Over the past five years or so, the coveted Drake co-sign has introduced the hip-hop community to a number of the industry’s preeminent artists. The 6 God has blessed many a guest verse with his Midas Touch, thereby catapulting a number of rappers toward mainstream success. Yet his influence isn’t limited to features, and upcoming British rapper Octavian understands that better than anyone.
Early in 2018, Octavian’s viral track “Party Here” experienced a veritable explosion in popularity after Drake used lyrics from the song as captions for a pair of Instagram posts, and (just a few days later) was filmed singing along at a Golden Globes after-party. In the months following initial endorsement from the Canadian superstar, the 22-year-old has effectively ridden the proverbial wave. He has since signed a deal with Black Butter Records (a Sony affiliate), modeled in Virgil Abloh’s first show for Louis Vuitton at Paris Fashion Week, and now looks poised to bring his unique sound to a greater audience.
Born in Lille, France, the rapper moved to the diverse London neighborhood of Camberwell at the age of three. A rebellious childhood culminated in his expulsion from the BRIT School for Performing Arts and Technology (which has produced the likes of Adele and Rex Orange County, among others).
Octavian was sent by his mother to live with an alcoholic uncle in France, but following a tumultuous stay, eventually returned to England. However, after yet another spat with his mother, he was ultimately kicked out—once and for all—from his family’s London apartment.
Spending his nights living on the streets or floating between public housing complexes, Octavian was left to fend for himself at the tender age of 15. Yet, in recent interviews, he has claimed to hold no hostility toward his mother for her decision. It was at this point, with the support of a collective of musicians, producers, and videographers known as “Essie Gang” (a reference to southeast London’s SE postal code), that Octavian was finally able to find peace in the form of music.
The MC’s nomadic adolescence and unique experiences manifest themselves in his music. Singing and rapping in unconventional rhyme schemes, Octavian’s sound can perhaps best be described as an experimental and spirited mixture of rap, grime, and house. On his early projects (22 and Essie World) and many of his newest singles, he reflects on what he has personally overcome. It’s during such introspection that his confidence and industriousness is most readily apparent.
The hit “Party Here” (which is currently on the cusp of eclipsing a million views on YouTube) perfectly showcases Octavian’s defiance and conviction, a dark celebration of his continued ascension. In the final verse, he emphatically raps, “You said I'll be a sheg, we'll I could have been / Fuck that, chase paper, chase dream,” invoking Jamaican slang to prove he’s well on his way to achieving so much more than anyone who labeled him a screw-up could have ever imagined.
On his most recent single “Little,” he states his rise succinctly (“I got bigger, I used to be little”) and—crooning in Auto-Tune—boasts about the products of his newfound success: “Crep check, ooh-la-la, they go, ‘Mmm yah’ / How he step so clean?”
The artist’s most recent release is a self-assured and vibrant guest verse on Guernsey-born producer Mura Musa’s bouncy track “Move Me.” Such impressive features, combined with British rap’s continued transatlantic appeal, means that Octavian has a real opportunity to become a household name among mainstream audiences when he releases his next EP, entitled Revenge.
With the talent and creativity to justify Drake’s continued support, and with rumors of a collaboration with the Toronto MC still looming large, it seems like Octavian’s explosion is imminent.