Leeds-based rapper, ATO, is currently the UK’s one to watch with his latest single “space to”, taken from his forthcoming EP.
The hip-hop inspired track takes us through ATO’s rollercoaster of feelings, which eventually ceases with the storyteller becoming the opposite of outspoken.
Although “space to” appears dark and quite deep, the track leads us through a thought-provoking journey, while ATO comes to terms with feeling ok after contemplation.
The Joey Brodnax-directed video only heightens ATO’s wordplay with eclectic visuals.
We truly embark on this journey with ATO, as we watch him in the passenger seat of a car ride through a picturesque city.
With recurring collaborator EDEN in command, “space to” has its similarities to the previously released, “24”.
Both tracks are taken from ATO’s approaching EP.3, with themes of self-exploration and transparency becoming significant throughout, enabling ATO to tell a dynamic and authentic story.
We got the chance to chat to the fast-rising rapper about his two tracks from EP.3, working with EDEN and Joey Brodnax, and his surprising – yet random – personal goal for 2020!
Hey ATO, for those who haven’t heard of you just yet, how would you describe you and your music?
I’d describe myself as quite light hearted and a forward thinker. The music I naturally make is often quite dark and retrospective though, but as dark as it is, I feel like it’s always looking for some light in one way or another.
Tell us about your recently dropped “24”, and the visuals for “space to”.
I guess you could say broadly, “24” is about anticipating the next chapter in my life, taking in everything around me and wondering what it will all mean tomorrow. It goes down a few different alleys though, and thoughts are flooding in throughout. When I listen back to “space to”, I hear myself trying to arrive at just feeling ok with everything I’m thinking and feeling. It starts quite outspoken and eventually it becomes forced into something a lot more reserved. I’m real happy with the visuals, I think Joey Brodnax (the director) brought a new element to the story I’m telling here.
Do you like to, let’s say, direct or plan your own music videos to keep them low budget and authentic? Why do you think it’s important to be true to who you are and make things your own?
It’s not so much that I like to direct and plan things myself, I’m a big believer in letting everyone do what they are best at. I know that can also be difficult to achieve if people aren’t on the same page though! I’ve always been lucky enough to just work with my friends and create with them, or have them around. I think I’ll always encourage working this way. Although I didn’t know Joey [Brodnax] that well before, when we linked up to make these three videos in Copenhagen, there was immediately a good energy there between him, me and my friends, which made it possible for us to all feel free to express ourselves. By the end of the trip, I regarded Joey a friend.
What was it like to work with frequent collaborator Eden, on “space to”?
It was just like being at home. We started working together when we were practically teenagers in his bedroom in Dublin five years ago. We’ve kept the same energy on this project that we had back then, which feels great. Days in the studio go so quick man, we spend half the day recording and the other half messing around and playing Fifa. Making music is just part of the way we hang out.
You have Ep.3 coming out this month on 22nd! It’s available to pre-order now but what can fans expect?
They can expect more experimentation in the music and a dynamic real story. On this project I’ve openly explored what I’m going through. I’ve tried to be transparent with how I’m feeling, regardless of what it might be, in order to lose the shackles that come with stereotyping and expectation.
So, growing up, was it always rapping or did you have other aspirations?
It wasn’t always rapping but I’ve always loved writing. As a kid I used to write stories, sometimes adventure books. I never had a clear idea of what I wanted to be, I just always liked to create things, with a view to having a positive influence in the world, big or small.
Being from Leeds, there aren’t massively known local rappers to look up to. So, who did you aspire to be when you were younger? Who or what was it that made you love rapping?
Growing up, my mum and I moved around a lot before we settled in Yorkshire so my musical influences came from all over the place and I was pretty open to new things generally. Though, Eminem was somebody I really listened to throughout. I quickly understood, listening to his music, the power of telling your own bizarre story, and how the more personal the story got, the more it ironically resonated with others. That really made me feel connected with people.
Who are your favourite artists at the minute?
Dev Hynes for sure, I was lucky enough to see him in Copenhagen this summer. He has a way through his music of interrogating what it means to be a black man in western society, and I feel very free when listening to his music. I’m also a big fan of Yung Lean, what he makes is way outside the box and he is a leader in that sense.
If you could collaborate with somebody on a track, who would you choose?
Both Lean and Dev Hynes for sure. I’d also love to work with Kano, James Blake… Clairo.. I could go on; there’s a lot of sick artists out there right now.
Top three tracks you have on repeat at the minute?
Balou – Benny Jamz, a rapper from Denmark
Find me – Jesse James
Muni – Potter Payper.
With new music on the way, can fans expect shows or a tour?
It’s looking that way!
Finally, we are almost entering a new decade!! Do you have any personal or career goals to achieve by then?
To get over my fear of flying haha.
You can pre-order ATO’s forthcoming EP here!