“I’m getting treated like a king, I woke up to like four smoothies,” exclaims Antslive when depicting his morning. Right now he’s staying and working with yet another new producer, savouring the taste-notes of a lavish existence, and he better get used to a maturing palette. Amongst the most exciting acts within the UK’s endlessly burgeoning alternative rap scene, Ants is set on a course for stardom and there’s more than enough fuel in his engine to get him there. The rapper has just released his debut EP, ‘Just A Matter Of Time’; his first full-bodied statement of intent, the tape is an emancipation of diversity, ambition and entertainment.
Obtaining charisma has never been a problem for the North Londoner, who is just as vibrant of a personality in actuality as he is beneath his rap moniker. Quick with his words and slick with his wit, his resounding self belief flirts with but is never duped by hubris, instead acting as a significant layer to his textured artistic characterisation. “I’ve always been confident, you know? I wrote a bar in the freestyle that says ‘please don’t mistake this confidence for vanity’, and that’s just how I feel as a person – I’m outgoing, I’m confident, but you shouldn’t mistake it for arrogance, it’s just me as a person.”
Having first emerged as a solo artist during lockdown with his breakout single ‘Brown Liquor’, Ants has gone through the gears over the past few years, consolidating his craft and pushing his own creative capabilities. Most of all, the rapper is focused on being authentic, unique and evolutionary; “I’m not actively trying to be a part of anything, the underground or the commercial scene. I’m just trying to create my own lane” he proclaims. “As everyday goes by, I’m still trying to figure out who Antslive really is and where I’m trying to take this. I don’t restrict myself to a niche genre. I’m trying to tap into a bunch of different things, and I guess the thing that holds it all together is me.” This elusive nature has too oft resulted in him being forgotten about in the conversation of top tier upcoming rappers, but with the ever-changing landscape of the industry and Ants’ increasing savviness à la social media and marketing, he is now at the precipice of fame, culminated in the form of his debut body of work.
The early January release of ‘Just A Matter Of Time’ may raise a few eyebrows, but every decision that Ants makes is expertly scoped out, with this being no different. “I always want to deliver it at this point in time. I wanted to start the year correctly. The market is so saturated, so any opportunity you get to cut through, you’ve got to take it.” The nine-pronged EP is a manifestation of himself, his projections and his experiences, wrapped up in soundscapes that are distinct in tone, mood and sound. It’s as emotionally resonant as it is braggadocious, as subtle as it is cinematic; a true showcase of the eclectic nature of a rapper with bags of potential, skill, charm and heart.
The visual for lead single ‘Number One Candidate’ is the best video of the year to date. “We’ve become comfortable with visuals in the UK, but I want to push boundaries in every direction”, he comments. “I learnt to gallop that horse six days before we went out to Italy – I’d never been on a horse before that in my life!” A reflection of the wider tape, it illustrates the vision, tenacity and zest of Ants, as well as a seemingly natural talent for equitation.
“Why wouldn’t I do what I love?” he questions when asked about his motives. “I’m young and I’ve got this energy about me that just wants to chase my dream. Everyday I have to wake up and do it, otherwise it’s a disservice to myself.” This unyielding passion, alongside an artistic vitality that radiates throughout his work, makes it blatant that soon it will be impossible to ignore Antslive – more likely, it’s already in the process of happening.
Words: Ben Tibbits