Camberwell rapper Octavian has won the BBC Sound of 2019 – two years after another artist from south of the Thames, Ray BLK.
The 23-year-old joins previous winners, including Adele, Sam Smith and Ellie Goulding in the industry poll that has traditionally anointed the next big thing in music.
He said: “I knew that one day I was going to be successful. I get inspired and I try to make a new sound every day. It’s going to be a very loud year for me. Loads of music, loads of visuals, loads of albums.”
He was born in Lille but was kicked out of his London home by his mum who told him he would end up in prison or a success. He won a scholarship to the Brit school, which trained Jessie J, Leona Lewis and Adele. But he dropped out. He said: “It wasn’t the worst thing in the world. Once you’re there, that is your life. You can only look up, because down there’s nothing left.”
He told the BBC after winning: “I used to go to primary school and rap bars on the way home. I never wrote, though, I always used to freestyle with my friends.”
He tried the Brit School because he didn’t want to do maths. He said: “Maths, for me, is the worst. I can’t do it. It bugs my brain.
“So I wanted to do something I was good at, which wasn’t acting or music at the time. It was literally just not doing maths. But they accepted me and I did a course called community arts practice, which is basically teaching the underprivileged the arts. It was lit. It was good. I liked it a lot.
His teenage years were tough. “I was on the roads, I had no money,” he said. “I was so poor that I had £0.00 in my current account. I couldn’t even take the bus.”
Not going down the wrong route was tough. “I’m poor and I have no money but I don’t want to sell drugs,” he added. “That’s not the life for me. I want to be successful. I wanted to prove everyone wrong.”
At the South London Press we’ve been tipping Octavian for quite a while, but he appeared in our pages before that – in 2011, when then deputy prime minister Nick Clegg gave a talk for students at the Globe Academy in Harper Road, Bermondsey.
We reported that Year 11 student Octavian Godji, who talked to Mr Clegg about career opportunities, said: “It was really interesting and inspiring to hear about the possibility of working in politics.”
A panel of 136 music experts, including radio DJs and artists like Ellie Goulding – who won in 2010 – as well as 2018 winner Sigrid, came together to pick the winner.
Octavian’s 2018 mixtape Spaceman was released to critical acclaim in September. Drake helped catapult the young rapper’s tune Party Here, when the Canadian star filmed himself singing the song at a Golden Globes after-party.