FOR every distinct and bold musical creative out there…
one finds an overflowing vessel of mundane and yawn-worthy artists ready to tip the balance into the ocean. I always look to feature acts possessed of an interesting story and fascinating personality: songs that hit all the senses and mark them out as something rather special. When it comes to standing out from the crowd; few do it quite the same was Oliver Asadi. He is a multi-talented creative who is a graphic designer, music producer/editor extraordinary: an art director and multi-talented writer standing as one of the brightest Hip-Hop talents in the U.K. I speak to him about his multi-disciplinarian facets and how they impact on his music; his latest video, Till I Die and whether we can expect more music from him soon. In addition, Asadi talks about upcoming musicians and broaden their skillset – so few look beyond songwriting – and the city of Leeds – where he is based – as a centre for musical inspiration. On top of all that, I ask Asadi about his background and the artists he recommends to us all.
Hi, Oliver. How are you?
I’m good man. Just vibing out at the moment, listening to my beats. You?
How has your week been?
It’s been like mad weird and hectic; humans are crazy. My life is on some rollercoaster vibes right now. I’ve found out that drawing is actually mad therapeutic for me. So I’m back into that. As always, I’m producing new stuff every day.
For those new to your music can you introduce yourself, please?
My name is Oliver Asadi and I am one of the best creatives in the world. I am probably one of the most ambitious and passionate people you will ever meet. I write, sing; rap and produce songs. I design art. I direct and edit all my own music videos and films. I am currently working on a new film, a concept for a video game; a fashion collection and multiple music projects such as King of the Wild and Loveless Jungle.
I am intrigued by the nickname ‘King Lion’. Where did that come from?
I’m actually half-Persian and my full surname translates that (‘King Lion’) in Persian. So, like, my whole family is actually lions.
Leeds is your hometown. It is one of the most fascinating areas for music in the U.K. Is it quite grating a lot of the national media focus heavily on London and do not realise the great music coming out of the city?
Yeah, it’s kind of weird. I feel like sometimes just the fact that you are based in London will make people think you’re more legitimate. Like, if I move to London does that suddenly make me a better artist?
No, I won’t be: I’ll be the same dude. I don’t want to sound like I’m sh*tting on London because I actually really f**k with it.
It’s more the bloggers and journalist types of people I have a problem with. Like, they need to pay more attention to what’s happening outside of London – especially in Hip-Hop. Like, honestly, I feel if you’re aware of me and other creatives but don’t show love. It shows you don’t care about the creativity and passion; you’re just a d*ck rider that writes about whatever is big and popping in the scene at the moment. You don’t care about the art: you care about looking cool and trendy.
I’m tired of seeing all these music artists that are sucking writer’s d*cks just to get some exposure. It really needs to stop. I’ll show you genuine respect if I’m f*cking with you – I won’t do it as a necessity. We the ones making music. Words are dated.
What, would you say, is it about Leeds that breeds such incredible music?
I think this is one the benefits of being in such an undervalued city. A lot of us can have creative freedom. We can make whatever we want. Like, we don’t always want to make stuff for radio or super-commercial use. We are D.I.Y. as f*ck because we don’t have the same tools and resources other cities have. Like, people don’t even know that Leeds was the city that pretty much brought Goth culture to life. We are innovators.
You are a graphic designer and art director (among many other things). Have you always been into art and creativity or is it something more recent?
I was actually way into the whole artistic creative side of things way before music. I’ve been doing creative stuff my whole life; like when I super-young in infant school I used to watch Art Attack all the time and copy what they did on there – and then I got into Pokémon and Dragon Ball Z, and started designing Anime characters and drawing Manga. Then, when I got into middle school, I used to write plays and make magazine concepts. In high school, I used to run a backyard wrestling promotion which I designed all the characters, graphics; the videos and websites for. Then, when I got into college, (it) is more when I started getting into the music side of things.
Do you feel being able to direct and edit your own videos gives you more control over your own work?
Definitely. I actually find it really hard to give someone else control of one my music videos because I feel my artistic visions are hard to define. I try to make each of my music videos reflect the tone of the song, my personality and thoughts.
Saying all that, though: I do really want to work with other art directors: they just have a unique vision. I really like Neil Krug, Alejandro Jodorowsky and Araki Nobuyoshi’s work. I feel they all display raw emotion in imaginative ways.
Do you feel more musicians should become multi-disciplined and learn these skills?
Absolutely, no doubt. I feel a lot of music artists, who are just rappers and singers, think that’s all they have to do; like they can just coast along doing that. Like, bro., where is the drive and passion? I’m learning every day. People are too scared to look stupid; to try and do anything different. Failure is the best lesson. Matter-of-fact, most things that are labelled ‘weird’ are some of the most normal stuff to me – it’s just the general audience that is way behind. It’s the normal cliché stuff that is weird to me; like why are you even doing it? What’s the point; where’s the artistic integrity?
You have produced some great work the past year. Masked Shaman is something that sticks in my mind. Can you tell me about the inspiration behind that and which of your past works are you proudest of?
Appreciate it bro.! Yeah, Masked Shaman was, like, the first project I put out. But feel even that was rushed because of university. I had to release a music project to coincide with one of my university projects so I had to put something out all of a sudden. I recorded and picked songs that gave the vibe and mindset I had at the time. It’s funny, it’s super-trippy and atmospheric so people associate it with drugs but I’m actually mad-straight-edge. I just like those types of sounds.
I’m super-proud of my films NIYAZ and Peach Juice as well as few latest songs. NIYAZ was showcased at the Leeds Silent Film Festival and I just submitted Peach Juice for a few. I really feel like I was able to achieve what I had to set out to do with them.
Till I Die is your latest video. What was the inspiration behind the song and was the video fun to shoot?
In general, it was basically me saying I’m going to be doing this weird artsy stuff ‘til I die and there’s nothing you can do to stop me.
I have all the power because I know how to make the beats, songs; lyrics, art and videos. My mind is the source of the creativity so you can strip me of every materialistic thing and I can still make sh*t.
Man, shooting the Till I Die video was so weird. The original concept was to have a super-high-budget music video shooting on R.E.D. cameras and all that stuff. But that plan fell through, so I went the complete opposite route. I did it with no money and went completely lo-fi. I wanted its look to match the mood of the song which was like a tribal-chaotic-jungle type of vibe. My friend Nun Clark modelled as this tribal Pocahontas type of girl I had envisioned in my mind; which also nearly didn’t happen because she missed her bus (haha). What was mad weird for me was that I borrowed a V.H.S. player to record the footage of and it had a copy of Pocahontas in it. It was mad-freaky.
My dude Kid Genesis was a camera operator for a lot of it so it looked mad suspect that another dude was recording another guy jumping about in a pretty public place with his top off (hahaha). It was definitely fun. Post-production was probably the hardest part of it.
Can we expect some new music from you in 2017?
For sure! I actually have a lot of music I want to release: I just need to find someone to mix it for modern Hip-Hop consumption. I have these songs called Fire, Primal Expression; Moonlight, Problems – and more that are like so good bro. Me and my friends just jump about to them all in the studio and in my room – they hard.
Those are like singles, though. I actually have more album-like tracks with some cool features on them from some of my friends and other pretty big artists in the Hip-Hop world. I hope I can release them at some point.
What are your plans for this year?
Do super-cool stuff and be happy.
A lot of people in London would love to see you perform live. Are plans on coming down here?
For sure. I try to get down to London as much as I can as it is kind of like where the culture of Hip-Hop in the U.K. is. I want to perform there more, so London promoters book me! I’m one of best live Hip-Hop solo acts right now! I bring the chaotic energy and vibes.
I hear shades of M.I.A.’s early-career inventiveness and Kanye West’s swagger in your work. Are they important artists to you?
Yeah, they are like my idols, for real. I want people to feel good about themselves; people need to realise that when I’m saying “I do this” and “I do that” in songs, I’m actually talking about ‘we’ as in the person listening.
I feel so much music is, like, made to lower your self-worth. I really have the belief that anything is possible: things only become impossible when you limit your self-thinking hat.
I wouldn’t be doing what I do if I listened to other people saying I can’t do something. People need to learn don’t ever doubt me for a f*cking second because I will always do what I want to do.
If you had to narrow down to three albums that have shaped you most which would they be and why?
I know straight off the top my head the two of them are Kanye’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and Kid Cudi’s Man on the Moon II: The Legend of Mr. Rager. They like saved my life; like those are the first albums where I felt I had a relatable conscience; like I can feel like Runaway one minute and my mood switches to Hell of a Life a minute later. The third would probably be N.E.R.D.’s Fly or Die because that’s how I feel: it’s literally fly-or-die for me. Like, I’d rather die than have my creative freedom taken away from me. I guess you could say they all like introduced to me the artistic side of Hip-Hop rather than the super-commercial side of it.
Are there any new artists you’d recommend we check out?
They are pretty much all creatives like me so expect next level stuff.
Have you advice for new songwriters coming through right now?
Simple words draw more emotion and strike harder.
Finally, and for being a good sport, you can name any song you like (not yours as I’ll do that) and I’ll play it here.
This is one of my favourite songs of all time. The vibes and production inspired a lot of my material.
Photography by Moon Child
Art Direction & Styling by Oliver Asadi
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