London rapper A2 is mad tired. The night before we speak, he fell asleep before the clock even struck midnight, when his latest project Purple was released. He’s been crazy-busy of late, prepping for the coming weeks, no longer taking things one day at a time. For a moment he’d needed a break, completely conked out from experiencing the roll-out for another new release – one of many in the past couple years.
For those who don’t know one of UK rap’s best kept secrets, A2 has been pumping out release after release for almost two thirds of a decade. Purple's introductory track “Flex Luthor” alludes to his prolific output of EPs and mixtapes, with a line that goes: “year after year, I ain’t never taking no breaks." He first properly landed with self-produced material back in 2012, on the Henessey Thoughts EP's laidback, melodic, almost couch-locked tunes – things closer in tone to, say, Kendrick Lamar’s “PRIDE” rather than anything coming from the UK at the time (see 2016s' “Flowers x Patron”).
He was one a few British artists on the come-up who couldn’t, and maybe didn’t want to, be categorised by the limits of a single genre. If you missed his 2017 full-length release Blue, then perhaps you caught him on the XL Recordings New Gen compilation. Or maybe you saw him support Stormzy. Or you could be hearing about him for the first time, in which case you’re probably here through his collaboration with a couple other UK acts that also defy categorisation – Suspect, Octavian and Yxng Bane (watch below).
Called “Flair”, the track lifts the energy a little higher than you might be used to hearing from A2, and that’s mostly down to how Suspect smashes the collaboration with his sledgehammer of a chorus. “He cuts through man, it’s undeniable,” says A2, speaking over the phone from his house in Croydon. Had you intended for him to do the chorus or did that just happen once he came on the track? “I don’t like impacting people’s creativity, so more time I give them freedom to do whatever they want. And this time I was like ‘Sus, do your thing, do you, do Sus.’”
A2 picked these three artists to be on the track for two reasons: 1) because he rates them, which should be a given, and; 2) he wanted to blend four different universes. A2, Octavian and Yxng Bane are all talented and unique in their own rights, yet share a common ground: their penchant for melody. Then the glue is Suspect, who ties everything up with that chorus. “He’s from another universe, another energy,” laughs A2 in admiration. It’s the kind of tune that rewards repeated listens, as you start to appreciate the difference and similarities between each artist before Sus comes through and drops that bomb on your head one more time.
You might be wondering what’s going on in the video, which has a high percentage of fucking with your eyes (heed the warning in the beginning). Basically, it’s shot in an abandoned house in Peckham (and also includes loads of flashing lights). A2 wanted the visual to be a little darker, to represent the otherworldliness of them all operating from their own specific universes and then coming together.
Of all the tracks on Purple, Flair is the most visceral. The rest get back down to A2’s sloooooooooooooowed down vibe. Clocking in at five tracks, it’s both concise yet expansive. You can easily bang through it three times on a commute and feel like you’ve been fully fed, feasting on a gourmet piece of content rather than weak fast food. It’s a step-up for A2, a class in how to go beyond slewing out a single while also keeping things digestible.
How’s he going to be spending its release? “I feel like it’s gonna be an excessive day on my phone, which I hate. I hate this shit man, excessive – but the tape’s out so I’ve got to keep activated,” he says, laughing down the phone, aware of the machinations of the industry and how it’s a necessary evil, especially on release day. “But this is a rare thing. I want to be tipsy so I might just drink some wine for the day. Might as well – it’s Friday.”
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