Honing his tightly-wound bars since the tender age of 12, AWATE has grown an enviable reputation as one of the capital’s most scintillating live performers.
Drawing on his Eritrean roots, the Camden rapper is renowned for tackling complex subject matters with his visionary lyricism and has released a string of tunes that have been lauded by the likes of MOBO, BBC Radio 1, Noisey and actor Idris Elba.
Before AWATE brings material from his debut album ‘Happiness’ and more to Hidden Herd Presents at The Finsbury on Friday 21st February, we caught up with him to talk influences and new music recommendations.
How would you describe AWATE to a stranger?
“I was born in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on 29 May 1991, the same day my country, Eritrea, was liberated after a 30-year war. I was named after the founder of the Eritrean Liberation Front, Hamid Idris Awate and my name means “Victory” in Tigre, which is one of the nine languages we speak in Eritrea. Though I’ve never been there, my identity is a mix of that and the super-violent council estate in Camden I grew up in from the age of 2.
For my music, just imagine the best music circa 1964-1978 and the most vivid and creative rapping and songwriting you can remember and put them together.”
Who are the biggest influences on your sound and why?
“I could go on for days really but I’ll start with 50 Cent as his confidence, wit and blues scale melodies are imprinted on my style. Yasiin Bey aka Mos Def for the way in which I try to be as dense as possible in one line, especially with social critiques. Also, my love of the Stone Roses comes out with my writing structure, psychedelic riffs and abstract imagery at times.”
What was the best gig you’ve played so far?
“My debut album launch for ‘Happiness’ at the Roundhouse in 2018. It sold out the day of the show and I was just on a rollercoaster of emotions the entire day. The love and support from the people there was quite overwhelming as it was the culmination of a lot of hard work and sacrifice.”
You’re based in London – what’s your local music scene like?
“Shit. A third of London’s venues have closed down in the last fifteen years. The police and council have actively suppressed black music and there’s very little arts funding left for kids to make music and create a scene.”
Who are the THREE other new artists we should listen to right now and why?
“Tess Hirst is a singer-songwriter I really like. She’s worked with Daniel Casimir on an album that’s just come out. Kofi Stone is a great rapper who dropped a fantastic new album. Miraa May is also super dope.”
And finally, what does 2020 hold for AWATE?
“New album. New videos. New shows. New opportunities.”