practice of abstaining from negativity, and the value of teamwork and friendship. Bad days are inevitable and unavoidable, they teach, so it is essential to focus on the good things and spread good energy to others.
We notice that you are very aesthetically-oriented artists. How does making music correlate with your style?
J: When I’m making music, it sometimes brings me to think about new clothes, fashion and visuals. When we’re making music, we’re really visualizing outfits, ideas and worlds. This is the ideology that we’re trying to connect to people with.
M: I don’t think every artist necessarily has to be a style icon. One thing I’m in love with as an artist connecting music and style is being on stage and having a stage outfit -- that’s one of the most important times where you can express yourself. It’s an opportunity for you to do it in the right space. You can’t always do that everywhere. You can't go the supermarket and be a style icon.
That's very true, different moods and settings call for different styles. How does that play into your music?
M: Sound really takes you places sometimes. Certain memories come alive when you hear certain sounds. Those feelings that you get from those memories can only come through that piece of music at one point. That world that we’re imagining -- it’s coming as a result of sound, what we’re feeling at the time, what we’re remembering and what we’re speaking about.
J: It’s really the amount of time we put into that one world that we’re trying to make at that one point in time. We could be making music and then I’ll change my desktop picture and then it’s like, “oh, we’re going somewhere with that!” it’s just building off one another in the studio and keeping enough time and energy in the studio until it feels forced, then you have to take a break from it.
So different environments can affect or change the way you make music.
M: Yes, our environment affects the way we make music. There was a time we worked in a basement. We were spending a lot of time awake every night and That feeling and lifestyle really bled into the music. It also affects the way we are imagining the world, because when we’re in an enclosed, dark space, we’re thinking of a world that’s very different to if we’re in a sunny place or a brightly lit room.
J: Bedroom producers have a control over their whole setting. When you walk into a studio, you’re walking into somebody else’s setting. If you’re going to another city to make music, you’re going into that setting. My bedroom at home has all these blue and red lights and it’s such a vibe. You got to create your own mood and be confident with it. I feel like that’ll leak into your art.
M: I think Jordan is really good at creating a setting because the times I’ve felt the most comfortable have been working with him very early on in our careers. It was going into his studio in that basement and now going to the place that he’s built now. It’s a different space but the way he’s placed things are the same, and those details transcribe into our fashion sense.
J: It got us here, you know. When we started, we were in a dorm room. We were in a bedroom setting in a place of a whole different type of setting from the world. We had to believe that the dorm room was a real studio and take it seriously, and one day it can become the thing we built today.
From what you said, it seems that external influences play a big role in the process and outcome. Is this why you work as a team?
J : If you have somebody to work with, work with them. I don’t really believe in keeping things to yourself. Collaborating with different people leads to very good things.
M: Find people that make you feel comfortable being yourself. When I met Jordan, we were able to speak about everything — life, relationships, the world, design, music, influences. We spoke about everything openly.
J: It’s about what we liked and not what we didn’t like. There’s no real reason to focus on what you don’t like. It’s not even about positivity — sometimes you’ll have bad days and you can’t even be positive, but I feel that you have to keep that mindset.
M: It’s more about seeking inspiration, not being afraid of putting yourself out there and being vulnerable.
What were three high points in your careers thus far?
M: Meeting Jordan was a high point.
J: The second high point was the first time working together we made two tracks in one day that was on the first mixtape — that was crazy.
M: Going home was my third high point. I moved to Toronto when I was 17 for university and going home after “Hold On, We’re Going Home” had come out was surreal. Getting to share that single with all my friends — they knew I made music but they didn’t know exactly what I was doing. And of course, meeting Drake was a high point.
J: Meeting 40 was a high point for me.
Okay, so what are some challenges then?
M: Settling in Canada was a challenge. Trying to get our music started while living our lives and trying to blend both — that was one of the first early challenges. Another one is building a team of people was also a challenge.
J: Your team is everything. Don’t keep your ideas to yourself. Build your team. Know who everybody is.
M: Knowing where to take our sound next is another challenge. From where we started, we’re trying evolve and build a narrative. How do we go to a new place where we are comfortable and happy with? We’ve been friends for four to five years and we want to maintain that relationship the same way that we first met. How do we both keep that shared vision and move it forward? We challenge each other; it’s very important to us.
That's a good mentality and practice to have. What's something you're looking forward to do this year?
J: Hopefully we can travel the world and do shows everywhere. We want to travel and get experience and put that into our music.
M: 2016 is going to be about more experimentation, more connections being made from different groups of the people and learning more about the world and each other.
We look forward to that too. What are a few keys of success that you'd like to share with fans and other up-and-coming artists?
M: Awareness is important. Knowing what you want and being confident in your choices. Being open to trying new things. Being weird is good.
J: You might not like it, but at least try it.
M: Also, the important thing to know about creativity is that it’s not something that will come to you instantly, just because it did one time. Allow yourself the opportunity to be in a situation that you’re trying to actively create something instead of just sitting there and waiting for an inspiration.