Descending upon us from the North, Leeds-based British-Ghanaian-Danish artist ATO (pronounced: atu) is fast-becoming one of the most multifaceted and visionary rappers on the UK music scene. His vagabond youth spent traversing New York, Seoul, Edinburgh, and many more far-flung locations before setting up shop in North Yorkshire during his teens, offers his audience an honest three-dimensional depiction of hip-hop – with a voice like sedated seas, a laid back, diasporic sound and punchy, lyrical finesse to boot.
Making music since he was nine, his specific strain of tantalising future R&B rap has metamorphosed over the past half-decade into an audio-visual emblem of the Black experience cut from a common country-side cloth. His honeyed sonics first caught our attention with the release of his 2019 collaborative single with Vic Mensa “Falling” and his acclaimed, prologuel, EP delectably dubbed Side A.
Now with his sophomore EP, Side B, ATO has created a genre-blending body of work that shows the young artist connecting with transnational heritage after years of growing up in the North of England in the hegemony of a white working-class neighbourhood. But such intimate themes don’t just arise in the visuals, symphonically and lyrically, his tunes seek to show an alternative perspective to the world’s prevailing perception of London-centric Black Britishness. The five-track record is moody and anecdotal drawing on elements of emo-rap and grime, 1970s soul and noughties beats, and even a link-up with Accra-Ghanian musician Jay Bahd.
Here, we pull ATO for a quick fire round of questions.
1. What was the best thing about spending your childhood travelling?
“It helped to give me an open mind and a confidence to keep trying new things.”
2. What’s one thing you can’t leave the house without?
3. What’s essential for a great studio session?
“For me it’s a calm atmosphere, dim lighting and good food.”
4. What’s your party trick?
“It’s got to be the water bottle flip, man.”
5. What song do you currently have on repeat?
“Dave, My 24th Birthday.”
6. What’s your dream gig to play?
“First Direct Arena Leeds or Jools Holland New Year’s Eve.”
7. If you could collaborate with any artist, who would it be?
“It has to be JAY Z or Pharrell. Wouldn’t complain if Ye popped in.”
8. What is your most recent single “Cold” all about?
“Cold was written out of frustration with the politics of the industry and the pressure I was feeling.”
9. What can we expect from your EP “Side B” releasing this month?
“A multifaceted reflection of my experiences.”
10. What can we expect next from ATO?
“More music, more music! And an EU and US tour after the next project.”
ATO’s ‘Side B’ is available on all major platforms now.