ATO, a Leeds based Hip-Hop artist who has been making a pretty big name for himself. Growing up travelling, he has spent time in various places such as Seoul, Ithaca New York, Copenhagen, Cape Town, Yorkshire and London. Known for his signature sound and style, ATO recently released his latest project entitled EP3 which features U.S star Vic Mensa. Proving his artistry time and time again, I asked ATO a few questions…
E: To people who haven’t heard of your music before… Who is ATO?!
A: I’m a Hip-Hop artist from Leeds. I moved around a lot with my mum growing up and writing became a big part of my dealing with that change. I think that my music today still reflects that.
E: Was there any particular moment or artist(s) growing up that made you really want to pursue a career within music? Or was music something you were always around?
A: No one else in my family makes music. So I wasn’t really around it but I’ve always gravitated to music though. I was inspired early on by Eminem’s story telling. His ability to be very raw and honest taught me the power behind being able to tell a story and be open about how you feel. The same with artists like Ghost-poet and The streets too. Growing up I was also really into the Malorie Blackman books, and the political messages behind her novels, they too really inspired the story telling approach to my music.
The first show I went to was a Kano and Ghetts concert. They are both incredible live. After seeing them, I remember feeling I wanted to be up there performing too.
E: Your sound musically sits in a lane of its own. How would you describe your sound?
A: Yeah, I guess. I grew up listening to a lot of classic Hip Hop, Grime and Trap music. But these days I’m listening to all kinds of music and working with musicians from all different musical backgrounds. So naturally it just comes together a little different now.
I think because people feel my sound is a little hard to place, I’m not held back by some of the rules that come with being boxed into a particular sound. I think I find freedom in that. At the same time it makes me a bit of an outsider.
E: You moved around a lot growing up. Do you think this has shaped who you are musically experiencing different cultures?
A: I think so. Those experiences are always in the back of my mind. I think moving around so young made me aware of how different the world can be and yet how music and art can really tie all these places together and make the world feel a lot smaller.
E: You’ve recently dropped your latest project ‘EP3’! What was your main aim in releasing this EP?
A: I just wanted to get some things off my chest. When the EP released, I felt a big sense of relief, and that was a reminder for me that the EP had achieved that. Everything else is a bonus I suppose.
E: In this EP you’ve said that you felt a lot more freedom in creating and writing this project in comparison to previous ones. In what way and why this project in particular?
A: I think that’s partly down to the fact that these songs are a lot more focused on the here and now than my previous projects which are anchored in my past. I felt writing this project wasn’t about understanding anything but just candidly expressing what’s going on. That felt good.
E: You have a song on the EP called falling that features Vic Mensa. How did this feature come about? Why Vic Mensa?
A: I’ve been a big fan of Vic Mensa’s music for years. I left the first verse free on falling and I could really hear Vic on it. We reached out to his team and he was feeling the track straight away. We got it wrapped up real quick.
E: What’s your favourite track from ‘EP3’?
A: I think it’s probably no.nu.messages or 24 at the moment. But it changes depending on my mood..
E: How do you feel about the scene in the U.K at the moment? Who have you been listening to recently?
A: It feels really good. I try and listen to as much as I can. I think the moves D block Europe, AJ Tracey and Dave have made this last year goes to show how healthy the scene is right now and the global appeal. It feels like UK Hip Hop is stronger than ever too with lyricists like Jesse James and Little Simz finally getting the recognition I think they deserve. I’m also really feeling Slowthai and King Krule as well. It’s nice to see the scene making room for all different styles and sounds I guess. It’s an exciting time. I’m happy to be a part of it.
E: What more can we expect to see from you in 2020?
A: I’ve still got a lot of new music to drop in 2020, live shows and a possible tour in 2020 too. New clothing and I’ve got a new music focused podcast with my friend Jacob called the new village in the pipeline too. So a few things coming this year.
Listen to EP3 below and on Apple Music here.