In Talks With North London’s Ascending Rapper – ARTAN

Elle Evans

By Elle Evans

Elle Evans

2 Nov 2020

Hailing from North London, ARTAN over the last few years has gained a cult-like following that has seen him fly through British Rap. Known for his emotive and thought-provoking wordsmith, and pairing them with a slew of textured melodic backdrops. From a young age, ARTAN began penning freestyles alongside his friends and soon found a passion for the art and has been perfecting his craft since. Standing as one of many artists that strive to do things independently, and encouraging others to do the same, the London native has risen to become an influential figure to many.

Having recently dropped off his latest EP titled, ‘Scattered Thoughts’ we caught up with ARTAN and asked him the following questions…

Firstly, how have you been? How have you found this pandemic so far?!

Yeah, I’ve been good! Pandemic wise, right now I’m not in lockdown that much so I’m back into the swing of studio and stuff right now. If I’m honest, I am trying to stay as safe as possible but also carry on business as usual and live with the mayhem that is going on as best as I can, and not shut myself away. I’ve done the whole shut myself away thing and it was a bit much to be honest with you.

We’re you not making music through that time?

At the start of lockdown I thought I was going to make the most music and the best I’ve ever made because I had so much time to do it, but when it happened I realised I was forced to stay in my room to make music and I don’t like being forced to do anything, so it made me less productive! It was a bit of a bummer, but now I’ve had that period I’m pretty hungry to make more music now because I had so long of not making it!

I read that you grew up in North London, is that right?

Yep! Basically I’ve lived everywhere, I’ve moved around London and lived in Essex but my current place, and where I’ve grown up the last few years is in North London, yeah!

So, how were you introduced to music from a young age then?

So, music for me, my family is not musical at all! But, I started off beat-boxing in Primary School and because I have moved so many times, I’ve been to 6 difference schools and every time I moved school I needed something that would get me into a crowd and make friends – beat-boxing made me make friends easily to start with. In Secondary school, the whole Grime era came, and everybody was rapping, I was always writing but I was the beatboxer so everybody else would rap, but I wanted to be the guy that raps! I’d write and I wouldn’t release anything eventually one day when I was in America, I thought let me just show people what I have actually done, and they were like “Yo! This is fucking hard! Why aren’t you doing it?!” and I thought that’s a good question, the only reason why I’m not doing it is because I’m scared of what people will think of me. Never looked back since!

So, would you say you got your lyrical ability from Grime?

Yeah! That’s when I used to analyse people like Ghetts, even though he’s blocked me on Insta for some reason – I don’t know why!

Oh dear! *laughs*

*laughs*People like Ghetts, P Money, Wretch 32, Devlin and Kano and obviously you have the Rap so people like Benny Banks, Joe Black, these were the people I grew up listening to!

Was there ever an album that you once bought or listened to that’s stuck with you since, or maybe inspired you to want to start music?

I wouldn’t necessarily say just U.K. but there’s Devlin’s ‘Bud, Sweat and Beers’ and Drake’s ‘Nothing Was the Same’.

Can’t go wrong with Drake really can you!

Honestly, Drake’s ‘Nothing Was the Same’, I was Uni at the time and that gave me a proper love – I listen to pain Rap and Road Rap from the UK and everyone started doing litty music but Drake came out with the emotional Rap and I was like “This is what I’ve come to music for!” I wanted to come away feeling something, but that was the one and it proper inspired me!

You really have paved a lane of your own sonically and just overall with your artistry. It’s tricky, but could you describe your sound in 3 words…

In three words, I’d say melodic stoner rap! *laughs* I can’t really think of anything else!

I’ve noticed that under quite a few of your videos that people refer to you as ‘underrated’ – Do you agree with that or do you find it a bit frustrating?

I agree but I’m not underrated by people that know me! That’s the best way I can describe it, a lot of people don’t know me yet and that’s fine. I completely get it, at the end of the day it takes time to build anything, for me it’s taken longer than most people but that’s why I think its going to be even better, my whole thing is about perseverance and DIY, I manage myself and I’ve invested myself this whole journey! I’m only getting better and I’m getting bigger.

 From a business perspective, my business is maintaining its growth and it’s having expediential growth, it’s only going up! If I keep doing what I’m doing, its fine! I’d say I’m underrated on a popular scale but – underrated for me doesn’t mean popularity, I’m underrated in terms of if you know me and you don’t, if there was loads of people that knew me and didn’t rate me then yeah, but people rate me so!

I feel like that’s the same with people like A2 as well –


You just spoke about being independent, do you not want to go down the label route then?

Currently I’m working with a small independent label, which I have never done before – Marathon Artists. For me personally I’m always about learning and experimenting that’s why I have done it and partnered up with them.

I am always about independence and that you can do these things yourself, I’m not saying you have to do it yourself but regardless, whatever you do in life you don’t need – there’s no magic wand! Well, there is a magic wand for certain people, but as someone who has come from where I’ve come from, and had nobody helping me, I’ve not got lucky through this journey, I’ve not blown up off of one song, I want to prove that even with minimal resources you can do it yourself! If there is even an opportunity then take it, but for me I’ve done it all myself and my plan to keep doing that unless anyone can add any more value to my journey.

I feel like a lot more people are going down the independent route any way just because it’s a lot more accessible in terms of distributing and stuff like that!

Yeah, 100%! You’ve just got to be clued up and really know what you are after. If you don’t know then you probably will get into something that isn’t great so…

Earlier this year you dropped your ‘Chasing Dragons’ which was mad! One track in particular stuck out for me ‘Whym I High’, you really bared all in this one and covered various topics. There was one line you said, “The feeling where your talented but you don’t know what to do”, which I think speaks so many levels in this generation. What inspired this track?

Yeah! I’m glad that you have picked that bar because that has been such a catalyst for my life. In school I have always been told that I had potential but was under performing, I did beat boxing and didn’t make a career out of it, I’ve tried acting but didn’t make a career out of it and I even played table tennis for England and I didn’t end up becoming a professional because the guy who selected the teams, even though I was No.2 in England in a 4 man team, didn’t really like me as a person so they didn’t pick me.

I’ve always been lost on this journey, I have so much energy and I see other people doing things and I know I have the exact same capability as they have but I don’t know what to do?! What am I doing wrong that others aren’t doing?! For ‘Whym I High’ I really just wanted to get out what I’m thinking when I do sit down on a late night at 11pm and smoke a spliff and just start thinking. It’s a diary, all of those thoughts that I said in ‘Whym I High’ is a diary and notes of all the anxieties that I have and how I’m going to overcome them. Some of them I might not have the answer yet but I’m being open and honest and letting people know a bit more about my though process and my day-to-day anxieties.

You talking about anxiety, I feel like a lot of people within the music industry has it, just being a creative is hard enough!

100%! I think it’s more of a creative thing. Being a creative, it’s a lot because you can’t not think a lot! For example, painting a picture you have to think outside of the box and have a scattered mindset, which is why I have done the EP ‘ Scattered Thoughts’ because of my anxiety. It’s a lot about piecing dots together, basically like throwing paint at a canvas and piecing these dots together and trying to make something of it. As a creative, you have to do that whether that’s how to balance your finances, being entrepreneurial in learning stuff, there might not be a course on how to become a successful journalist – it’s just not as  easy as that, if it was everyone would be doing it! It’s entrepreneurial in a sense that what am I learning, what people do I need to know, what do I need to invest in myself for the future – in the entertainment industry it’s a blessing and a curse because you are always over analysing and really self-critical, that’s a good thing because you always want to improve but in the same breathe it can also hinder your success because sometimes you just have to go with the flow and remember to enjoy it.  

Would you say that you are a perfectionist?

I’d like to say I try to be a perfectionist but I’m actually trying not to be at the moment! The more I try to be a perfectionist, I become too structured I feel. Even in a song, I like it when I don’t pronounce a word right sometimes, it adds a little bit of sauce! For example, with J Hus, he might call himself a perfectionist in a sense, but he mis-pronounces and pronounces words differently like with “big bunda” – sometimes you just have to freestyle!

People like those types of characteristics though don’t they, especially as fans and stuff!

Exactly! It’s just being yourself; you are not perfect, and I try to show that in my songs – I am not perfect and that is fine. Even in my songs, I might have something slightly off-beat, but that’s because I want it to be now! If I had planned that before-hand I wouldn’t have wanted it, but now I fuck with that! I

One thing that you are known for is matching thought-provoking subject matters in with an upbeat and melodic approach, which at times can be a real contrast as to what you are saying. Having grown up with genres like Grime, what made you switch to that type of sound?

In terms of the Grime and UK Rap scene, Ghetts for example would talk about the street struggle, or Chipmunk, all these people would talk about the streets and the pain of day-to-day life. Wretch 32 in ‘Ina Di Ghetto’, its talking about the pain of the streets, even with K Koke and Benny Banks – big up Benny Banks because he is one of the pioneers of it, talking about real life stuff. When I first started music I wished I could be that cool fucking guy that raps about real sit because that what really touched me the realness of it, but then I realised I can do a little bit of melodies! I tried to get people to do hooks for me but no one would so I did it myself, over the last 3 years I’ve thought do you know what, fuck everyone else I can do this myself! I’ve become this guy that is seen as someone who can do good hooks and melodies!

You have recently announced your forthcoming EP ‘Scattered Thoughts’, could you tell us about the meaning and messages you want to convey with this project? The cover art is filled with many relatable yet deep questions and thoughts…

The ‘Scattered Thoughts’ EP is my way of talking about anxiety, the EP itself is a representation of how my mind works and I’ve got some slow songs on there, songs talking about the old me where some days I feel like I have left my old depressant self in the past and I have glo’d up and I’m now this super lit guy! Then the next thing you know, the cycle of life kicks in, which relates to the song ‘Cycles’ and I’m waking up and I’m back in my zone again. I’m down, looking out my window and there is rain outside and just not feeling life today! There are so many different elements to the human mind that I wanted put into an EP and share, I’m not just one person init, I’d like to be someone who is sick and makes parties songs and turns up in the club or be the guy who makes sick deep music, but as a human being we are all of these things and my thoughts are scattered! I wanted to put all these things down into a project and share with everyone what my mind is going through on a day-to-day basis really.

How long did it to take to curate this? Did you make it through lockdown?  

Yeah! This was created all through lockdown!

At least you were being creative through lockdown!

Yeah! *laughs* I agree!

What else can we expect to hear from you this coming year?

Other than the EP, this year we will have to see! Going into 2021 I have got a lot of music I have been making in the last 8 weeks, so I am super excited to release that! I have got a bunch of freestyles coming and more projects next year so you are going to have to stay posted!

You can listen to the ‘Scattered Thoughts’ EP below. Keep up to date with all things ARTAN via his Instagram here.