A Whirlwind Tour Through Octavian's Huge Past Year
Here's your cheat sheet on the BBC Music Sound of 2019 winner and the tunes that make up his intergalactic, yet street-level, hybrid rap.
Image via PR
“Sigh at all the lies I believed /
Outshine a million Gs /
No disguise, don't keep I underneath”
Those three bars, them ones above, they were the first Octavian blew into the world, and as such they’re likely the first you heard, on his track “Party Here” – “a flipping banger”, according to one YouTube commentator – from September, 2017. Skulking around then as the new kid on the block, it was difficult to pinpoint where, exactly, the tune fell in the world. It wasn’t grime. It wasn’t afrobeats either. Was it rap? Sure, but still not really – at least not anymore than it could have loosely been categorised by any other genre. The only thing it seemed people could agree on – and Octavian said this himself, it’s a lyric in the song – is that he would blow.
Today he’s notched up another benchmark on that journey after winning the lauded BBC Sound Of… poll, clinching the number one spot ahead of Gen Z popstar-in-waiting, King Princess, Noisey fav’s Grace Carter and slowthai, and Rosalía, the woman behind one of your favourite songs from last year (“Malamente”, if you didn’t already know). And yet, despite the fact Octavian hides no disguise, he don’t keep I underneath, you may not know everything there is to know about him. Or maybe you do, in which case still; here’s a reminder anyway to catch you up on the whirlwind year he had in 2018.
January – He releases “100 Degrees” with House of Pharaohs’ member Sam Wise
Perhaps because of the name of the song, “Party Here” introduced Octavian’s unique melodic flow as one that leant itself to the dance. But on follow up single “100 Degrees” he threw a curveball and doubled down on his rapping talent, suggesting that a) maybe the strange, alien-like characteristics of "Party Here" were a one-off; or b) – and this turned out to be the truth – there was versatility to his oeuvre, and this was just proof. Head here to read more on featured artist Sam Wise, one of the up-and-coming rappers in the UK, and his group House of Pharaohs.
March – He releases "Hands"
This tune, this is the one where Octavian – and his producer J Rick, to give fair dues; he made "Party Here" too – solidified themselves as an individual, singular prospect in UK rap, that their debut single wasn't one of those flash in the pan moments. Here, they were pulling influences from every direction, stuff like Bon Iver, and Jai Paul, and assimilating it into their own sound: one that took in the history of British music – garage, grime, jungle – and made something new and raspy out of it, sounding as fresh as the snow looks in the video above.
May – Octavian plays our stage at The Great Escape
And in a very fine Ralph Lauren cable knit he did too!
June – He releases "Little"
Then, here, on next single "Little", he left the smooth melodic of "Hands" behind and doubled down on rap again. Confusing? Perhaps. But this might be one of his best songs, bringing the kind of bubblegum hook you might expect from New York centric stuff – Playboi Carti over some P'ierre Bourne production, for example – and into a context where young kids smoke on the back of the bus. And then...
In the same month he features on a Mura Masa track
... and brings things back to the sticky floored dance-floor (step, step, step!)
And he walked for Virgil Abloh's first Louis Vuitton collection. NBD.
September – He releases debut mixtape SPACEMAN
Thankfully everything came full circle on Octavian's debut mixtape, with all the heads of his strange rap hybrid coming together to form one beastly whole. Like Black Butter label mate J Hus before him – who released mixtape The 15th Day before debut album Common Sense – the cross-pollination of sounds on this tape showcased just how vast Octavian's scope was, widening in sound as much as it honed in on the intricacies of his upbringing, which took place somewhere between southeast London (Camberwell, among all its art students), BRIT school (he dropped out) and Paris.
And then – in November – it was back to the club...
... with this remix of SPACEMAN track "Lightning" by Ross from Friends that's so deep in a particular mood, it's like a time portal to a place where all the water in immediate reach has been blessed with sweet, endorphin dusted taste (aka three in the morning when everyone has their eyes closed and the strobe lights are going off).
Somewhere between all the tracks above you'll find magazine cover stories (like this) and featured tracks (like this, with A2, Yxng Bane and Suspect, premiered on Noisey). By winning the BBC Music Sound Of Poll, Octavian is in good company (Adele, Sigrid, 50 Cent) and bad (Keane). In either case, though, look onward as he sails into deep space, hanging out around the asteroids, likely refining his intergalactic hybrid rap or partying into the future.
You can find Ryan on Twitter.