Daring to do things differently, The Silhouettes Project are the music collective of over 50 people capturing a community essence that’s long been missing in London’s dispersing ‘underground’ music scene. 

It’s late March in north London: clouds hug the city’s skyline, shadowing the streets beneath them in a gloomy mist. Halfway along Camden’s high street though, red neon signage beams out from one of the capital’s most iconic venues, KOKO, encapsulating the kinetic energy that’s starting to build in its hallowed walls. Filling the floor and regal balconies that shimmer below a stunning mirror ball is an eclectic crowd, who eagerly await tonight’s performers. The air is thick with excitement. Emotions boil over when a cacophony of instrumentation launches from the speakers, revving up the audience and calling Hackney collective The Silhouettes Project to the stage for their biggest gig to date. A concrete fist stands defiantly behind them, honouring the inclusive ethos shared between the musicians and their onlookers.  


“Apparently London nightlife is finished… not when you’re with us,” reads the caption of a post on TSP’s Instagram after the show. One minute, you’re transported to a smoky jazz bar by the shuffling percussion and mesmeric vocal range of Tertia May, the next, a myriad of alt-rap emcees like MANIK MC, Kojey Radical and Nix Northwest bundle on stage, going bar for bar with an energy that perspires like a grime pirate radio set. There’s little time for rest, and eventually, 30-odd people light up the room, gun finger skanking to improvised jungle rhythms from the band; you can almost hear the floorboards creaking from such a visceral moment.   


Two weeks later, in a bid to recount such a wondrous occasion, I check in with founders Asher Korner and Jaden Osei-Bonsu, who go by the artist monikers Asher Kosher and Eerf Evil, via Zoom. “Someone after the show said it was cool how we managed to scale to a bigger venue, but keep the intimate and family vibe,” says Asher, picking up the call from his London home. “We want people to feel the Silhouettes feeling as soon as they get in the door,” adds Jaden behind a blank screen, taking a well earnt holiday somewhere in Sri Lanka. The duo bounce answers off each other with a synchronicity akin to hip-hop’s greatest two pieces, like Outkast or Black Star, elaborating with an articulate finesse that really makes you listen.  


Everything from the set design to the atmosphere and the artist curation was discussed by Asher and Jaden beforehand. They worked relentlessly to solve the (un)surmountable conundrum that is bringing over 50 artists to a music venue for a performance that encompasses all they’ve achieved over the past six years. The long days and endless nights paid off, providing artists and their fans a precious moment that actualised the impact their community has made over the course of two records.   



Since September last year, they’ve released a track every week from The Silhouettes Project, Vol. 2: an ambitious follow up to their first album that expands on the diverse principles of its predecessor. It’s some of the most socially conscious and poetically driven music you’ll hear in a while, marking a meticulousness that simmers down from the top. Asher and Jaden reflect in meditative tones on ‘Feel Enough’, contributing their conscience over brooding lo-fi hip-hop and house. Elsewhere, resonant R&B comes courtesy of KeepVibesNear and Talulah Ruby for ‘Venus’, and Goya Gumbani unleashes his vocal idiosyncrasies toward ‘Let It Go’. This really is just a fraction of all that’s good across the 59-minute runtime.   


The way Asher and Jaden paired up the pool of collaborators was simple yet amicable. Devising a list of their favourite artists, they then assigned people to studio sessions based on who would challenge each other artistically and bring positive vibrations to the session. The result? An immersive experience that effervesces the spiritualistic energy generated from the walls it was recorded in.  


“The story we’re trying to tell is one of community, where people come together with a common goal and make high-quality art,” explains Asher. “I think that pulls through in the artists we’ve chosen for the project.” Kojey Radical makes the same point at KOKO: “Everyone backstage was surprised so many of you came tonight. But you’re here for great music, and The Silhouettes Project is great fucking music,” he said after performing ‘Hocus Pocus’ with MANIK MC. The rappers had barely met before they went on stage, but you wouldn’t know it. The chemistry was so vivacious it felt as if they’d been doing it for years.

Being an artist can be a lonely profession. Musicians are three times more likely to experience anxiety or depression, according to the book, Can Music Make You Sick? Measuring the Price of Musical Ambition. It’s a staggering statistic that amplifies the importance of communal activity not only as a creative force, but for people’s mental wellbeing. Asher thinks over time, we’ve been encouraged to work for self-interest and resent those who share our goals: “Thatcher effectively dismantled collective spirit. Unions were destroyed and since then, funding for community centres, football clubs, dance classes, whatever it might be, has completely decimated.”  


As a former youth worker, Jaden has seen the effects of Thatcherite cuts to organised activity first hand, but he hopes TSP’s framework can inspire change. “There isn’t much belief in what music can do for communities and the role it plays in social action. We want to reinvigorate that message of community,” he declares, as if he’s grabbing a room full of ministers by their collars, “We’ve become so segregated as a society, but music is there to unite, it brings people together.”  

Before TSP, Asher had been running ROOT 73: an artist development platform and creative complex where musicians could meet like-minded individuals with a common goal. Having returned from university in Leeds, where a bustling creative scene lay in Hyde Park’s student metropolis, he was quickly wise to the fact that London lacked a hub of its own. Everyone was contesting with each other to become the next breakout star from the capital’s brief SoundCloud rap era, where the likes of Loyle Carner and Little Simz were beginning to blow. However, there wasn’t an infrastructure in place to nourish the next crop of talent, who shared dreams of breaking into the mainstream and having a music career.  


ROOT 73 now resides at the Total Refreshment Centre: the chocolate factory-turned-cultural institution right at the heart of London’s contemporary jazz scene. Originally outsiders with their alternative hip-hop philosophy, the recording studio has since embraced the free-flowing nature of its neighbours, bonding over a mutual appreciation for each other’s gifted community. “We built the studio from scratch with a team of volunteers over the space of three months,” recalls Asher fondly. “So, even the space itself has the feeling that it’s been created by the community for the community.” They have lived by this mantra ever since. ‘Created by the community, for the community,’ adorns their merchandise and is documented when their members mob the stages of iconic festivals like Glastonbury or We Out here. “ROOT is a special place because there’s no formal hierarchy or charity sector bullshit, where there’s bare bureaucracy. It’s really for the people,” adds Jaden.   


Uniting over a shared mission to make a music project for young people, Asher and Jaden met in 2018. The duo wanted to align the not-for-profit studio space with Jaden’s youth working to facilitate people’s treacherous and adolescent journeys into the industry. What eventually transpired was TSP, combining their artistic networks with the vision of creating a collaborative album at ROOT 73. The outcome was triumphant. The Silhouettes Project Vol. 1 continues to clock up millions of streams and establish the careers of underground innovators like ENNY and Kofi Stone. “We didn’t know that volume one would do so well, but we knew that the artists we were bringing together were amazing,” Jaden tells me. “Luckily, people felt the same energy that we did.”  

Although the pandemic restricted the album rollout, being in lockdown meant that people really had time to take the music in. It was then that Asher and Jaden started to fully understand the importance of the project, not only for the artists but for others in a period when social interaction was at an all-time low. “Losing sleep, losing p, I been on my lonelies / If only I could go to better days,” raps Lex Amor on the opening track, ‘At The Bay’ with Bel Cobain. Evoking the collective conscience of the time, the song feels like the moment of solace you reach when putting on headphones, pressing play on a song and shutting your eyes to block out the world around you. The proceeding 10 tracks provide a similar comfort.   


Learning as they went along, Asher and Jaden always made sure that the mixtape was being made with the right intentions. On The Silhouettes Project Vol. 1 and 2, all contributing artists take an equal split of royalties, no matter their size – a ground-breaking model that goes against the grain of financial distribution used by most labels. They want to make sure that there is space for artists to come together and release music in an authentic way, where creativity is nurtured and not rushed.   


This should hardly be that revolutionary, but expectations have changed in recent years. Quality of music has been compromised to place greater emphasis on social media promotion, as fans demand insight into the lives of their favourite artists. To make a living in music and completely disregard your online presence is near on impossible now; they’re mutually exclusive. “Social media is forcing a lot of artists to steer their music in a certain direction. What we’re trying to do is give them an outlet where they can create the music that they really want to make,” says Jaden. More than anything, Asher and Jaden see themselves as motivators, encouraging artists to create art that is meaningful for them.  


At face value, TSP’s success is hard to wrap your head around. They’re the complete antithesis to how the music industry operates today. And so, they’re the exception proving that when artists come together, the opportunities for creative expression are limitless. “We want to take this as far as it can go,” says Asher before Jaden finishes their concluding sentiment: “We want TSP to be a blueprint for other communities to come together and not think about the money, because there isn’t much of it in this industry, but be united by a collective goal of getting good music back on the airwaves.”  


Listen to The Silhouettes Project, Vol. 2 now: