Camden Close - Up: Awate
Love Camden loves its local talent. We aim to celebrate everything cultural in the borough, from Hampstead to Kilburn, from the British Library to that little café around the corner - we are always out to show what Camden has to offer. As part of this we launched our Camden Close-Up series: interviews with artists, thinkers, entrepreneurs and downright interesting figures that live, work or are inspired by the borough.
This month we interviewed visionary rapper, AWATE. An Eritrean who grew up on Maiden Lane Estate, his witty social commentaries and psychedelic melodies on Turkish Dcypha’s infectious production on 2016’s Shine Ancient EP and 2018’s Happiness LP have taken him around the world and back.
1. What would you would do if you weren’t doing this? What would your parallel life look like?
Wow. If I didn’t find the cathartic artistic release of rapping and hip-hop culture as a young black boy, I would have definitely been expelled from school and on a much more dangerous path. Music focused the anger I had from being racially abused, gaslighted by the education system and punished. Without it, I would have wanted to express myself, but without a proper way to channel those feelings.
2. What do you think is most important: luck, chance, opportunity or hard-graft?
For sure, opportunity. You can’t bank your life on luck and chance. I’ve also seen some of the hardest working people around hustle for every waking moment, only to stay stagnant due to lack of opportunities or the foresight to create their own. Without venues or nights that want your type of music or a reluctant industry who want to bet on what’s already popular, none of the new sounds that become the next big thing would happen. Often the people who create sub-cultures also create an infrastructure around it with unlicensed raves, squat parties, pirate radio stations, blogs or other unconventional things that allow you to do new things without asking.
3. What has been your most career-defining moment to date and why?
Making a critically acclaimed debut album with no features while on bail for two years, selling out my first headline show in my hometown and touring for a year around the world off the back of it.
4. What makes your work important today?
What a question! Let’s go for the incredible production of my producer and mentor, Turkish. No one has beats like me because of him.
5. What does Camden mean to you?
Camden is where I can get great writing done just walking around the backroads with my headphones on. There’s something about the sub-cultures of the past, the flowing water of the canal and working class characters mixed in with thousands of memories that just inspire me.
6. What makes Camden Unique?
It’s the strangest, most artistic, romantic and edgy destination in London. It’s where you can’t tell when it’s Halloween because of the people in period costumes, punks, goths and people dressed like wizards. A place where neglected estates are a one-lane road away from the huge homes of BAFTA winners and Lords and Dukes.
AWATE is a rapper from Eritrea weaving together psychedelic melodies and sharp, witty lyrics. Raised in Camden, London; AWATE is a former Roundhouse Resident Artist, and has gained the respect of artists such as Yasiin Bey (Mos Def), Idris Elba and Pharoahe Monch as one of the UK's finest writers.
With Turkish of Dcypha’s infectious, funk-based production, AWATE’s critically acclaimed Shine Ancient EP and Happiness LP have been praised and featured on BBC Radio 1, 1Xtra and 6Music (Gilles Peterson) as well as Noisey, Spotify and The Guardian. He also garnered a nomination for Best Urban Act at the 2018 Unsigned Music Awards. Happiness was recently described by Trench Mag as a ‘British rap masterpiece’.
Known for performances supporting Black Star, Ghetts and Shabazz Palaces, 2018 saw this London griot’s first headline tour with shows in the UK, Spain, the USA and Brazil.