Beginning his musical journey in a trio with his two best friends, AntsLive burst onto the scene as a solo artist in 2020 with ‘Brown Liquor’. The North London rapper’s imaginative visual style and unique sound has kept fans on their toes ever since. Although he never tries to emulate anyone too closely, his influences range from Skepta to Aretha Franklin – the latter a favourite of his mum’s, who also passed on her penchant for words as an English teacher.
His debut EP Just A Matter Of Time, released today, is a confident statement of intent, a guiding principle epitomised by the lead single ‘Number One Candidate’. The track is accompanied by an original music video shot by respected photographer Tom Emmerson.
The EP also contains more introspective moments. ‘Matter Of Time’ speaks to AntsLive’s loss of faith, honestly portraying the highs and lows of navigating a career as an artist. And as he explains to us, a snippet of this dichotomy is what the EP is all about.
2022 was a busy year for you. What’s your review of last year?
I feel like I was on 20%, I’ve got a lot more to offer. We’re just getting started, laying down the foundations, letting the fans know what will be on the mixtape without giving too much away, and just setting the whole thing up. I see 2022 as the platform, and 2023 we’re really about to build on that – take it to a new level.
Tell us about your new EP, Just A Matter of Time.
First, I’ll start with the name Just A Matter of Time. It’s a mantra I like to live by. In general – in life and also with music – in terms of how everything’s gonna take time and there’s no rush. Perfect the sound, develop and grow. Listen to different genres of music, listen to your different inspirations and things will work out.
The actual content itself is a derivative of that, in the sense that everything was done over the course of last year. I was meeting different producers working in different sessions, and figuring out myself over the course of the year; where I’m trying to go, the sounds I’m trying to incorporate into my music and where I’m trying to take it.
There’s nine tracks, they’ve all got their different vibe and there’s a variety of sounds in there. The message that ties it all together is more of a feeling that I want people to take away when they listen to it, which is just good vibes, good energy and motivation. As long as you can feel better than you did before you listened to the tape then that’s my job done.
What attracts you to certain beats?
It’s really just a feeling. If I’m in the studio, and I’m cooking up with a producer, or if he’s playing me beats, it’s got to make me feel a certain way; get me really excited to suddenly make something. Sometimes, as soon as I hear something, I feel I can piece the whole song together, a narrative just hits me straight away.
Having said that, I quite like bringing different melodic elements into the music. When I hear interesting melodies, and different top lines is when I usually get excited and then I run with that. That’s probably why there’s such a variety of stuff on the tape, because everything makes me feel a different way.
Does this EP represent a new path for you as an artist, in terms of releasing longer-form work?
I feel like I’ve got so much music that I’ve been working on that it’s certainly right to put out a body of work and the time feels right to do that now. In the future, I want to get out another body of work out. If people are fucking with a certain sound, and I’m fucking with a certain sound, I might drop a couple of singles like that, and then tap back into a project.
But this makes sense as a foundation that we built up. I’m an artist that, at the end of my career, I’d like to have dropped 20-plus projects. So this is really just the beginning man, and we’re going to develop and elevate off it.
How did you go about creating the new video for ‘Number One Candidate’?
First and foremost, I’d like to shout out the director and my manager, Tom Emmerson. He’s a crazy talented director and we’re building a brand together. We shot this one out in the Dolomite Alps. The whole concept behind it was making a film, not a music video. The opening shot is me galloping on a horse – no green screen, man learn to do that. I’d never been on a horse a week prior to flying out there. Man told me I can’t gallop, I told them shut up.
Then all the scenes are just vignettes of this narrative of me going into the alps, being in a different landscape and meeting a girl, having a picnic with a goat and riding on a fire truck. It’s all crazy, exaggerated snippets of what someone might do if they went on holiday to the alps. That’s really what we tried to do when we were making the film. It has a good energy about it: it’s funny in parts and explosive in other parts.
You place a lot of emphasis on your visual aesthetic. Why do you think this is important as an artist?
I’m definitely trying to visually translate aspects of my brand to my audience. I guess it’s because I care about music videos but nowadays people consume music in snippets. They jump on TikTok and they hear something; they play it but they don’t really tap into the artist or their music video.
So for me, I feel like I have a responsibility to carry that on. I don’t want that aspect of music to die. I want people to deliver complete bodies of work and that is a good song, a good music video and an authentic brand as well behind it. I want to make sure people have a visual experience as well as a sonic experience. It’s about giving them [the audience] the whole package.
What was the experience of going to Sierra Leone for the first time like and why did you decide to shoot your music video for ‘Skeet’ there?
Yes, I shot that video myself with a VHS camera. I went out there with my brother and my mum, as my mum’s originally from Sierra Leone. I just wanted to document the experience of going back to the motherland. For young black individuals, when we go back to Africa it can be quite eye-opening and, honestly, life-changing in the way you see your roots; you understand a bit more about yourself. So that was my opportunity to do that and I wanted to document it.
I also wanted to offer a different perspective of West Africa, as sometimes the Western media can portray it as just poverty but it’s way more than that. It’s culture, it’s art and positivity. I’ve never seen so much happiness in one place. Even though people might think there’s high levels of poverty there and people can’t be happy, they’re full of joy and good energy and I tried to translate that as much as possible. The VHS broke after three days, but I think we did a good job.
Having grown up in London, how has the city influenced your sound?
The thing about London is, it’s busy, it’s hectic and the pace of life is extremely fast. I thrive off that, it’s a dog-eat-dog city. London’s super competitive, it’s like a lion’s den and you have to fight your battle to cut through.
I feel like that translates in my music because it’s one big competitive game to me. if I work harder and apply more pressure than the next man, then I’m going to thrive. London definitely taught me that mentality to do a bit more than the next man and that’s given me an energy.
Finally, what does 2023 have in store for AntsLive?
We’ll wait and see man, that’s up to the people. Spin my music, play my shit and we’ll see how far we can take this.