Aged at just 23, North London rapper Avelino shows a high level of maturity through his music. After bursting onto the scene in 2013 and impressing with first releases ‘Underdog Music’ and ‘Iconic Ambition’, Avelino built a reputation for both his intricate wordplay and lyricism while displaying a willingness to speak on topics from poverty, gang crime and women. Hailing from Tottenham, it’s clear that his upbringing played a major part in his story, as well his environment;
“I think it’s a typical inner city story. It has its ups and downs but I would never change my childhood because it’s made me who I am today. It has become an inspiration for me to go out there and make a difference”. When talking on his hometown, Avelino has pride in his roots and uses the preconceptions of his area in his favour when approaching anything that he does, “there are obviously the negatives from growing up in a predominately working class area but you have to make the most of it. But even the negatives are positives because it’s how you use them.”
In our first discussion, breaking down his early years seems to spark many memories for Avelino and show how landmarks in his life have had an affect on his present status. When asked about his first ever CD purchase, he didn’t respond with a quick fire stock answer, but with a reply that not only answered the question but showed why he makes the type of music he does today; “I went HMV with my brother and got Kano – Home Sweet Home and The Streets – Original Pirate Material. I’d bought them because I’d heard a few tunes but I realised that they were complete pieces of work and were timeless in that. Now, that’s what I want through my music, to create a whole project and making the music deeper than one song”.
When asked on why he chose to go down the career path of making music, he’s quick to shoot me down [“I’ve never decided that and I still haven’t”] and state that music was almost more of a need for himself which eventually snowballed into a career overnight. The need itself comes from Ave’s need to talk and express his emotions through any creative platform; “It’s a human necessity for communication and expression. Music is an outlet”. This outlet allowed Avelino to get whatever he was thinking about out on the page or on the mic and something that he could be proud of, his creations. His music also marks pivotal points in his career and reflects his character throughout the years. This point is made even clearer when asked about his favourite track;
“I don’t know if I have the answer to that. For me, tracks have different purposes. They have different moments, different feelings, different emotions, different ideas. While this could be my favourite track about personal feelings, there could be another favourite track about relationships”.
As with many London rap and grime artists, rap was initially seen as a hobby and way to socialise within groups of people. “It was more of a culture thing. We would just link up after school and just rap. I definitely come from a similar background to most of, if not all, rappers that come from this country”. When Avelino first popped up on YouTube, he went under the moniker AA and then later, Bobby Brown. While my initial thoughts were that these names led different personas and characters, it’s clear that Avelino came from a realisation that he could achieve something within music;
They were just nicknames because I never had a rapping name. It’s only when I thought that music could be a career that I thought I’m gonna need a name. And Avelino was born.
After his initial success with his earlier mixtapes, 2015 marked a change in shift for Avelino as he teamed up with fellow Tottenham rapper Wretch 32, who Avelino says himself is the best rapper in the country; “with his techniques and skill, he has gone past what we can even describe. He has gone past the language. I am a lyricist and I appreciate the craft”. When he first got the call from Wretch to collaborate, it was yet another moment that is looked upon retrospectively as a choice of whether to sink or swim; “I strongly believe its moments like those that tell you if you’re in the right business or not. When one of the OGs calls on you like that, you could either shy away and not stand up to the challenge but I didn’t flinch and just did it. I can look back at that moment and know that I have done myself justice”.
The chemistry between the pair is clear, with both looking to do collabs with each other at every turn, showing how highly they regard their craft. Their collaborative Fire In The Booth has been described one of the best ever and their joint project, ‘Young Fire, Old Flame’ received fantastic acclaim from fans and critics alike, as well as holding two sold out shows. In their endeavours, it seemed like a metaphorical and well deserved “passing of the torch” from Wretch to Ave and all eyes turned on the young artist to see where he would go next.
In music, I think momentum is what you make of it. It is what you design and build yourself to be. I’m ready to have that relationship with my fans in which they anticipate the music I’m going to drop.
For Avelino fans, the wait wasn’t long as he dropped his latest EP, ‘F.Y.O [Fuck Your Opinions]’ in April of this year. In what can be described as his rawest material to date, he takes to each track as a statement of intent, attacking an instrumental with a flow which is cool and confident. While it is not in-your-face and overly aggressive, the tracks assert his presence as he shakes off any haters and enjoys his moment. “The honesty in the raps is a big thing to me. Every time I go in the studio, I need to extract whatever is within me at the moment to put in the music”.
In a UK scene that is dominated with such big names and personalities, where does Avelino fit in? “I just want to inspire people to do better by doing the best myself. I try to push positivity so if I can make people feel better through my music, that is my role. By being able to speak out, I feel that others can feel inspired to speak out too”. The idea of having a platform in music is one that has been embraced by UK artists over the past 12 months. While Stormzy and Novelist have used social media to speak out on their opinions over the Syrian War and UK politics respectively, Avelino spoke on the issue of police brutality in the USA on his hard hitting and honest track “The World Is Watching (Fuck The Cops)”. The track ties in the two notions of Avelino which shine so strong, his passion to utilise the platform he has been given while using the track as an outlet to express his emotions.
I might make songs about girls and maybe some ignorant stuff but just because I do that, who is to say that I can’t make some tunes about honest life and stand up and be counted? I’m not an activist, I’m a realist.
“I had a studio session the day I saw all of the Alton Sterling stuff on the TV in the morning. I literally made the track and got it out there ASAP. If I had waited a day or two, it could have sounded completely different. Looking back, I just think it was important to do something because at the end of the day, you could say that it is just a US problem but it’s a human problem”.
Avelino’s rise to success over the past 18 months has not itself gone unnoticed with GRM Daily’s RATED Awards showing love this year with three nominations including Best Breakthrough and Best Mixtape for the aforementioned collaboration with Wretch. While Avelino is humble in being recognised, he also points out that winning an award doesn’t correlate to achievement; “An award is always nice but I always tell people that there isn’t a ceremony that can validate a good year. While winning an award is nice, just because you don’t, doesn’t mean that you haven’t achieved anything. The only problem I find with these things is that with a great list of nominees, if only one person wins, does that mean the other people are losers?” But to be clear, an award would be nice, “By God’s grace, we may win one but if we don’t, we’re happy for whoever did and let’s keep moving forward and making it happen”.
Before anything, Avelino respects the craft of rap and this seems like a perfect way to end our conversation. When asked what rap lyric he would have as his life mantra, he takes to time to think and then replies with “I wish this was a lyric I came up with”. His choice is taken from Kendrick Lamar’s “Mortal Man”; “Want you to love me like Nelson”. While it is both simple and effective, it also echoes Avelino’s own ambition to inspire and teach through his music, and use his music as on outlet to speak. As Avelino said before, he didn’t choose music, it almost chose him. But he is not giving up this opportunity any time soon.
As with any artist, there is a huge anticipation for what he has to deliver next and his fans are itching for their next dose of Ave. His Twitter is filled with people asking when new music will be dropping and in his cool, laid-back way, he simply replies “Coming”. When pressed for a date, Avelino dodges the question, but in a very good way “I can’t give you a date because I might drop it before then and then you might miss it. I’ve never had this much new music in one go”.
Regardless of when it drops, we can be assured that it will be the Avelino we have come to know, honest in his approach and raw in his delivery. Avelino has kept the connection with producer Raf Riley for his new music so expect a unique soundscape and when talking potential collabs, Avelino said that he has a large group of musical friends [Stormzy, Little Simz, Wretch] and while he could have them all feature on tracks, he may have none. This ability to stand independent shows this success and how respected he has become as an artist. Now, he is called upon to guest verse, his turns on Cadenza’s “No Drama” and WSTRN’s “Come Down Remix” utilised wordplay galore and shows his strength within the UK scene.
What is the ultimate dream? “Freedom. Coming from where I come from and growing up in the complete antonym of freedom, restriction and captivation. And that’s just in your mind, that’s the deepest kind. I’m free in my mind but when I feel free, I will be able to look back on it and know I’ve made it”. Our final discussion brings us full circle, again talking about Tottenham. Avelino is proud of what his town has offered to the UK scene with artists like Chip, BBK, Wretch 32 and Scorcher making a name for themselves while newer artists like Abra Cadabra are slowing climbing the ranks. “Tottenham has always been a place which has inspired creativity and is a perfect place to make music. It’s a beautiful place and reminds us what we can achieve. North London will always be North London and the artists will keep on coming”.