UH is the house of the innovators: An interview with Jordyn Chaffold

Jordyn Chaffold has made being a public figure at UH a key for him. Whether it’s with Uncommon Colors, an artistic student organization he helped to found, or through campaigning to be SGA President, Chaffold is a public face that is continuing to gain popularity. But aside from being a student and a leader, Chaffold is an artist.

I had the chance to ask Chaffold a couple of questions to find out more about his musical career, his drives for being the best student leader he can be and his goals for the future.

Bryce Dodds: How did you get started in music?

Jordyn Chaffold: In 4th grade, I was in choir and I loved to sing. Then in 8th grade, I used to write these poems and put them on MySpace. There was this guy though who rapped at my school and it just wasn’t good at all. He was dating this girl I had a huge crush on, so one day I told him, ‘Dude I just sing and make poems and I bet I could rap better than you.’ I got out my Rock Band mic wrote some rhymes and the rest is history.

BD: When did you know that you wanted to keep making music?

JC: In 2013, I dropped a 5 song EP called GREAT. It was really a promotional tape for my Presidential Campaign in high school, but I felt like I could do better and I didn’t have a job, so I spent the entire summer making a 13-track mixtape called TOO GREAT. From there, I just loved making songs and continued making projects at about 1-2 per year.

BD: What artistic project, no matter the medium, are you most proud of?

JC: I don’t care what anybody says, I love Sorry For The Blaze. The story behind it, the passion put into it, they are all timeless. I made the entire project in under two weeks and thematically it is the most cohesive EP I’ve ever dropped. Granted CHAFF 2 was my masterpiece album, it was perfect, but I’m really proud of SFTB.

BD: Tell me about the Snakes EP. How did you get the idea and how did you turn it out so fast?

JC: Tom Herman left us. I knew that I was done with Chaff 2, but I wasn’t ready to put it out yet. It’s kind of hard to explain, but when you know you worked extremely hard to create something over the course of a year and there’s a good chance that nobody will listen. you’ll be a bit hesitant to give it out. I knew that I had a little bit more left in me, I also knew that I would be running for President this semester so I wanted to give people just a little bit more before CHAFF 2 came out.

So on Sunday, November 7, I sat down and made 3 songs, and on Monday, November 28, I made 3 more, and thus the Snakes EP was done. I’m really proud of that tape too because, thematically, it’s about much more than just Tom Herman, it’s about personal experiences I’ve had in the student government, as well as personal experiences I’ve had dealing with people who weren’t very transparent with me.

BD: What’s one thing you aspire to do as an artist?

JC: I want to inspire, but I also want to be recognized. Several people here at UH and in my organizations tell me I’m one of the best rappers they know, people say that my performances are the best ones at shows I perform at. Yet, when I drop an album, I get 40 listens? Not to sound unappreciative of the 40 people who admire me, I just feel like if I work on a body of work for over a year and one of my best friends tells me that he hasn’t even listened to it all the way through, it hurts, and it makes me question why I’m even wasting my time.

BD: You’re running for SGA Student Body President. What made you want to do that? If elected, what do you want to do with your position?

JC: I made an entire Facebook post about this. I planned to run for student body president before I even got to UH, but you’ll notice when you get to college that there are more involvement opportunities than there are hours in a day. I got caught up in Coog Radio for a year and got caught up in Uncommon Colors for another year. Next thing I knew, I was a junior and there was no time like the present. My party, the House of Innovation, is looking to innovate on the current SGA template and make the organization more appealing to students, educate students on the organization, increase the level of communication between students and the government and create an environment that’s sustainable for students and welcoming.

BD: You’ve done a lot already in college: making music, started Uncommon Colors, involved with SGA and now running for president. What’s the goal? To just do as much as you can? Or is this focusing you up toward something bigger? What’s the dream end goal?

JC: Let’s be honest, everybody has their own personal agenda. However, I’m not focused on that right now. My realistic end goal? Move to California and live a successful life. But that has to wait. Right now, I’m focused on leaving my stamp on the University of Houston. Why? Because it’s something I care about, it’s something that 44,000 students are paying for. Unlike presidents before me, I didn’t survey over 400 schools, I didn’t have 25 to pick from. I chose UH because I saw it was a school that was about improvement. When I came here in 2008, it was a completely different school, unrecognizable. To say that they were able to do that in less than 6 years is impressive. I want to leave this school better than what it was when I got here.

BD: Last question: When people talk about you down the road, what do you want to be the legacy you leave behind, both in college and out in the professional world?

JC: I want to be known as a creative, an innovator. People think that because I started an arts organization that I’m going to get into art when I grow up. I created Uncommon Colors because there was a gap in information that was available at the University. I was looking for an organization that rappers, artists, singers, photographers etc. could join but such an organization didn’t exist. There was clearly a need for it, so I filled that need. That is what it means to be an innovator. Innovators and creatives end up being the head of the Fortune 500 companies. The world is run by innovators and creatives, not by businessmen in suits.

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Top 10 songs of 2016: Chance the Rapper, Pinegrove on top this year

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Chance the Rapper comes out on top this year off of the back of his block-buster release, Coloring Book. | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

2016 served up a great year in music. Chance the Rapper released his critically-acclaimed Coloring Book, headlining a great year for the Rap/R&B genres, a couple of Indie powerhouses released long-awaited albums and a number of relative new kids to the mainstream scene staked their claim for recognition.

As we approach Grammy season, it’s time for my Top 10 Songs of the Year ranking. A couple of familiar faces found their way back onto the list this year, but a band from Montclair, New Jersey surprised me and found their way into one of the top slots.

10. Childish Gambino – Me and Your Mama

Donald Glover made his return to the scene with an eye-popping evolution. Childish Gambino has gone from a simple rap project for Glover to a glorified funk experiment on his newest album, “Awaken, My Love!”, that would give Funkadelic a run for their money. The first track from the album, which was also the debut single, came as a big surprise, with Glover choosing to instead show of his vocal chops over his bars. The change comes as a welcome one to some, who had started to become bored following the release of his album because the internet. A harmonious opening to the track is quickly overtaken by a fuzzy bass line and some truly powerful vocals from Glover. Laden with a number of different tracks for vocals and instrumentation, this is one of the most diverse, intricate and best songs of the year for me.

9. Anderson .Paak – The Bird

Though many rap albums were overshadowed by Chance the Rapper, Anderson .Paak released Malibu, a 16-track behemoth that I feel deserves far more recognition than it is currently receiving. On the opening track from the album, Brandon Anderson raps meaningfully over a smooth, jazzy beat about family struggles and trying to make ends meet. Anderson has a relaxed approach to his rapping, which makes his entire album, but especially this song, very easy to listen to. This entry is certainly not one to be forgotten quickly, and Anderson is going to be here to stay for a number of years.

8. The Lumineers – Angela

I’ll admit, I was skeptical at first to give Cleopatra, the sophomore outing from the Denver, Colorado folk group, a chance. While dotted with chart-toppers and radio stalwarts, I found their eponymous first album formulaic and boring after a few listens. Those mistakes have been fixed on Cleopatra. Angela is a perfect example of this. Not meant to be a single off the album, it’s easily my favorite from the entire entry due to the somewhat-simplistic nature of the song that is executed to perfection. Many might point to songs like Ophelia or Sleep on the Floor as the best from the album, but Angela holds the top spot in my mind from an inspiring follow-up work.

7. Kanye West ft. Kirk Franklin, Kelly Price, Chance the Rapper and The-Dream

Alright, so I’ll admit I cheated a bit on this one, but The Life of Pablo was an altogether great album, it just so happens that the best song off of the album is carried by those other than West. Specifically, verses by Kelly Price, and especially Chance the Rapper, really shine. Price provides a stunning display of vocal talent while Chance provides one of the hardest-hitting verses of the year, rivaling anything off of his own album. Unfortunately, the rest of The Life of Pablo fell just short of the incredibly high bar the opening track set for it, but when it’s a track this great, it’s not too surprising that it did.

6. Margaret Glaspy – Emotions and Math

The title track off of Glaspy’s debut full-length LP, Emotions and Math is another seemingly simple song that is made by the vocal talent of the singer. Glaspy’s lyricism and vocal grit pair well with the straight-forward and digging guitar line. She displays a good range throughout the song and a craftsmanship to shape a good tune. Despite this being her first full-length record, Glaspy’s experience from Berklee shows through in her expertise and lack of reliance on effects to craft a strong first outing.

5. Local Natives – Dark Days

Dark Days is one of the many fantastic songs off of a much-anticipated record from Local Natives. Their first full-length release since Hummingbird in 2013, Sunlit Youth continues to show a development and honing of the sound we’ve come to know and love from Local Natives, with a continued growth therein. Paired male and female vocals lead to some great harmonies that sync excellently with the layered guitar tracks from the Los Angeles indie band.

4. Radiohead – Daydreaming

Another highly-anticipated album was A Moon Shaped Pool, the first release in five-years for the British indie giants, Radiohead. A symphonic and stunningly beautiful record from top to bottom, Daydreaming stood out from the rest. Slowly building and hauntingly beautiful, the band works their magic on this hypnotizing track that really speaks for itself.

3. Bon Iver – 715 – CRΣΣKS

Though often maligned by critics, this stood out as the best song off of the third, and possibly final, Bon Iver record, 22,  A Million. Consisting of only auto-tuned vocals from front man Justin Vernon, the power comes from the emotion with which Vernon sings, which is palpable beneath the digitized voice. Despite being a complete record from top to bottom, this song sticks out among from the rest by being pretty different from the others and was one of the few tracks that stuck with me immediately after the first listen.

2. Pinegrove – Old Friends

This one comes as a surprise, even to me. If you showed me the rest of the list at the beginning of the year, I’d say it was about spot on, but arriving at this entry, would have responded with a confused “Who?” Pinegrove was a happy surprise that I stumbled upon earlier in the year and Old Friends, the first track off of Cardinal, their most recent release, has been on repeat for me since I originally heard it. The honest lyricism and entirety of the folk-rock instrumentation make this song a joy to listen to time after time. Though this is their first major label release, expect to see much more Pinegrove, hopefully soon.

1. Chance the Rapper ft. 2 Chainz & Lil Wayne – No Problem

For me, the track of the year came from one of the best, if not the best, release of the year in Chance the Rappers Coloring Book. A song that is pure energy, highlighted by great verses from Chance, Lil Wayne and even 2 Chainz, easily took the top spot and it wasn’t even really close. It pulls from many elements that made Acid Rap the mainstream hit it was for Chano, while adding great elements, like the choir in the background. It’s easy to see why he’s grabbed a number of Grammy nods, and will probably walk away from the show with quite a few.