A-Tola looks set to become a household name this year and it’s clear to see why. Hailing from East Dulwich, the south London lyricist appears to have the hit making secret recipe on tap. All three of his promotional singles look certain to become underground smashes and urban anthems- all of which could easily make the transition into the mainstream chart.
‘Goal’ (Grandstand) is a quirky, catchy track, which displays A-Tola’s love of the game and his ability to rhyme effortlessly over almost anything. On ‘Stuck In Da Hood’, A-Tola throws down introspective lyrics about the struggle to leave the hood behind, over old school sounding beats.
‘Soundbwoy’ –the leading single from the Mona Lisa EP, looks destined to firmly stamp A-Tola’s position on the UK Hip Hop landscape. Soundbwoy’s infectious hook, old school vibe paired with A-Tola’s swagger and lyrical flair makes this track essential listening for all music lovers. So now you know about his music, get to know about the man. Britishhiphop.co.uk speaks to the soundbwoy himself.
BHH: So, your single Soundbwoy is getting a lot of air play and excellent reviews: how did the track come about?
A-Tola: Well I did a mixtape last year and what I’ve done is, I took the sample and took a verse, I laid it and I thought that sounds alright- let me make it into a song.
BHH: Where is the sample taken from?
A-Tola: The samples from Prophecy by Fabian. Urban, who produced it he erm laid it down. I told him to chop up certain bits, like the intro had to be on there as it wasn’t on the original, so basically that’s how it came about. I’m a kinda surprised at the love it’s got to be honest.
A-Tola: Because I didn’t think people would get it to be honest. I thought it was too much too soon. So I was surprised because I thought people would be like its not Hip Hop, it’s not Grime. I thought people would be like yeah whatever but nah, I’m surprised. Soundbwoy has really opened people up but some people still don’t know about Soundbwoy. So I’ll come on stage and do the track and half of the people will be like yeah- ‘cause they know the track and the other half will be like I don’t know it- but I like it.
BHH: So tell us about what you’ve got in the pipeline.
A-Tola: Well I’ve got another video coming called ‘Stuck In The Hood’, that’s gonna be double A-side with Soundbwoy. The album is called The Mona Lisa but doesn’t have a release date yet but the EP is coming out but I am doing the remix for Soundbwoy.
BHH: Soundbwoy has opened many avenues for you in terms of the media. Do you think UK music channels and radio stations get behind homegrown artists; or do they just ignore you until your ‘hot’ and then everyone comes knocking?
A-Tola: The thing is it’s like a double edged sword. I used to DJ and you only wonna play a track that is good because you need listeners. Without sounding big headed but a lot of the stuff is garbage, so you’ll be like im not gonna play that. The funny thing now is: its easier now to get your stuff on TV than it is on radio. Which is backwards. Anyone can have a video but you can’t get your shit on radio. The left hand don’t now what the right hand is doing, it’s crazy out here. You can get your video on Channel U but Channel U hasn’t got no quality control so it’s all part of the problem.
BHH: There was a time (long ago) when Channel U was helping the cause…
A-Tola: Yeah but now it all sounds like noise to me, I don’t know maybe I’m getting older. A lot of these youths put a video on, get famous in their ends and that’s it. With radio backing, I don’t think there’s enough but I understand why there’s not enough. If you start playing any old thing on the radio you’ll lose listeners, it’s all about the bottom dollar at the end of the day. I think we need to get out of this ‘UK Hip Hop’ thing ‘cause if I walk into a radio station they are not gonna pit my song against Black Twang, N-Dubz or whoever. They are gonna pit me against a 50 Cent song.
BHH: Do you think radio stations need to add more UK acts to their playlists then?
A-Tola: Definitely, I mean our music needs to be heard but a lot of people don’t want to hear it. People watch Channel U but the youths aren’t gonna buy your track- they can download it. I saw my little cousin yesterday and she downloaded my song!
BHH: Why do you think UK music isn’t making the transition into the mainstream?
A-Tola: Right now music in general is just in a bad place. I think over here to be honest we are a bit hard on ourselves. UK Hip Hop is just getting it’s legs now, that’s the reality of it. Its not gonna blow over night. The industry as a whole, in terms of the mixing, recording etc has got to grow and us as a people have to start promoting our own and helping our own.
BHH: So have you got any collaborations coming or is there anyone you would like to wok with?
A-Tola: I would like to work with a few artists…
BHH: Shout them out…
A-Tola: I would like to work with Sway- I think he is creative. I like the way he does his thing. I think Kano’s nice, he has a swagger I like; I think he is the only artist right now who has that swagger. There is an artist movement I like, I like Roots Manuva, I like his whole vibe. I like N-Dubz- I like their whole movement, they make good hooks as well.
BHH: Realistically speaking, what are you hoping to achieve in this business?
A-Tola: Realistically speaking I’m trying to be optimistic. Right now I’m thinking let’s do Europe. If I can do Europe- I’m happy but right now I’m just happy making my music.
Soundbwoy the single is out May 14th. Soundbwoy the remixes out May 28th. Mona Lisa EP out now.
By: Michelle Adabra