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UK artist Octavian creates hybrid hip hop on ‘SPACEMAN’ EP

| Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Ruby Le

When Drake talks, people listen. It’s one of the many benefits of being the most popular artist in a generation equipped with the internet and social media. For example, in 2011, when Drake featured a relatively unknown Canadian R&B artist on his album “Take Care,” people took notice, and now The Weeknd has become a figurehead of modern rhythm and blues. Several other artists owe at least some thanks to Drake for their rise to success. One of those artists is Octavian.

Drake’s first acknowledgment of Octavian came at a Golden Globes after party, where a video was taken of the Canadian star singing along with Octavian’s debut single “Party Here.” That wasn’t all. Shortly after the release of Drake’s “Scorpion,” he took to Instagram to share the music that inspired his album. One such inspiration was Octavian’s third single “Hands.”

With two cosigns from Drake, Octavian seems poised to make it big after the release of his debut EP “SPACEMAN.” However, there is one thing still holding him back: his native land. Octavian isn’t from America; he was born in France and raised in southeast London. Because of this, Octavian has a heavy British accent and his hip hop music is labeled as grime or drill music. Grime has had a tough time gaining traction in the States, with the comedian Big Shaq’s laughable parody track “Man’s Not Hot” being the most popular grime song in years. However, if any UK rapper is going to breakthrough in the U.S., Octavian is the frontrunner to do so, and his debut EP “SPACEMAN” shows why.

“SPACEMAN” puts everything that Octavian currently has to offer on display. Lyrically, Octavian finds places where he can be personal and others where he can flaunt his stuff. On the terse intro track “Scared,” the UK rapper reveals a vulnerable side, stating that he is “scared to sleep” and reflecting on the pressure that comes along with being hailed as up next. This vulnerability quickly vanishes as Octavian transitions into the flex-rapping that dominates most of the EP.

“Forever pissed off you can’t do it like me” the young artist proclaims on “Sleep,” the first of many tracks that finds Octavian talking up his game. Although his success may make it hard to sleep, it also brings about the money, women and respect that Octavian clearly craves. “I got billions on the way” and “they know my name” anchor the track “You See It?” in a self-aggrandizing glamour. Octavian paints a picture of himself as an international star, which may be an exaggeration now, but could be true sometime soon.

Stylistically, Octavian is hard to pin down. He puts it best himself on the track “Build” saying, “No way they can categorize me.” Much like Drake, Octavian utilizes elements of both rhythm and blues and hip hop to create a hybrid style. On “Don’t Cry,” Octavian falls back on his rapping prowess to deliver a catchy chorus and a complex verse. Conversely, on the later track “Lightning,” things are slowed down as the UK artist uses his voice to fill every corner of the track’s spacey techno beat. Octavian is not the first artist to blur genre lines, but he does so in a way that shows incredible promise.

There are two notable things missing from “SPACEMAN” that bring the EP down a notch. The first thing missing is “Party Here,” Octavian’s debut single and arguably his best song to date. The UK artist’s choice to leave the track off of his debut EP wouldn’t have been a problem if not for the second thing missing from the EP: a hit. None of the 14 tracks from “SPACEMAN” rise above the rest, making it difficult to find one stellar song. Nevertheless, if you’re fan of hip hop or Drake — or if you’re the rare American grime fan — Octavian is worth checking out.

Artist: Octavian

Album: SPACEMAN

Label: Black Butter Limited

Favorite Tracks: “Don’t Cry” “Lightning”

If you like: Drake, Skepta, 6LACK

Shamrocks: 3.5 out of 5

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