Selected by: Blessing Borode
Photography: Tom Emmerson

Name: AntsLive

Where He’s From: North London

File Next To: Kamakaze, Reek0, Berna

Sounds Like: “My shit is just feel-good energy. I don’t like to box myself in because I’m still growing and developing as an artist. But if you feel a little better about life, a bit more motivated, after you listen to my music, then I’ve done my job.”

First Music That Inspired Him: “Nines’ Fire In The Booth. It’s an all-time classic—too smooth! But there were so many UK classics that I grew up listening to. ‘Pain Is The Essence’ by Dubz and Giggs, ‘Ace Hood Flow’ by Skepta... I just fuck with the UK rap scene so much. J Cole’s ‘Lights Please’ also had me inspired to write.”

North London rapper AntsLive arrived on the scene three years ago, determined to ground his sound in the middle of a whirlwind year of epic releases from the likes of J Hus, Headie One, Pa Salieu and Skepta. He landed with a tenacious, Jay Blu-produced single titled “Brown Liquor”, which saw him underpin Flamenco-style guitar licks and woozy 808s with his snappy-but-swarve flow. There was a level of clarity in his performance that could only have been mastered by someone who spent time sharpening their craft. “I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember,” he tells TRENCH. “The first time I hit the studio was in 2018. Shout-out Tejy and JayBlu, because we were flying music on SoundCloud for fun.”

Since then, Ants has granted fans front-row access to his journey to riches and continues to surpass millions of streams with co-signs from industry figures. But still, he remains cool as a breeze, unburdened by the pressure of the buzz currently surrounding his name. “I’m just doing what I love, and what I’m good at,” he says. “If anything, I feel blessed to have eyes on me.” Ants is audacious in his approach to rhyming and it’s probably due to his early exposure to 50 Cent via his first CD player, aged 7. While 50 schooled him on the art of hedonistic street rhymes, Ants’ parents exposed him to a well-rounded palette of sounds that included everything from classical music and Aretha Franklin to Latin music.

While he holds UK rap close to his heart, AntsLive also credits J. Cole as a key figure in teaching him the fundamentals of crafting meaningful messages through rap. “I don’t listen to him as much anymore,” he says, “but ‘Sideline Story’, ‘Friday Night Lights’, ‘Born Sinner’ and ‘Forest Hills Drive’ were my soundtracks for school days. Those tracks really got me into the storytelling side of rap and how to convey a message, not just spray bars.” He channels all of these lessons into his debut EP, Just A Matter Of Time, which contains a flavoursome brew of melodies and concrete rhymes that explore the highs and lows of his journey thus far, sparing no details. Aside from the contributions from a few producers, AntsLive stands alone on the EP and aims to embody the idea that he is “the livest in the scene, and every day I’m working to prove that.”

The rapper was only a year into releasing music when he had the opportunity to perform at Reading Festival in 2021, which sits at the top of his proudest achievements to date. “Me and my guys had the tent rocking! Go watch the video on my Instagram; it’s crazy, for real. AntsLive has never shied away from proclaiming the greatness he wishes to attain in his music, slinging bars like, “I’m gonna blow this year, I’m calling it law of attraction.” Looking into 2023, he’s focused on pushing his sound globally with hopes of going on tour, while staking his claim as a frontrunner in UK rap. “The UK scene is really thriving right now so let’s see what we can do this year.”

TRENCH Highlight...

Posted on January 13, 2023