R&B, UK Rap

Mixtape Review: Octavian – SPACEMAN

“Octavian manages to conduct a guided tour with a perfectly planned itinerary…his ability to meld motivational speech into materialistic boasts before turning his gaze inwards to his feelings – [is] a combination that results in a tape that feels honest, personal and beautifully complete.”

Whether it’s the extreme lows and highs that he’s already experienced in life – from youthful homelessness to Drake co-signs, or the childhood spent between France and Southeast London (‘Essie’); something has instilled Octavian with the unique ability to embody a specific sound without ever being tied to a particular genre. Whether it’s natural talent or a learned ability, he is chameleon-like in his capacity to mould his sound to any instrumental: from R&B, to Afrobeat to Drill. The result on this tape is a journey through all of the sounds that are coming out of the UK right now. Many who attempted a feat of such magnitude would likely take us to a series of unconnected stops, rather than on a cohesive trip; but Octavian manages to conduct a guided tour with a perfectly planned itinerary. Undoubtedly much of this success is due to his role as co-producer, ensuring that he is at the helm of the project throughout. The rest is his ability to meld motivational speech into materialistic boasts before turning his gaze inwards to his feelings – a combination that results in a tape that feels honest, personal and beautifully complete.

The first standout is ‘Sleep’, a number that can only be described as neo-drill, with Krimbo providing the archetypal content and to-the-point delivery of the genre before the beat breaks down prior to the final repetition of the hook. Over other-worldly synths that wouldn’t sound out of place on an experimental jazz fusion album, the French-born rapper sounds jubilant as he challenges critics “don’t act like you don’t believe in my team” – starting off the project with such an impressive number it’s hard not to.

It becomes clear throughout the project however that this defiant, happy mood has been a long time coming. On ‘Build’, a trappy R&B number on which he makes extensive use of his signature sung-rap style, he begins by speaking the line “Happiness is an inside job/ We all know how to love because we’re all in love with our dreams”. These nuggets of wisdom that are peppered throughout the mixtape rarely sound clichéd or insincere but more like a mantra which the young rapper carries with him and expresses through his music.

‘This Is My World’ is perhaps the project’s best illustration of this mentality. With a nod to some of his past struggle including his uncle telling him he’d “never grow” he challenges “Wait, look at this”, before the song starts in earnest. His voice, somehow smooth yet gravelly at once, again takes centre stage despite the complexity of the beat; the rhythm and melodies supporting his voice like a head on a feather pillow. Once again he seems to bask in his success saying “all the man who hated they all fans now/they just wanna eavesdrop on the plans now, fuck them”. Yet the mood here is very different, even when he’s rapping about the money that he’s made and the girls that he’s getting he sounds pained. “Still I haven’t seen my mum” he states as he remembers how he was the “evil one” even when his older brother was dealing drugs; and how he used to have to rob make a living before music. The pain and neglect he feels is evident as he uses it to craft the masterpiece of a lyric “And I never think twice/ I just think back you weren’t there, in the jungle on my only/ now there’s – bare (bear) with me like Mowgli”.

One of the most impressive features of this mixtape is the way it changes direction in interesting and unexpected ways, in terms of both lyrics and production. This results in several tracks that start in a particular style and completely switch it up and change the vibe. He does this multiple times and it’s something of a signature for him,  the most impressive example here being on ‘Lightning’. Much like his biggest success so far ‘Party Here’, the intro is understated and the melodically rapped first verse lulls you into what sounds like an R&B track before the beat drops into a version of an Afrobeat club tune, which is guaranteed to be lighting up dance floors all over the country.

This ability to craft anthemic, infectious hooks without sacrificing any of his musicality and lyricism is what makes the South East Londoner a near certainty for continued success. Speaking to Red Bull earlier in the year he explained how the theme of the mixtape is revenge, and that certainly comes through in the conviction he shows when calling out those who have doubted him and the fake people who have been around him. But this project is so much more than that because, whilst acknowledging those things that have happened in the past – for better or worse, it promises so much more for the future. The full range of UK genres are represented, there are tracks for the club, for alone in your bedroom and for blasting in the whip – and they rarely clock in at over 3 minutes. The result is a titillating taste of what the rapper is capable of and what is yet to come; we hope that whatever it is taht it’s not too far away, as we can’t wait to see where Octavian goes next.

Rating 4.5/5

Stand-out tracks: Sleep, Revenge, 54321, Break That

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