El Londo: ‘No matter who you are, we all connect over the love of making music’

Following the recent release of his THANKSLONDO project – a showcase in the UK rap scene’s thriving underground talent – we speak to producer and singer-songwriter El Londo.

El Londo

The UK rap scene currently boasts heights it’s never seen before, having evolved from an underappreciated underground to its current stage of affluence and chart domination. Just a few weeks ago, we saw three rap songs simultaneously top the charts with Dave and Central Cee’s 'Sprinter', J Hus & Drake’s ‘Who Told You’, and Stormzy and Fredo’s ‘Toxic Trait’. In many ways, we’re living in a golden era of a genre that’s still evolving.

And with such evolution comes new generations of artists looking to leave their impression on a scene that’s wide open. London-based producer and singer-songwriter El Londo is taking to be a top artist amongst the scenes next wave of talent. El Londo (real name, Elliot) is a talented producer who infuses a spread of styles that the scene has adopted from a worldwide range of influences, including trap, jungle, soul and lo-fi hip-hop. Having made music for over several years, El Londo’s latest tape THANKSLONDO, which arrived early last month, captures a picture of an evolving scene and epitomises his career thus far.

“I feel like when I started making music. The scene was very hostile. There are a lot of egos in rap,” he reflects on his come-up. Indeed, it’s no secret rap is a competitive genre that commands the same range of conversation sport does. Rap artists are pitted against each other. Their mettle is tested as their street credibility is readily questioned. Parts of the scene can be combative, cliquey, and working against itself.

El Londo

El Londo came to fruition with a generation that saw the regressive nature of the stifling parts of the scene. During his secondary school years, drill and trap were the dominant trends and genres in UK Rap. These genres are usually vetted for authenticity, such a lifestyle many fabricated. But instead of jumping on the trend, El Londo wanted to create something different for himself.

He set out on his musical journey linking up with an extended school friend, Ashbeck. Back then, Ashbeck was a buzzing rapper who experimented with styles and various beats, continuously improving. “I feel like Ash, and I always stayed true to ourselves and didn’t try to let anyone’s opinion change how we present ourselves. We are not ‘hood guys’ that trap, so there was no need to lie. That’s always been a thing we considered from the start of making music,” states El Londo, certain of what it would take to strike that difficult balance of being authentic and respected. “Rap music doesn’t just have to be about crime or trapping. If you don’t do such things but want to rap, talk about your life and everything that happens within it.”

El Londo highlights Ashbeck as the first and foremost person he enjoys working with, alongside Bawo, Capo Lee, and BlazeYL – all of whom are among the lengthy list of names to that feature on THANKSLONDO. Ashbeck’s music in their school days consisted of songs made on an iPhone. “I was like, ‘This guy is hard’,” he recalls. “It was just his voice recordings over the phone, the quality was dead, but it was raw and sick.”

At the same time, a young Elliot was an aspiring producer who wanted to make similar music. “I found out he [Ashbeck] was posting stuff on Soundcloud, rapping over old hip-hop beats, like Madlib and J. Dilla, which was the sort of shit I was into. So naturally, since we were both aware of us making music, we wanted to make some music together.”

El Londo

“I was into neo-soul, and RnB, and he was into Madlib and MF Doom. So we combined that. Then we both started to get into [Playboi] Carti when he was doing his self-titled project with Pi’erre Bourne – all that shit. We took inspiration from all those little things, built up together from that, and made a sound from it.”

Everyone looking to get into rap naturally filtered through drill and trap to sound relevant. Even though the stigma had always been evident with predominantly Black music, drill and trap led to more media vilification. For a schoolchild from communities invested in these arts, such an era was imposing, full of peer pressure, and ultimately dictating what sound wannabe artists would produce.

For an impressionable teenage Elliot, this was not an authentic sound to his teenage life. Under the name El Londo, he found a new musical identity that gave him the space to represent who he truly was. “A lot of Ash’s lyrics are about teenage life, smoking up, he’s talking to girls, parties, and just living his life,” he stated, recognising the content that enticed him and that audience.

So Ashbeck and El Londo had space to flex and build chemistry together that they expressed over two EPs: AshLondo 1 and 2, released in 2019 and 2020, respectively. “That is my best friend. We spend a lot of time together. I know exactly how he likes to work, and he knows the same for me. Our formula now has reached a point where we can jump into the studio any time, make and drop something. It feels so natural working with him.”

THANKSLONDO

“Nobody was taking us in either, so it was something we both shared. We had each other’s back and supported each other,” he adds when I asked him about those early years building his craft. “We’d link up after school. The times we were meant to be revising for GCSEs, we’d go to mine and make music. It just flowed like that. It was very natural, and we both had similar tastes.”

We spoke about the state of this culture, and he highlighted how the negativity has dispersed and mutual support has blossomed. “People seem a lot more positive. All the people coming up and putting out music. I’m in the studio with all sorts of people from all walks of life. No matter where you are from or who you are, we all connect over the love of making music.”

“I feel like people genuinely have an actual passion for this. Everyone wants to see each other succeed. It feels like friendly competition. We all fit in this jigsaw puzzle of music,” he remarked. “It is really nice. It is comforting. I don’t feel like I am competing with anyone. It feels like everyone is just one. Even if we don’t interact and see each other all the time, we all acknowledge each other, and respect each other’s music. I think this is how it should be.”

At only 21 years of age, El Londo has already made a statement within the scene by producing a range of projects, including AshLondo 1 and 2 with Ashbeck, Cost Of Living with Capo Lee, and 2021 EP Text Language with Namani. With THANKSLONDO, El Londo presents a tape that I see as a screenshot of the UK’s spread of rap, especially centred around London’s talent.

It includes the likes of Youngs Teflon, Capo Lee, BlazeYL, DA, Ashbeck, Bawo and Oscar #Worldpeace – a spread of UK hip-hop, grime, trap and even drill. It compiles a spread of rappers that capture what’s happening in the underground scene and pays homage to a few underground legends. El Londo’s production on the tape leans into this spread of influences, adding his unique spin on beats, such as ‘Messy’ with DA, a drill-inspired track that had its video released a few days ago, and ‘Designer Flow’ with Ashbeck and Capo Lee, which leans into rap and grime.

The appeal of his sound is the therapeutic and captivating production, pieced together through traits of those various sounds, resulting in a smooth listen and beat for rappers’ lyrics to sit on. The strength of El Londo’s production is the understanding and appreciation of the artists he works with.

“Because I actually listen to them, I feel like I can make the perfect beat for them to sit on.” El Londo asked how he tailored the beats to the different artists on the project.

In a Cypher hosted by Victory Lap a couple of months ago, El Londo links up with peers at the new home of the underground sound and culture. Featuring artists who appear on his project, he mixes and flexes beats he produced into a smooth set, capturing the essence, culture, moment and time the underground scene is in as each evolves into their own path while uplifting each other.

El Londo

The tape is almost a self-titled project, an approach to a project reflective of many artists who usually inject their identity into it. But as a producer, the tape offers a different execution of the idea. “I was actually saying this to someone earlier. There is more than one meaning. It’s a ‘thanks’ to all of those who supported me. Whether that’s friends, family, or even people just listening to my project. It’s thanks to them,” he says with a wondering smile. “It is also like I am thanking myself. Thanks Londo… My name is Elliot, I am thanking Londo, because he changed my life.”

“Finding El Londo changed a lot of things for me. It made me find a lot of worth. There’s nothing else that I am really that good at. I have tried to do a lot of things in my life. Music seems to be the only thing that I can really do.”


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