Jelani and Jordan On Brotherhood
The young artist & athlete talk about family, creativity and the Air Jordan 1 Low "Starfish."
Words: Andrew LaSane
Photography: Kanya Iwana
Brotherhood may be rooted in familial ties, but genetics aren’t always what defines it. The bonds formed between your biological or chosen family are often the strongest, and they don’t just happen overnight. Jelani and Jordan (a.k.a. “Hair Jordan”) have spent a decade strengthening their sibling relationship and learning what true brotherhood looks like. The fact that they share the same blood is an added bonus.
Born in San Diego, California, Jelani (21) and Jordan (10) have grown up exploring a wide range of athletic and artistic passions. These days, Jordan plays football and basketball alongside going to school and acting, while Jelani just released an acclaimed debut album. Through all of their creative endeavors, the brothers have centered family and community — values instilled by their parents and shared by Jordan Brand.
The brothers’ laidback style includes models like the Air Jordan I Low, a low-top that originally debuted in 1985 before they were born. A versatile silhouette for all ages, it now includes a range of new colorways and executions. Here, Jelani and Jordan wear a forthcoming “Starfish” pair that releases in full-family sizing.
We spoke with Jelani and Jordan about what family and brotherhood mean to them, what they’ve learned from one another and the new AJ1 Low.
What’s your favorite part about being a big brother to Jordan?
Just being a big brother. I spent my first 11 years of life without a sibling. It’s nice to have a companion to show the things I love. I get to see him go through phases that I went through at his age.
Even though you are the big brother, what has Jordan taught you about life?
He reminds me to keep a sense of awe and childlike wonder, as well as courage. With our age gap, I can sometimes get jaded or feel overwhelmed with everything going on in the world. Jordan approaches everything with wide eyes, from playing football to discovering new things.
What is a perfect day with Jordan like?
Traveling and discovering new things with him, like going to shops or parks. Just having new experiences together. Or we could also just watch anime all day. [Laughs]
How does your family inspire you creatively?
I’ve always been surrounded by extroverted, self-made, go-getter personalities like my parents and my aunts. I’m more introverted, but I feel like the drive they have is within me, as well. With something like music, I’ll go into it headfirst without overthinking it. They’ve inspired me in that way.
Jelani and Jordan with their parents, Antoine and Angie
You were working towards becoming a collegiate football player, and then you switched to music. How did you make that decision?
That happened in 2017. I had hurt my hip in track or football. Our team wasn’t great at the time, and I just fell out of love with it. I got my first keyboard around the same time, and it opened up a whole new world. It was hard to tell my dad because he had been my coach since I was six years old. He now sees how much I love music and is one of my biggest supporters.
What do you want people to know about your music and debut album?
This is where my head and heart have been since 2019. It’s called I’ve Got Some Living To Do, and it shares my experiences from the last two and a half years.
What is it like seeing your face on billboards from L.A. to NYC?
It’s surreal! I still haven’t processed it. I haven’t fully registered that it’s my face. It’s something I never really dreamed of or expected.
What do you like about this Air Jordan I Low?
The Air Jordan I is a classic shoe. Growing up, I saw AJ1 Highs everywhere, and I love the colorways and stories. My dad’s always been a collector, so the fact that we get to model the Lows is kind of amazing. I know my dad is excited. I can see myself wearing these whenever I go out with my friends.
Jordan Brand is all about family and community. What does family mean to you?
To me, family is people who love you unconditionally — at your best and at your worst. Family is my foundation. I don’t know who or where I’d be without them.
What’s your favorite part about being a little brother to Jelani?
My favorite part is always having someone to hang out with and look up to. Like he said, we also watch anime and play football.
What has Jelani taught you about football?
I’ve tried to follow in his footsteps with football. He encourages me to always give my best and never give up.
What is a perfect day with Jelani like?
Watching anime and going to the Japanese grocery store because they have anime things there!
What do you like about Jelani’s music?
The songs are very catchy. I like the melodies, too. My favorite songs are “Stella Brown,” “Jetfuel,” “From These Heights” and “Marigold.”
How did you get the nickname Hair Jordan?
Since I was three or four, I’ve always had my hair like this, and my name is Jordan. So, my dad just nicknamed me Hair Jordan. He says I have big hair and a big personality.
What do you like about this Air Jordan I Low?
Orange is one of my favorite colors. I’m excited to wear it to school.
What does family mean to you?
Like Jelani said, it’s knowing that there are people who love you and always have your back through everything.
Between you and Jelani, who has the better sneaker collection?
The Air Jordan I Low “Starfish” is available in full-family sizing starting August 26 from SNKRS and select retailers.