The 24-year-old artist Octavian, unapologetically original and free-spirited, is a staple of London's sounds
Octavian music is impossible to pigeonhole, influenced by the city's many facets and genres: from South London's drill and grime to UK rave's house and garage. The result of this unique blend is a genre-defying sound, which is the essence of today's largely intersectional cultural landscape. So it's no surprise that Octavian was voted the BBC Sound Of 2019, the only second rapper to achieve the honor after 50 Cent.
Born in France, Octavian moved to South East London with his single mother at the age of three. Protesting against being told what to do, and wanting to pave his own path even as a child, he was expelled from secondary school for truancy. Struggling, his mother sent him back to France to live with his uncle, hoping that a male figure of authority will do Octavian good. After two years of fighting, often physically, he came back to London only to be kicked out to live on the streets at the age of 15.
Having known from the young age that he wanted to pursue music, Octavian applied and was accepted to the BRIT School that trained such icons as FKA Twigs, Adele, and Amy Winehouse. But he dropped out after becoming disappointed with the school's tendency to push its own frameworks onto students. "I just don't believe that you can teach someone how to be creative. As soon as you start teaching someone, they lose their originality", he told the Guardian before the release of his first full-length mixtape Spaceship in 2018.
Virgil Abloh, the mastermind of Off-White, has designed the cover art of the release. Virgil, who is currently the artistic director of Louis Vuitton's men's wear collection, has also invited him to walk the runway alongside Kid Cudi, Playboi Carti, and A$AP Nast on multiple occasions. One of the flagship stores of the high-fashion brand on Rodeo Drive in Los Angeles also has a massive sculpture of the musician.
The collaboration between Virgil and Octavian may have never had happened if not for Drake who was filmed rapping along to one of Octavian's tunes at a Golden Globes after-party. In fact, 'Party Here' was already becoming popular at the time, getting plays at clubs across the UK and being featured in a magazine like Fader. Fatefully, the track's lyrics are about achieving success as Octavian and his friends, AKA the Essie gang - a wordplay on SE, the postcode of South East London - were longing to get out of poverty.
The video for that crucial track was shot for just £50. But it's no less striking than 'Bet', featuring Skepta and Michael Phantom, that was released in 2019. Both videos are directed by Armin Druzanovic (Octavian's manager Cillian Farrell is also credited as 'Party Here' co-director). It shows that Octavian is an artist loyal to his principles and roots, even though he signed to Sony's Black Butter, a big industry label. He's one of the most anticipated artists in the UK today, and his audacity leads the way.