- Words Elle Evans
Croydon's very own A2 speaks on his latest single "Akolades" and forthcoming album, the quality of British Rap, and his next steps as an artist.
In between producing, playing basketball, and reading mindfulness books, A2 is one of the UK’s most respected and treasured artists. The once mysterious figure has built a cult-like following over the years and rightfully so. In paving a lane of his own, his seamless discography speaks for itself; from the 2017 drop named ‘BLUE’ to his 2019 release of ‘All Spill’, the rolling 808’s, intimate lyrics, and thought-provoking bars have set him apart from many in British Rap.
Although he hasn’t quite reached the ears of the masses, A2 deserves his flowers and that’s exactly what he reiterated in his brand new single “Akolades”, which is set to feature on his forthcoming and highly anticipated album ‘Just So You Know’. Following on from his year and a half break from releasing music, that hasn’t stopped his creative juices flowing which is evident with his more recent SoundCloud drops including “THRILLZ” to his “ENVY FREESTYLE”.
Notion got the chance to catch up with A2 after what turned out to be his second birthday in lockdown – sigh! – over the phone to talk all things music, the “UK scene” and more.
How have you found navigating yourself through the past year with everything that has been going on?
It’s been a good year man. It’s been a good time to reflect, home in on the skills and tune the abilities. I’ve been enjoying it apart from the fact that I can’t do any shows – it’s been a bit of a catch 22, the downtime has been good, but the lack of music events and all this other stuff has been a creative killer!
Would you say it’s shaped your music in any way at all going forward?
Nah! Not really! I don’t tend to let these types of things affect the music going forward because I’m too meticulous with it. It’s only affecting the shows and me being able to connect with my supporters.
It’s been a minute since the release of ‘All Spill’ and you recently returned with your latest single “Akolades” – the title itself speaks a lot in regard to you and I’m sure many others will agree. Talk me through this single and your thought process behind it?
I’ll be real. For a very long time, I haven’t really let my arrogance shine through, I’ve been very humble for the majority of my career. “Akolades” is like a switch, it’s me being flamboyant and saying give me what I’m owed! *laughs* I didn’t think about making it, it was just a moment in time where I was having conversations with my friends and they were saying “You’re too quiet! You’re too chilled!” – the sound bite was fitting enough; I deserve some accolades. Where’s mine? No one wants to give me any! Do I have to work 20x harder? I’m selling out shows, I’m doing all this with no radio play, without the paddy-paddy-get-along gang and reposts from other rappers – I’m doing it the straightforward way and people still don’t want to give me my accolades! It’s my first drop since ‘All Spill’ back in 2019, I have to make this statement!
I feel like enough people are shouting about it though!
Do you know what, in our peripheral yeah! But outside of that, I think they Ray Charles it and think that it’s ok. I don’t know if it’s because of my energy or if people are scared – I don’t know what it is and all I’m trying to do is make good music! I see people getting their accolades for minor things. I’m like hold on! The boy has been here for time creating music from home; 80% of my music is created from my home and I do it all myself.
With each project you drop, I feel like you reveal a new version of yourself to an extent. How do you think ‘Just So You Know’ will differ from previous projects?
Yeah, you’re right! There are too many differences, I’m two years older in comparison to when I dropped ‘All Spill’. I’ve had time to listen to my sound and see where I want to take it. My locks are gone, I’ve cut them off! *laughs* I have put down the smoke now and I am able to rationalise things and not second guess them, the confidence that I have in both my product and myself is undeniable now. I don’t think that’s been displayed before! That’s the whole idea with “Akolades”, if you don’t want to hand me them then cool, I’ll force you to give them to me. ‘Just So You Know’ is another mood where we can take it somewhere else, this one has more of a grown feel. It sounds like I am articulating myself better and I sound more precise on the music. It doesn’t sound like ‘All Spill’ and it doesn’t sound like ‘BLUE’, it’s in its own realm.
Why did now feel like the right time to drop another project?
I’ve been quiet for time man! My time was done in regard to letting myself chill and getting my mind right. I’m the kind of person that wants to release music every day, that’s why my SoundCloud drops used to be so frequent because I was able to do it from home; I could make a song in a day and drop it straight after. I love doing that!
After taking a year and a half out, that’s my biggest gap where I’ve got to see and learn so much! I was getting pressure from the support base every day, it’s difficult trying to maintain the art and value in this and that’s the problem that they don’t understand. There is a level to it! It’s like with anything, the more you see it the more it’s devalued. That’s what separates me from a lot of artists now, my catalogue is almost untouched.
You drop music on SoundCloud as well as DSP’s. What’s different about the music you decide to drop on SoundCloud in comparison to your official releases?
I’m just impulsive! It might be there for 24 hours or 24 months. There is no method behind it, on SoundCloud, it’s easy for me to drop a song whereas DSP’s is another route around. I’m way too impulsive, it’s a gift and a curse init! Some people like to plan and make the most out of the situation, but I don’t need to do that as much but people like the element of surprise to it! Really and truly, I could put an EP on there now.
You’re such a tease! *laughs*
That’s how I used to be when I was younger! *laughs* I’m trying to keep this element of you can’t keep receiving because if you do, you’re going to be spoilt for choice and you aren’t going to be able to level the music properly. Think about how many artists there are. I feel like I am the only one who takes time and says “No, wait! Enjoy that project for a year, you won’t get nothing else!”, that’s how it used to be back in the day! They weren’t dropping two albums a year plus singles, you just got an album and the single on it, you had to put the CD in and enjoy it for the year! Now, you can listen to 10 million artists that are releasing weekly or monthly projects – the saturation is crazy and I’m not trying to go out like that!
I was on your Instagram live recently and you mentioned that you are a producer before being an artist. Explain to me more about this.
I started producing before I started writing lyrics properly; I say properly because everyone goes through that stage when they were younger and writing lyrics blah blah blah. I started making beats when I was younger on my computer. I was producing every day and it’s been that way since I was 13. I didn’t start to write songs properly until I was 18. I produce a lot more than I write songs, that’s just something I do because I might like the beat! I will probably end my career as a producer! No more bars but you can still get some beats off me. Eventually, I’m going to say I’ve done enough of A2 with the vocals and writing lyrics, then I’ll be the guy that produces of top quality. I always think to myself “How much can I get these words out?”, it would be different if they’re not from the heart, I could continue that forever but when it’s real and personal, I can’t do that forever! That’s why the music connects so much because what I am saying is real spill!
I know this is something you’ll be vocal about – What are your thoughts on the UK scene as it stands?
It’s all subjective! Me, I look at music from a high-quality place because I have grown up and trained my ear to have a certain level, anything below it is meh. I’m from the era where we had the greats such as Prince or Stevie Wonder, I’ve seen all these great models do their thing so when I differentiate it from the new age, it’s over-saturated man! Things seem good because there is progress in it, but in the long run, I don’t think the quality of music improves.
I feel like the UK scene has been stagnant for a while because when you look at the last singer you could actually call on and say they’re a dope singer for England, the last person I can think of that’s taken it to heights is Adele. We have all these singers here but why is Adele the last female singer to have done mad numbers, chill for years and not be out here? I thought that’s what music was about!
How come the numbers on YouTube and streaming platforms don’t correlate to ticket sales? We need more greats and not just people who are breaking streaming numbers. I don’t think anyone is going to be able to be a legend except for Stormzy. He is the only man I can think of that over the last 5 years that is actually doing things and isn’t out here all the time. The UK scene has just become about views and numbers – as long as you get them, it’s all good. This doesn’t make it equivalent to how good you are or how successful someone is because half of those streams could be bought, it’s all blurred lines! Whereas, back in the day when people were actually selling records it was different. I remember the So Solid Crew coming through and doing crazy things, they were physically getting it done! These are the people that I look back to and think this is the level.
The UK, if I put it bluntly, I probably will offend someone, but I think it’s a mess. We need more creative people to come through and not have to go on GRM for £350 to post a video that’s just going to get lost. All of these people get overlooked because they might get 500 views, but everyone has started that low and people get disheartened because of it. They think that they are done. I’m trying to create a movement where you haven’t got to be on that in order to do it, you just have to be good! It’s not about how many views you have, or how many followers on Instagram you have. I want to create a space for these people because I am trying to cut in the next 5 years and someone else can take the baton.
Putting the music aside, what does A2 like to do for fun?
I can’t lie, I’m just on laughter and vibes! I’m with the bros, playing football or basketball! I play a lot of PlayStation and I read a lot of books!
Do you? What kind of books do you like?
Yeah! I’m really into wellbeing and mindfulness books. I don’t really read fiction, I don’t mind them, but I would rather read something that I can learn from. The guy you see in the music isn’t the guy you’ll see when you know me on a personal level.
What else can we expect to see from you this year?
I always said I wanted to release a few more projects this year; whether it’s projects or singles I am going to be doing more of something. The presence of A is going to be felt more this year, especially visually because that is a place that I have neglected for a long time. More music and more vibes! Maybe more features!