Greatest rapper of all time? Avelino is certainly making his claim for the position.
Making waves in the UK rap scene since he dropped his debut mixtape, “Underdog Music”, in 2013, Avelino has been highly praised for his refreshing lyrics and individuality. The Tottenham-born 23 year old’s unique and edgy rapping style has caught the attention of many, and his deep wordplay has made him a force to be reckoned with.
Following 2015’s highly praised EP with Wretch 32 “Young Fire, Old Flame” and last year’s standout debut EP “F.Y.O.”, Avelino has returned with “Energy”, a track so incredible that there will never be enough fire emojis to describe it. Joined by two of the biggest names in the UK music scene, Avelino easily shows exactly why he is in the same league, delivering intelligent and flawless lines over the instantly catchy rhythm that producer Raf Riley lays down.
Destined for greatness, we sat down with Ave to find out all about him.
What music did you listen to growing up?
I listened to different music at different stages of my life. So it starts with African music from my parents’ countries and gospel music, that developed into US rap like Tupac, Biggie, and R&B like Aaliyah and R Kelly. Then, as I got older we started breeding our own MCs from our area so I started listening to The Movement, Wretch 32, Ghetts, Kano – who’s my favourite MC. And as I grew older I tried different things, I liked other kinds of music that maybe my friends wouldn’t have been so into. Like, I’m a big Coldplay fan!
Was there a moment when you realised you wanted to pursue music as a career?
I don’t think I’ve ever had a moment where I said “Yo, I wanna do music as a career.” I’m still just doing music because I like it and I was young and I was looking for a platform in which to express myself. That led to me trying various things, football, other sports, other things. When I found music – that was the right one and I just kept doing it and I’m still doing it the same way.
For someone who has never heard your music, how would you describe it?
I would describe it as creative. I know that’s a bit obvious because that’s what you’re doing when you’re making music, you’re creating it, but I mean I always challenge myself. I get in the studio with Raf Riley and I use all the equipment and come up with new sounds and new ideas. Also, I would describe it as intricate, because I worry about every detail, and versatile.
Who would you say are your main inspirations? In life and in music?
In life we’ve got first of all my old man who passed away unfortunately but his influence is prevalent to this day. My managers and my friends. It takes a lot to be independent in this game and wake up not knowing when you’ll see the light sometimes, and you push through as a team. My friends and my team inspire me all the time (this might be the first time they’ve heard that…). My close friend and older influence – Wretch 32. Ever since I’ve known him all I have done is learn. People I don’t know, Jay Z – that’s an idol rapper for me. In terms of music influences, there’s a lot Wretch 32, Jay Z, Kano, Kanye West, Drake. Everything influences me. Everything I like influences me.
You’re only 23 and you’ve already got loads of successful mixtapes and videos under your belt. Can you tell us a bit about what life has been like since your debut mixtape, “Underdog Mixtape”, in 2013?
Since then I’ve learnt a lot of things, grown, tried new things, met a lot of people, built a fanbase and given myself the opportunity to win. I’m still the same “me” in terms of principles and the core but I’m gaining more knowledge
Obviously, you and Wretch 32 have been very close and in 2015 you released “Young Fire, Old Flame”. Can you tell us a bit about how this collaboration came about?
It was as simple as – he heard one of my songs and messaged me on Twitter “Yo, let’s work” and I was like “Rahh.. Wretch 32 just messaged me, so let’s go then..” This was years ago, and since then we’ve built a relationship, we’re close friends. We just had a phone conversation one day and said we might as well do a mixtape and the rest is history. Knocked it up in about 2 weeks and “Young Fire, Old Flame” was born!
You then went on to release your debut EP “F.Y.O.” in 2016. What was the creative process behind the EP?
I did some maths and said, Raf [Riley, producer] sounds this way and I sound this way. The hybrid would be quite cool. So we went in and made “F.Y.O.”
“My favourite thing about performing live is the fact that what you made in that confined studio is being brought to life. You can see people’s faces as they receive the track, how they feel when the song is played.”
As a rapper, you’ve been championed for your wordplay. Where do you think your way with words comes from?
I think it has stemmed from always making connections with things. In general, making links and suggesting things to myself: in life, in films, in art and in writing. Wordplay is all about making your own connections rather than needing someone else’s. It stems from being able to see connections in other people’s work before I was able to make my own kind of ones, which is what you call wordplay and lyrical techniques.
How do you think the rise of artists like Stormzy has impacted the UK rap scene?
The only way it’s going to impact it is in a positive way. It’s a young brother that’s just winning and there’s people who will see that who maybe don’t know much about us and our music and they are going to see us winning. So if one of us is winning, I’m sure that stands the rest of us in good stead. It’s like “We know him, he’s cool, we like him and so his mates must be alright then…”. It allows us more opportunities to be championed.
Your latest single “Energy” is obviously bloody incredible. What was the inspiration behind the track?
I just wanted to embrace UK culture. Just the whole mosh-pit, festival, gritty, grimey, Prodigy-esque kind of feel. That UK vibe, I wanted to embrace it and when I was making the song I just thought Stormzy and Skepta would sound sick on it. Even though they’ve never done a tune before I didn’t think it would be a problem making it happen because I thought they would like the song – which is what was the case – and “Energy” was born.
What made you want Skepta and Stormzy to appear on it?
With collaborations it’s like, I like collaborations to be ones that are just here in my head, immediately. And it’s even better when they are your mates. Stormzy is a good friend of mine and Skepta is someone I look up to who is doing good things. We’re from the same background, both from Tottenham. So reaching out wasn’t difficult and he is always welcoming, he always has time for me and conversation and that’s anytime I see him. This time was no different, he said he would do the verse and he came through.
The response has been crazy. What does this feel like?
It’s good, you spend all that time in the studio perfecting a song so you’d want it to be received well and it was – so I’m happy!
If you could collaborate with any artist, who would it be?
Is it just one? Jay-Z! But if it doesn’t have to be just one then I would say Amy Winehouse too – God rest her soul.
You’ve just announced a headline show at XOYO and an appearance at Reading & Leeds Festival. What’s your favourite thing about performing live and what are you most looking forward to with these performances?
My favourite thing about performing live is the fact that what you made in that confined studio is being brought to life. You can see people’s faces as they receive the track, how they feel when the song is played. I’m looking forward to doing “Energy” a lot actually, funnily enough! Just because I’ve done it before, briefly and the energy it gave me was mad, like something I’ve never felt before from a song of my own so I’m excited to feel that again.
What else have you got lined up for 2017?
The one guarantee I have is more music, everything else is subject to change and moving about but the one guarantee I have is more music. “Energy” remixes out soon also!