“If I can make it out, anybody can,” McCann says
A ex-inmate was in prison when the song that put him on the UK rap music radar was released.
Titled “Lifestyle”, the four-minute song saw Jordan McCann rap about his life of crime and mentioned the people he grew up with in Salford, Greater Manchester.
“I got everybody in the cell and we barricaded the pad and had a listening party. We just stayed there until they got all the extra staff to rush in the cell and get every one of us, because we were so hyped,” he recalls, speaking to the Manchester Evening News.
“All of us got in trouble, they took our tellies, everything, so we had nothing in our cells, but then I heard the song playing on Unity Radio, and that was the most surreal moment. It gives me goosebumps, I was looking out and every man is at his window shouting me, on four levels, that was the maddest feeling because I’m on radio bro, it was mad.”
The same song he was celebrating with so much elation was partly the reason he was back in jail. He had written and recorded the song while out on probation from a sentence at HMP Manchester.
Conscious of his licence terms, he said he played the song for his parole officers to let them know what he was doing. But certain lines – like “coming out of jail doing shootings on licence” – alarmed officials and he was carted back to jail. “I said that because that’s what I was doing,” he says now.
Recalling the day he says he was stripped down to his boxers by an overzealous armed police unit when he went to a meeting with his parole officer, Jordan says he understands it now. Looking at his rap sheet, he thinks he deserved it and then some.
McCann, 28, was in the public eye well before he began rapping. From the Amblecote Estate in Little Hulton, he is a member of a well-known Salford family and his youth was peppered with offending – violence, armed robberies, gang affiliations and drug dealing, he confesses.
Jordan says travelling has given him a different perspective on life
Jordan says he had an ‘amazing’ childhood – but recognises that he’d “normalise” dark things he’d seen growing up, like domestic violence, shootings and stabbings.
“I couldn’t see past that area, all I cared about was that area, ‘I need to sell the most drugs in this area, I need to be the main person in this area,” he says. “It would burn me inside, whereas now I don’t have any of those tendencies. We just normalised everything, now I’m a bit older and see how people should treat each other. You know it’s wrong but it didn’t affect us in a massive way, we seen people stabbed, shot, robbed and that’s how it goes.”
That said, a life of crime was stressful for Jordan, who describes it as the ‘fakest life in the world.’ Speaking about the moment he realised it was all a ‘trap’ he said: “After I just got my third, fourth sentence, I’d just turned 19 and got six and a half years. I was just thinking, ‘I’m not coming home now for years, I’m living around all these same people, I lived by this f****ing code, I’ve been the loyalest guy, I’ve been the realest guy’ and it does get you nowhere.
“I just realised, ‘bang’ this life is the fakest life in the world’. After growing up in prison and seeing so many scenarios and people I’ve looked up to and seeing some of the moves that they pull themselves, I realised it’s inevitable in this life bad things are gonna come. Nothing good’s gonna come, when money gets involved, when girls get involved people are gonna f*** people over.
“I just realised that the streets is a serious trap and it’s a mind frame of ‘oh I want to be a gangster, I want to be someone’ but you make one mistake that’s gonna f*** you up for the rest of your life. Who cares about the streets, who cares about who did what to who? I need to have a house, I need credit, I need a car, I want to have a baby, I want to have a dog, I want to have a life.”
Jordan is seeing great success in his rap career
McCann was just 13 when he first got sent to prison for attempted robbery, when he did come out, it wasn’t long until he was back in. For 11 years, the doors of some of the most notorious youth and adult prisons were revolving ones for him.
Describing how sentences did very little to dissuade him from a life of crime, he said: “When I came back from prison I felt like the guy! It sort of felt like a badge of honour. I come home, big party in my house, cut my tag off the first night, went on the run for like two weeks then went back to jail.”
One of the prisons Jordan was sent to as a troublesome youth was an infamous Secure Training Unit that has since been shut down, after an investigation revealed cases of historic physical and sexual abuse. Describing his time there, he says that while the strict regime of the unit gave him a sense of discipline and structure, he was subjected to physical abuse that still haunts him to this day. “That was my first experience of real abuse, it was like torture by these b*****ds. You’ve never met people like these,” he says.
“This was strictly for people serving life, this is baby killers, people that have killed their own mums and dads, families and I was doing eight months and got sent there. This was boot camp, so you had to train in there had to get up 6am, make your bed, they come round and do an inspection, if your bed was dirty you’re not allowed out your cell.
“When you came out your pad they had monkey bars that you had to do a circuit of every morning. It was probably the best thing for me, it got me physical and I got some education in there.
“But it was a very, very bad place, if you even look at the pictures of the building it gives you chills. To be honest, it made me worse, I didn’t give a f*** anymore. Before then I’d be scared of a slap, but after so many beatings in (the unit) I literally did not give a f***. It was a bad place man, even after all the prisons I’ve been to, that place f***s me up the most because of all the abuse bro, off big guys as well.
In 2016 he was one of 11 people, including his brother Patrick McCann, who is serving time for firearms offences, to be handed ‘gangbo’ civil injunction as part of a police operation to tackle a series of tit-for-tat shootings between rival gangs. An operation that Jordan says turned his family’s life “upside down”, but once again, concedes that the measures police took were “understandable”.
“They attacked my whole family, everyone who was dealing for me they attacked them,” he says.” I’ve never seen policing like that, it was every day, ‘bang! door off, door off!’ Which is understandable. It caused a massive divide in the family, which is fair enough what they were doing, divide and conquer. Back then I was in a mind-frame where I hated the police, but now I understand my actions deserved that, and probably more.
“I caused a lot of bad in my life, that’s why sometimes I feel like I don’t deserve what’s going on, but what I can do? I can’t just not appreciate it and not do this.”
However, he still raps about those days with vivid clarity, and still calls for the freedom of his friends and family who have been jailed. So why should people give him the time of day?
Jordan at the Jungle premiere
Regarding his lyrics, Jordan said he can only talk about his “reality” and that every song is a cautionary tale and motivation for those who find themselves in the same position he was once in.
The last year was the first 12 months Jordan completed without going back to jail. He’s been kept busy by a music career that has seen him embark on a 21 city tour in just one week, amass millions of views on his music videos and work on his latest mixtape called Crooks and Queens, which was recorded at the iconic Abbey Road and features songs with well known artists like Morrison, Tion Wayne and Ard Adz.
“From somewhere in Little Hulton to Abbey Road, that’s crazy bro,” he says in disbelief. He also featured in the popular rap-opera Amazon Prime series called Jungle, where he starred alongside greats like Dizzy Rascal and Tinie Tempah. Rap life hasn’t been plain sailing however, Jordan says he has faced some blowback in the form of ‘confrontations’ due to his background, friction with loved ones and people who doubted a Salfordian can be a chart topping rapper.
“That’s never going to go away, when you do something from a place like this people don’t understand it. I’ve had confrontations and there’s always someone trying it wherever I go, but it’s part of the job.,” he said. “A lot of people doubted me at the start, they were confused about what I was doing and tried to put me down. I was the first person to ever do this from Salford, they couldn’t see it in their heads.
“People didn’t understand, but in the last year I’ve enjoyed the music.”
Despite his success he says the rapping has caused some issues with his incarcerated brother Patrick. “I didn’t speak to my brother for two years because he thought I was going to get him more sentences. But I was like, ‘I’ve got nothing left, this is my last chance for us all.’ I still love him though.”
Jordan began rapping in 2018 as part of a prison programme in HMP Nottingham. In the prison, inmates had to be in work or education and would be scheduled to take part in different courses.
One of those courses was a music course which could get your music played on the National Prison Radio channel. Jordan says that at the beginning of the course he was adamant he did not want to rap because of the reputation he’d built as the no-nonsense armed robber from Salford.
“It was such a step for me to rap bro, a leap like you wouldn’t believe! I couldn’t even tell someone I was gonna rap,” he said. “I was so like, ‘I’m Jordan from Salford, I’m an armed robber, I don’t rap, we don’t speak to the police, I don’t have iPhones.’ That was the no-brain mentality, I was so egotistic, so trapped in that mind frame of what other people would think.”
Jordan was eventually inspired to write by the lifers who were on the same course and were painfully expressing themselves through their own music. At 24, he wrote his first lyric for a song called ‘Jailgirl’ which was dedicated to an ex-girlfriend.
“This is to my jail girl, this is to my wife, the police station call, first time I heard you cry,” raps Jordan.
The rap career has not only brought him fame but financial success too. “When I came out I had money from streams, I was charging for features and started selling my music, doing shows. I’m not a millionaire or anything but I’ve made a couple £100K. It’s helped me renovate my mums house, buy family cars. I just give away everything, I just like seeing my family happy.”
Thanks to his success he has been able to travel and he says it has given him a different perspective on life. A perspective that he has since tried to relay to other who have offended. He will soon be touring jails to teach inmates how to write and record music with Eva Hamilton MBE, the CEO of a charity that helps incarcerated youth called Key4Life.
“Since coming out, I’ve been travelling a little bit, getting treated a like human myself and seeing how to treat people. Going back to my area I can look at people and the situations and I can feel it, I can feel the pain on a different scale. I look at people and think, ‘you are never going to make it out bro’ because they’ve not changed their mind frame.
“I’m not trying to be some neighbourhood hero, but I feel like it is my right, my duty. I need to tell people don’t just stay in these areas, don’t just accept what your life is because that’s what your family are doing.
“I’ve been the worst of the worst kind of person and if I can make it out, anybody can.”