In its most direct form, life is about two sides. There’s sweet and sour, yin and yang. Or cruising around the city drunk on daiquiri, before spending the next week comatose, completely vibe-less, crashed into your overdraft.
Based on his Instagram page, UK rapper Avelino knows these leaps between realms reasonably well. Recently, he’s been posting quotes that fit onto that spectrum. For example, one reads: “If I got rid of my demons, I’d lose my angels.” Another states: “Nuff man wan seem rich and not be rich.”
It’s all part of the roll-out for the conscious-leaning rapper’s upcoming album, grandiosely titled Ego Kills. Since bursting onto the scene alongside grime’s resurgence in the mid 2010s, the north Londoner has long been a bar-smith focused on making you think – about yourself, one another, the world, and all the little invisible bits in-between that gets everything to tick.
This new album then – released later this summer – focuses on that dance between ego and glory. First tastes came earlier this year with energy-stoking release “Demons”, which features that bar about people wanting to “seem rich and not be rich.” Then, today, that’s been followed up with “Waze” - a bar-trading collaboration with super-slick teen rapper SL.
Here, as part of our Share Location series about life in the UK, we go back and forth over his early memories, via first dates, worst jobs and big lessons.
VICE: What’s the worst job you’ve ever had?
Avelino: You know what’s funny – I’ve never worked a job in my life. My only experience of working was in Year 10 doing work experience and I lasted two, three days. I got into some trouble for misbehaving and stuff, and the people I was working for sent me back to the school and told me not to come back.
What work were you experiencing?
I can’t remember what it was – it was some admin. I just remember going in and trying to flirt with the staff and being annoying. You know what’s funny: I thought about this the other day and realised I’ve never been employed, and I’m ok with it. I accepted that at a young age. I’m a musician through and through, I work in music – I make my own things happen. Everyone has a path and mine was: I can’t be employed.
You’re your own employee. You mentioned flirting with the staff. What was your classic date spot back then?
Where was man going? Cinema could happen a few times.
Bruv, my memory is not great. It’s so selective.
This is teenage years. When you took someone somewhere special.
I would like to think a lot of dates were special. I don’t know! What’s a special date in teen years?
Going to the park?
That can be nice. I remember I done the bike ting in central London where you sit in the backseat and they ride you around. When I done that I remember thinking ‘there’s not a smoother guy on earth than me right now.’ I must be the man. I must have reached the pinnacle of romantic-ness.
Did you smoke weed when you were younger?
Yeah man, too much.
What was your first experience?
My old man passed and there was family around the house. All the younger guys and what not were on the block round the corner, man were passing round a spliff and I remember thinking ‘Fuck this shit – let me take a hit of that man, because this is all long.’ It wasn’t a freaking out ting – it actually felt good. I felt like I got away from what was going on and I never looked back. Then I started smoking too much weed and years down the line I decided ‘you know what, I smoke too much’ and stopped. That was eight or nine years since I last smoked weed.
It goes that way. You do it loads, then you need to stop.
You see with me – I’m already high. I’m higher than weed. As my mind developed over the years, and as a thinker in general, me and weed have been less and less compatible.
Where’s your favourite place to perform in the UK?
The first thing that comes to mind is Wireless, because it’s home turf and playing there felt amazing. Where I grew up Wireless is around the corner – you hear it every year when it’s on.
What’s your least favourite place in the UK?
I love… I don’t want to sound cliche and say I love everywhere. The only reason I’ll say these places is not because I don’t like the places. I like the places, I just don’t like the distance. So for example, Newcastle – if you tell me we’re going to Newcastle – it’s a nightmare. Or a Cornwall or somewhere. Cornwall is such a nightmare that the last time I went there I flew there. If I can’t fly there I’m not going – it’s not happening. But I don’t want to say I hate anywhere, I bring life wherever I go.
What’s the first thing you got for free because of your new-found fame?
Probably nothing crazy. Just free clothes. But that’s nothing, init, it’s just free clothes. When I was younger though, I’d take that. That’s the first thing I can remember, as insignificant as that may be. Even to this day, some of the relationships I’ve built over time, especially with footballers, I’m like ‘Yo.’ I’ve had some nice perks over the years, but the first thing I remember is clothes.
Looking back to your teenage years, what sticks out? Any big mistakes or lessons?
The number one lesson is if you’re going through hell, keep going. That’s the ultimate lesson man’s learnt. No matter what’s happening, the world turns. No matter what you’re going through, as deep as it may be, whatever is happening, the world turns bro – whether you like it or not. I look back and I’m grateful for the level of understanding I have of that law.