Aitch is everywhere. With his latest single Taste (Make It Shake) reaching number two in the UK singles chart; the video being played almost 19 million times on YouTube and a collaboration with music royalty that is Ed Sheeran and Stormzy adding to past works with Young T & Bugsey Bugzy Malone and Russ & Tion Wayne, this 19 year old from Manchester, real name Harrison Armstrong, is pretty much the hottest new recording artist in the UK.
Sixty9’s Francesca Arculeo caught up with him as he prepares to continue the success of his first sold out tour with his sophomore set of shows calling into Leicester and Birmingham this December.
So it’s safe to say you’ve had a big year with a lot of attention directed on you. Life must have changed really quickly?
Yeah, it’s been sick you know, I’m enjoying it. I’m definitely taking it in and taking it as it comes. But it’s just work, I’ve got my little work head on, I just see it all as work, I’ve just got to keep working, got to keep pushing it.
It’s fun though, you must have had some great opportunities? Is there anything that has been stand out for you?
Yeah, I think the Aitch20 EP going to Number 3 and the single going Number 2 that was sick! I was gassed and obviously the tour selling out in like 7 minutes.
It just proves how talented you are; and how popular you are right now!
Yeah man, thank you!
You are everywhere at the moment, do you still get excited when you hear your songs if you’re out and about, or if you’r in the car and it’s on the radio?
Do you know what? I actually don’t like the sound of my voice. I never listen to my songs in my spare time.
So, if you’re in the car and it comes on, is it a straight switch off?
It’s not a straight switch off, not if there’s other people in the car. That’s a lie actually,if it came on the radio, I’d listen to it, just because it’s on the radio. But I wouldn’t get in my car, and put my EP on, but say if I went to the studio today and made a new song and I thought it was a banger I’d definitely play it tomorrow in the whip and play it for a couple of days, and then probably forget about it. You’ve got to test it out on the speakers.
Let’s take it back a little bit. When did you first discover your love for freestyling?
I was just writing rhymes; I wasn’t really rapping, me and my boy were just writing rhymes, and messaging each other and dissing each other, but not really rapping it. I never used to rap it out loud, I always used to write it. And then one day I must have decided to put a beat on.
So, were you on the playgrounds at school sparring with each other?
No, I was at home, no one knew. It was only me and one other boy, just one of my guys and then I showed him and linked him, and I was spitting to him and I sent him a video and then he was like – ‘You’re sick, you need to show everyone’, and I was like ‘Nah, don’t tell anyone’. And then one day, I got drunk in the park, and I ended up getting everyone around and saying, ‘check this out’. I then just played a beat, and just started spitting to everyone in the park and everyone loved it. Then it just went from there, and someone took a video of me and put it on Facebook and YouTube and it just went crazy in our area, and then I just carried on. Now I feel like I’ve blinked and I’m here.
You’ve got the attention of some really great people and you’ve collaborated with some big acts this year and you’ve had support from some of the greatest people in the scene like GRM Daily and BBC Radio 1xtra. Has anybody given you any notable advice?
Yeah, do you know what I’ve been getting a lot recently off everyone, every artist and everyone involved in the music, is just telling me to take a break. That seems like the most important advice because obviously you can burn yourself out, and I actually haven’t had a break for like a year and a half.
What was the soundtrack to your life growing up?
I used to love 50 Cent, he was my guy. I used to be bumping bare 50 Cent, and those type of vibes and that type of era. I was bumping loads of that, and then I started listening to Chip, and started listening to the UK Grime. Then it was just a mix of old school Hip Hop and Grime, I started jumping on the UK Rap and then eventually, I was just listening to anything that was popping. I kind of fell off the American thing, I don’t really listen to American music anymore… I feel like the UK in the last couple of years has just blow up, and there’s just been so many great talents that have come up, that have overtaken a lot of Americans as well…
Do you think that what you’ve listened to has kind of influenced your style in any way?
Do you know what? I feel like there’s not a certain individual whose influenced the way I rap. I think it’s more getting influenced by big people being successful, and I just wanted to be successful like them. So, it wasn’t an individual, it was more like everyone’s doing something really sick, what can I do? There’s got to be a gap I can fill.
If you had to describe the Aitch style in three words, what three words would you use?
I would say, Mancunian, flavour and wavy.
Is there anybody that you really want to work with next year?
Yeah, I want to work with Lily Allen. That’s next on my list. That’s one million percent going to happen.
You’ve just finished the first run of sold out shows in September, and you’re getting back on it in December for the next tour dates. Are you looking forward to that?
Yeah I can’t wait you know, it’s gonna be sick. It’s going to be ten times better; it’s going to be crazy; I can’t wait for this next one.
What can people expect from the live shows?
Pure energy, you get a pure interaction from the crowd and you better be ready to get wet! Yeah man, it’s just a whole experience, it’s not just tune after tune.
Do you notice that when you go to other cities, there’s a different reaction everywhere you go?
Yeah, it’s mad. I’ve got a wide audience, so there’s different kinds of people in the crowd; it’s good to see, it’s just not what you expect. Even people who ask for pictures, you would never expect them to ask for a picture.
I think that’s them buying into you, you’re unapologetic, you don’t take yourself seriously and I think that’s part of your success.
Have you always been like that even as a child?
I’ve never really been too bothered, I’m obviously bothered about things, but I’ve never really been too bothered by other people’s opinions or what anyone has to say. I’ve always done what I’ve thought is best or what I want to do. I feel like that’s what works best. No one knows you better than you do.
How has that been in the industry because people are going to be pulling you in different directions, how do you stay true to yourself in that?
I’ve just got to keep my head but I think people in the industry know that I’m going to be more successful if I just do me, and I just stay in my zone and there’s no one really trying to change that. No one’s really tried to take me out of my comfort zone, because it works like this I think.
You’ve just released your EP, which hit the top 3, are you working towards an album?
The album is definitely in the process, I’m not really going to be saying when it’s coming out because I’m not going to lie, it’s not really the main focus at the minute. I feel like everyone’s expecting it, but I’m not going to go down that road.
You don’t want to rush it, this is going to be your first album it’s going to be like your baby, you have to make sure you’re happy with it.
2020 is going to be another big year for you, have you got anything in store you can tell us about?
Next year is going to be crazy. I’ve got the Europe and the Australian tour next year, and the festival season, you can catch me at some festivals, it’s going to be going off. And yeah, just more sick music and more mad collaborations. I’m going with the flow but next year is already busy, so I don’t know what’s going to happen!