You cannot escape it. The Jumpman logo, the pirouetting silhouette of Michael Jordan that's appeared on his Air Jordan sneakers for over 30 years, is in cahoots with death and taxes.
It is the embroidered branding on your shoes, the vinyl sticker on the rear window of an Acura in the grocery store parking lot, the proudly buzzed design taped onto a barber's mirror. It has adorned every surface there is. It is a global icon that appears on birthday cakes in frosting form and the face of at least one Italian rapper in tattoo form.
Jordan Jeffrey Baby, the 23-year-old rapper from Monza, actually has two Jumpman logos on his face: one of the standard black silhouette and then another made to look like barbed wire. He's also got Jordan's face tattooed on his. And an Air Jordan 1 on his chest. And the word "Jordan" in Arabic right below that. Obsessed though he is with the imagery of Jordan, he bought his first pair just two years ago.
"I tattooed the first emblem on my face without ever having worn a Jordan garment," the rapper says.
The Jordan theme is as prevalent in his body of work as it is on his literal body. He generally releases new music on the 23rd day of the month it arrives in as a tribute to Jordan's jersey number. His debut, an EP from May 2019, is called Michael Jeffrey Jordan, taking its name from the full name of the basketball legend. After that came a mixtape called Dr. Jeffrey and Mr. Hype in October 2019. His latest was Jumpman, an EP released in November 2020.
The many markings on his face, which also include the Vlone logo, make him look something like a characiature of the SoundCloud rap wave of three years ago. He's got the tattoos, he's got graphics of Xanax bars in his "Space Jam" music video, and he does that thing where you run your index finger along the bottom of your nose. He's even got an illustration of himself on his Instagram page mimicking the promotional material of 6ix9ine. Jordan is adamant though that he is not patterning himself after that rainbow-haired rapper.
"I don't fuck with that shit," he clarifies in our conversation.
He says that the ink on his body goes beyond promotional stunt work. Some of it is dedicated to a former lover who he's trying to win back. Jordan Jeffrey Baby has two tattoos on his forearm of Polaroid photos of him and his ex. As for the Jordan icons, he sees those as an important step in his life's mission. What is that mission?
In the conversation below, held over Instagram direct message this week, Jordan Jeffrey Baby answers that and other urgent questions. He warned ahead of the exchange that he is not totally confident in his English and would be using a translator to talk. With the consent of Jordan Jeffrey Baby, his responses have been lightly edited and punctuated (the exclamation marks are his) for clarity.
You have two Jumpman logos on your face, an Air Jordan 1 on your chest, the word "Jordan" in Arabic right below that, and a giant 23 on your back. When and why did this all start?
First of all, I want to clarify that Jordan is my first name. This has influenced, for 21 years of my life, on me not buying any Jordan garments, since I already represented the great MJ at the registry office.
Once [I] embarked on [my] life as an artist and released the first EP and the second, it was automatic to start dressing Jordan prevalently to strengthen the image and the parallelism, starting with the first Air Jordan 34 bought in Rome the day they came out. Let's say that the climb to conquer the entire collection is still long, but the tattoos on the face and body I hope will be able to get me noticed by the right brands or sneaker resellers, haha.
Are you saying that the Air Jordan 34 was the first pair of Jordans you bought?
Uh yes, before I was an Air Force 1 collector.
So did you get the tattoos or the Jordans first?
I tattooed the first emblem on my face without ever having worn a Jordan garment. Don't forget I got Mike's face tattooed on my face too!
It's not easy to forget. Has anyone from a sneaker brand, or any sneaker people, reached out?
No one has contacted me yet, absurd! Haha.
And the goal with the tattoo is to get Jordan Brand and sneaker resellers to notice you?
The real goal is to become a Jumpman testimonial.
Sorry, what does that mean exactly?
I took inspiration from all those celebrities who tattoo logos for commercial agreements, [I] think that I am about to tattoo the logo of a well-known eyewear brand in Italy in exchange for a lifetime supply.
What's the metaphor here? Are you positioning yourself as the Michael Jordan of Italian rap or the 6ix9ine of Italian rap?
Both, given the Latin South American influences that I am acquiring thanks to the link-ups with Latin artists after my stay in Spain.
You are simultaneously the Michael Jordan and the 6ix9ine of Italian rap?
I'm working on it, the road is long. I would also like to be remembered as the No. 1 in something.
Not the No. 23?
23, I correct myself, haha. Sorry.
I know you said you've had this Jordan thing in you all your life because that's your birth name, but did you grow up watching Michael Jordan play basketball at all? You might be a little young for that.
No, I have to be honest I am a passionate football fan. Michael is one of the few basketball players whose history I know even though the first game I saw on TV was in Space Jam, haha.
So you only started buying Jordans fairly recently, but how many Air Jordan sneakers do you own at this point? Are you entering raffles and paying resale prices for them? Is it a big part of your life now?
I only stopped at six Jordan models. The passion for the brand finally blossomed just over a year ago preparing my album Jumpman.
So you have six pairs of Jordans total?
Unfortunately only six. I had to spend a lot of my money in the months I lived in Spain, and once I came back I spent a lot of money with my lawyer.
Sneakers are cool to cop but more important is lawyer fees. Having the tattoos must make shopping for sneakers easier, right? Like you go into a store and they know immediately, "That guy wants Jordans."
I have to tell you that in Italy, a bad-boy face like mine is not suitable for the purchase of a Jordan model, since paradoxically they start to be shoes for high-ranking people or, in any case, with a certain type of style not too extroverted like mine.
The thing is you can't really wear anything but Air Jordans now, right? The guy with Michael Jordan's face tattooed on his face can't wear Adidas.
As far as sportswear is concerned, (except for my favorite team in my city, who wear Lotto) I can't help but wear a Jumpman garment. I must say that I don't wear a lot of streetwear anyway, almost never!
Right, you've been Jordan since birth. I get that's part of your rap name, Jordan Jeffrey Baby, but are you aware that Michael Jordan has a son named Jeffrey? This is going to make things extremely difficult for you from an SEO perspective.
I have known since the beginning of the fact that as well as his middle name was that of one of his children. I feared a lot but the various episodes of news that led me to make myself known throughout Italy have meant that by clicking only "Jordan" on YouTube [you can] get to my songs after two years from my debut. I would say that the problem at the national level has been overcome in a big way.
I know you want the attention of the brand on some level, but is there any concern about legal issues? In terms of you using the Jordan name and all the imagery so prominently in your work.
The Gucci Cruise Collection by Gucci Mane x Gucci is [a] striking case of how certain obstacles can be overcome, on the other hand I am not declaring competition with MJ but rather bringing his name up in search of a consecration.
You're saying you're honoring him as an almost biblical figure?
You have found the exact definition of my assignment on Earth.