Octavian’s organic blend of grime, trap and house has infected the British music scene for just over a year now, and his first LP is a showcase of the prevalence he could adopt if he carries on the way he has set off. There’s a strong scene of indie rap at the moment, with plenty of underground individuals threatening to infiltrate England’s mainstream music; Slowthai, House of Pharaohs and Octavian are all putting themselves out there as the pioneers. The French-born artist’s debut is one that I can’t help but feel will be of great significance in years to come, potentially developing a new scene of British talent, and possibly a move away from the conventional grime we have seen become so prominent over the past 5 years.
The way Octavian chops between gritty, harsh flows and dreamy, dainty melodies is frighteningly smooth. One minute you feel as if you are aggressively driving down a motorway, steering unforgivingly through cars and dodging the police, but often this exuberance is replaced by subtle, anthemic lyricism and choruses that sit a lot cosier with your heart. The best example of this is the transition from ‘Revenge’ to ‘Lightening’, both incredibly infectious tracks for different reasons. With the connections Octavian has made in the rap-sphere, most notably Skepta and Virgil Abloh, he could have had an overpowering collaboration list, which took himself out of the limelight. However, he opted for verses from equally up and coming artists like Suspect, A2, Krimbo and Swift. For me, Suspect offers the most engaging and feisty feature, ‘Break That’ is relentlessly ferocious, utilising Godji’s nasally vocals, an intergalactic beat and rambunctious rhythms. It is my personal favourite from the album and will go down a treat on his upcoming tour.
The way Octavian harmonises with the variety of beats he spits over gets increasingly impressive as the album unfolds. By the final track ‘Think Twice’, which includes the very talented A2, his vocals settle and present the beauty and atmospheric nature to his tone. A2 delivers an equally spectacular verse, with his slightly more drowsy, spacious vocals fitting perfectly with the trappy snares and subtle bass. Another cut that I rate highly is ‘Sleep’; it is one of the more vigorous and futuristic tracks, thus fitting the title of the album very well. With aggression, Octavian raps ‘Forever pissed off you can’t do it like me’, referring to his overnight success and the artists he has left for dead in his tracks. The beat is reasonably trancy and sounds as if it could have come off a 90s Nintendo game. Nevertheless, it is incredibly hard and grapples with the angst Octavian rarely portrays in his music.
Many rappers can appear materialistic in their rhymes, but Octavian does this with such a swagger that it seems viable. Confessing to his past poverty, and difficulties growing up, you could never blame someone for admiring what they have now, and what they are inevitably going to achieve in the future. Becoming homeless as a teenager, and dropping out of the prestigious BRIT school, King Krule and Amy Whinehouse attended, his talent will have to override all of the barriers in front of him to get to the top. It is looking promising for the 22-year-old though, and this project is definitely one of the most spacious, varied and untouchable debuts of the year. Give it a listen below, and come back here for any of Octavian’s future releases.