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Octavian
Spaceman Tara Joshi , September 12th, 2018 12:05

His new mixtape, and the kind of vibe Drake wishes he could create

Since his emergence from the underground with last year’s pulsing, low-key banger ‘Party Here’, French-born, London-based rapper-producer Octavian has been touted as the next dominant force in the UK scene. And with his glossy sounds that seamlessly meld myriad dance and rap sub-genres from the UK and the US in both his flow and his polished beats, you can hear why. His sound nods as much to the psych-tinged, lush but choppy sonic universes of SahBabii, Playboi Carti, Travis Scott as it does to grime, dancehall and afrobashment, as it does to straight-up house music: it’s a forward-thinking, innovative distillation of the zeitgeist that pushes things forward. Indeed, while he’s had a co-sign from Drake, in the Scorpion-era Octavian’s new mixtape Spaceman is the kind of vibe Aubrey wishes he could make.

This is a tape that flits unpredictably between languid crooning on tracks like ‘Here Is Not Safe’ and gravelly, acerbic bars on standout ‘Revenge’; between spacious, immersive keys and uplifting house-infused bops (all in ‘Lightning’). Features from the likes of Suspect and A2 cut through the wooziness with vitality. At times the tape feels more concerned with sonic aesthetic and clout than actual bars: it’s hard to get a real sense of who Octavian is. Lines like, “One bitch, two bitch, three bitch, four bitch, five bitches / I’mma make them come alive” on ‘54321’ are nursery-rhyme-catchy but content-wise feel decidedly lacking, and didactic moments like “It’s nice to be important / But it’s important to be nice”, on ‘Stand Down’, though hinting at a vulnerability, can feel a bit hammy.

But if the aim is to stand defiant – angry, but also gracious and polite – in the face of those who doubted him, it certainly hits the mark. Octavian consistently shrugs off his haters (“Quit sleeping on the underdogs / Cos when it's time, they’re not gonna forget how you left them out”), but there’s also a sense of power in how he dreams big over the noise, implores you not to sleep on him over his beautifully hazy sounds. Spaceman is an echoey, moody, versatile release that serves as a potent statement of intent, as a futuristic rendering of current sounds; but also it’s a biting, meandering, innovative achievement that goes hard in its own right.

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