The Remarkable Rise of OCTAVIAN
By Rahel Aklilu
It’s safe to say that 2018 was a rollercoaster of a year for Octavian. Following his runway debut in Louis Vuitton’s SS19 show, (Virgil Abloh’s first Menswear show as Creative Director) and the release of his critically acclaimed mixtape ‘SPACEMAN’, he has quickly become one of the most exciting voices in UK Rap in the past 12 months.
To top it all off, he was just named BBC’s Sound of 2019 – joining the likes of world superstars like Adele and Sam Smith. For someone who dropped out of the BRIT school before becoming homeless, his rapid rise to join such esteemed company has been nothing short of remarkable.
His swagger and raspy voice have cemented his place as one of rap’s brightest bad boys. Co-signed by none other than Drake and embraced by the London scene, with features from Suspect and Swift of Smoke Boyz (fka Section Boyz) on his mixtape, he is a breath of fresh air, experimental and eclectic.
‘SPACEMAN’, which since (lazily) been labelled as ‘Alternative Rap’ brings together the French and British influences of the Lille-born, South London- raised rapper. Fusing together elements of drill, rap, house and dancehall, the tape takes listeners on a journey that is indeed otherworldly.
As intriguing as his music is, it’s the man himself that demands attention and aspiration. His meteoric rise and daring difference has brought with it a whole new fanbase consisting of all sorts of people and interests. Being signed to Black Butter (making him labelmates with J Hus) and opening for the likes of French singer Christine and the Queens shows us just how adaptable and forward-thinking his own tastes are.
Octavian performed at S&C Festival 2018, and it was easily one of the standout sets of the day. The team had been closely following him for a while - everyone absolutely loved his sound from the very first listen. When we booked him, his breakout hit ‘Party Here’ was on 400,000 streams (November 2017) - it’s been fascinating to watch his progress since, and the reception he got from the crowd last June was incredible.
Nothing, however, is more remarkable as a testament to his grit and determination than his dedication to music whilst homeless. Speaking to the Thomson Reuters Foundation, he told them, “I hope ... the progression I’ve had in my career so far gives hope to homeless people that things can change,”. As hopeful as Octavian’s message is, his talent and hard work afforded him a way out that many don't have.
Octavian’s story shines a light on so many others who don't have his platform. Youth homelessness in London is rife, with one in five young people experiencing homelessness of some degree during their lives. We hope that the rapper’s tough but heartwarming journey helps raise awareness of this pressing issue, and inspires those who are facing hard times that the future holds brighter possibilities.