In Conversation with ANTSLIVE
Interview by Patrick Boyle
AntsLive is a breakout North London rapper on the up. At just 23 years old, and only 3 years into his music career, AntsLive has solidified himself as one of the UK’s most promising talents thanks to his trademark flow and cinematic music videos. His standout single, ‘Number One Candidate‘, has racked up 8.3m streams, garnering him co-signs from the likes of Mia Khalifa, Aitch, AJ Tracey, KSI and Mabel. The catchy tune’s success has been enhanced by one of the most memorable music videos of the year which saw Ants galloping horseback through the Dolomites, dining with goats and wooing a lederhosen clad local. The rapper’s latest single takes his creative visuals to new heights. Directed by Tom Emmerson, ‘Captain Ants’ sees the rapper wing walking in Switzerland, punting in Venice and salsa dancing in Spain (a skill he picked up in 6 weeks). No green screens, Ants does his own stunts.
We speak to AntsLive about his journey into music, the success of his videos and what the future may hold for one of the UK’s hottest talents.
You grew up in North London, how has this influenced your music and how did you first get into rapping?
I think North London is a melting pot of different cultures and people and from when I was young I was exposed to a lot of different people around me and I take my inspiration from just chatting to the mandem or being around my friends. They’d show me new music, I’d show them new music. In London, Bluetooth was a big thing back in the day and it’s probably my earliest memory of sharing music with my friends. I was always inspired, trying to hear what the latest songs were from when I was young. I feel like that’s a London thing. I think I was always drawn to words, I really liked English in school and the way things sounded and different phrases and stuff. I actually wrote a bit of poetry when I was younger but I think the older I got and the more I started to listen to rap music, that was when I started to transition to writing bars.
Who did you listen to growing up? Has your taste changed as you started making your own music?
Yeah, I think growing up I listened to a lot of 50, a lot of Skepta, a lot of JME, even a bit of Eminem, J Cole, that was the rap music I grew up on but I also listened to a lot of RNB and soul, Motown and stuff. I think that my main influence growing up was Skepta and J Cole to be honest, I like how they’re story telling rappers and the more I got into my own bag I realised that’s the kind of songs that I like, where you can let the audience into your life a little bit more. I think those two rappers do that very well.
How would you describe your sound?
My shit is just feel-good rap. I always say if you feel a little bit better after you’ve listened to any of my songs, then I have done my job. My job is not to make you think too much or start questioning things, my job is to bring a vibe.
Your video for ‘Number One Candidate’ was critically acclaimed and amassed huge attention online, from watching your new video for ‘Captain Ants’ I am sure it will be just as successful – do you ever write music with a potential video in mind?
I don’t write it with the video in mind, but when I write lyrics, I often write them visually. It’s easier for me to write when I think about the visual side of it. That’s not necessarily what the video is going to look like but when I write this lyric I need to be able to see the scenario. That is just how my brain works. Often, I end up writing stuff that can be translated to visuals quite easily. I just try to be honest with it as well as having fun with it. ‘Captain Ants’ was written off the back of me travelling around non-stop for like a month and then when I got back I just said ‘Yo, I was moving like a pilot’, so that’s how that came about.
You’ve learnt to horse ride, salsa dance, taken the wings of planes, what’s next?
I always like to keep fans on their toes and to do something different visually. I’ll be honest, there’s nothing planned as of now but when I drop it, they will definitely see it.
You supported Aitch on the Ireland leg of his recent tour, how was the experience for you? As someone from Ireland myself I’m interested to hear what you thought of your time there?
It was insane. Shout out Aitch and shout out all his fans and supporters, they were amazing. They really took me in and allowed me to have my first sort of big stadium experience. I felt very at home and enjoyed it, I’m just excited to start my own tour which will be happening early next year. Yeah, I think live music is just the best way to hear music in general. I fuck with Irish people, that lot are crazy. The energy is insane and I can’t wait to come back. I love London, but we can be a bit bougie sometimes.
You recently attended fashion weeks in London and Paris. Is this a space you would like to explore more?
Yeah, I think so. The more money you get, the more fashion you start getting into. It wasn’t something that I was exposed to much growing up, but it’s definitely something that I’m looking to get into as the journey continues. Right now, the way that I step, the way that I dress, is still kind of humble. We’ll see if that changes up and turns into more high-fashion in the future.
How would you describe your personal style?
I grew up kicking a lot of ball so trackies, sportwear, streetwear, that’s always been my go to but listen man, I’m trying to learn a few things here and there, think outside of the box a bit and figure out where my style lies outside of that as well. I’m interested and I’m very inspired by a lot of my friends who are in the fashion space as well so you know I’m learning man, I’m just taking my time.
You’re an artist on the up. What would ‘making it’ mean to you, where do you want to be?
I don’t really understand why artists make music unless they want their music to be heard. I feel like that’s the purpose of music, to share it. So, for me I just want to share it with as many people as possible and I think if I can be the biggest artist in the world, the most people can hear my music. That’s the end goal ultimately, and that’s where I want to take it.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY TOM EMMERSON