It would be easy and probably really lazy on my part to say that Avelino has appeared out of nowhere. It would probably also affect my integrity as a journalist because it would be a lie; Avelino has been grafting, putting in the work and perhaps most importantly, growing to become the artist he is today. And although things are getting better and he's getting better, he's not complacent - he knows there's many, many more hours to go.

Born and raised in Tottenham, North London, Avelino's musical story stems back to 2012 under his previous moniker AA and if you're lucky, you might still find some of those early freestyles and projects floating about because this is the internet and nothing truly ever dies. Arguably, eyes and ears really began to pay attention with Avelino's Iconic Ambition mixtape - released in late 2014 - which earned considerable praise on the underground circuit, particularly from his peers including man of the moment Stormzy (who later invited Avelino to support him on one of his earlier UK tours) and the Old Flame himself Wretch 32, who he had been a long-time fan of. It's also probably safe to say that Wretch was the first person that Avelino could relate to musically, coming from near identical backgrounds. His deep, conspicuous tone combined with witty, intellectual wordplay meant Avelino was - and is - a force to be reckoned with and a voice that must be heard.

The last 12 months or so have probably been some of the most frantic for this young MC. The release of 'Money Over Everything' set the tone for what would be a non-stop onslaught of freestyles, refixes, original tracks and collaborations including his highly praised 'Fire in the Booth' session and later in 2015, the long awaited collaborative EP with Wretch entitled Young Fire Old Flame. The mixtape (which is a bit of a disservice as it sounds more like an album) spawned two sold out live shows, including a stop at Koko in Camden, and cemented Avelino's status as one of the UK's best new artists. Following the release of his debut EP FYO (an acronym for 'Fuck Your Opinion') and ahead of his headline show later this year, we sit down with Av to discuss how he creates his music, transitioning from studio-based artist to the stage and those comparisons to Wretch 32.

Why did you decide to do an EP versus a mixtape or perhaps going in full force with an album?

I decided to do an EP instead of a mixtape because I had just released a mixtape called Young Fire, Old Flame [with Wretch 32] quite recently so it didn't make sense to do another one to me. EPs are obviously shorter than an album so it's a lot more intricate; there's less room for wasted space and less room for mistakes. I felt like I needed to cram Avelino, at that time, into a short space of time, which was an EP.

Roughly, how long were you working on it?

Not too long, probably about half a year, in and out, on and off. That's not intense, half a year just going through the motions, making music, filtering out whatever I had done over that period of time so that it worked sonically.

I want to touch on your Iconic Ambition mixtape briefly; what was your thought process back then compared to now and was it different to your thought process when making music now?

No, because my thought process at that time was... I used to think about stuff like greatness; where I want to be, what I'm here to do which is to make bodies of work etc. I used to think about it but I'd say my views were very premature, I knew I was passionate about it but I knew I had much more to learn. I think today and now, I'm just a lot more knowledgeable, a lot more developed in life in general rather than just music.

A lot has been made of the time you've spent developing and perfecting your craft and I know in previous interviews you've mentioned that you're more of a studio-based artist and that you spend a lot of time in the studio. Have you found it difficult moving from the studio and becoming a performer?


Because they're quite drastically different worlds, I'd imagine?

Yeah, but it's like a class; you're in a class with your classmates studying and then you have to give a presentation. The stage is just a presentation of the work I've been doing in the studio. It's a simple as that, that's how I like to see it.

I've seen you perform a few times already - once at the first Young Fire, Old Flame show and once supporting Stormzy on his UK tour last year; it's interesting watching the audience and how they engage with you. Have you seen much of a difference in your fan base over time?

I'm not really one to get ahead of myself, I still feel like I'm crafting my fan base but obviously I'm aware that awareness around Avelino has grown since then. The change is size but at the same time I understand that this is still early stages. I'm still crafting who I'm speaking to as much as what I'm speaking.

What would you say has changed the most for you in the time between Iconic Ambition and now?

I'd say, just improvement. That's the key word because that's what I'm striving for every day. That's my biggest target every time I wake up; just improvement. Everything more, nothing less.

At what point did you decide that you wanted to be an artist and when did you know you were good enough to be an artist?

I always say that there was never a specific moment when that happened. I feel like, I just practiced and did what was my happy so consistently and so often that it became a lifestyle. It got to the point where you feel like you're getting better, people were encouraging me and saying "Yo, this might be your thing." Was there a specific moment where that happened? I don't have one, but each moment is as important as the next. I'm still the same. I'm still just doing what I love doing.

You recently sold out Koko with Wretch 32 and the Young Fire, Old Flame show. How did it go for you? How did you feel it went?

It was a wonderful moment. Koko is a beautiful space and having that audience is a dream for any up-and-coming MC, especially one from Tottenham where stuff like that is far-fetched. Even though there's so much more to achieve, for me it was something I had to take in, even days after the show but I think I'm back to reality now and we're just working. I've got another show coming up in September, we've just announced it and I'm preparing for that.

Compared to the first Young Fire, Old Flame show, this was on a much bigger scale. Did you feel any additional pressure to perform or impress more so than usual?

Of course, I don't know if it's pressure, it's more like a duty to the people who have allowed you to have this platform to support you. We did the mixtape, we did the first show, they bought in and they've given us the opportunity to come out and do a bigger show so it feels like a duty to serve, like, "here you go; here's a bigger and better show, we're gonna put even more effort in because we're so grateful. We need you."

You've just announced your own headline show for later this year, which I'd imagine complements the FYO EP from earlier this year?

I suppose so but it's definitely not an EP show. I would have called it the FYO show but I suppose so, it complements everything; every step is just as important. There's more to come, even before the show I'm not going to stop putting out music between now and September 29th, I strongly doubt that's going to happen. I think every step is important.

I'd read somewhere else that you're working towards new music and that's not specifically for any kind of project but you're just constantly creating...

That's the thing; it could be, eventually it could be. But when it comes to music, I don't really go in with the intention of doing a project soon after just putting one out, I'm just making music because that's just what I need to do as my routine as a human being so that's just where I'm at, at the moment. Whether that forms a project, only God knows.

I suppose in a way you've answered this question, but have you put any thought into what you'd like your "album" to sound like? Whether it comes out today or much later down the line?

Kind of... Kind of. That's all [Laughs].

In terms of producers, who are you currently working with, who are you into and who's on your radar?

I don't have anyone on my radar to be honest but I just like working with my mates in house, my teammates, my people such as Raf Riley, AceKeyz, Chris Loco, Mokeyzz & MikeyMuzik, KZ... these are all my people that I've been working with for a long time so I don't have anyone on my radar, I'm quite content with what we're building at the moment. That's not saying I'm not open to getting in the studio and doing sessions with people because this is music, we can collaborate and create together.

Talking of which, you've done quite a few collaborations recently, what does it take for you to get on a track with someone? Is it simply a case of someone reaching out to you and your liking the track or do you have a specific requirement before doing it?

Yeah, I don't really do this whole 'reaching out and liking the song' thing, not really. It's just a moment. Like, obviously there's going to be the odd situation where someone sends you a sick tune and you're a fan of the artist and you're gonna get on it but more time, it's a case of, I'm a fan of the artist so we've communicated that, maybe we do a studio session or we've linked up and done the session there and then or sometimes it's even more random than that. There's other ways that collaborations can from. I just let life take the wheel, man and that's with a lot of stuff I do. I just like to be creative and I don't know what I'm going to create when I wake up. I don't have a plan.

I really like your recent collaboration with Cadenza and I think it might have come as a bit of a surprise to some, perhaps? What made you want to do that track in particular?

I don't know. I don't know what is traditional for me to rap on. We did Young Fire, Old Flame, we did FYO with Raf Riley, I don't know if I have a traditional sound so I don't know how unusual the Cadenza one must be. I don't know if there's anything usual with what I'm doing or what I do. I constantly keep it moving and that's probably the only "plan" I have. The moment I feel like you can expect my next move is the moment I could be boring and I pray to my dear God that I never become boring. That's what I want to make sure I don't do.

The Cadenza one was just a new moment. I linked up with him, got in the studio unplanned, done a verse, Assassin put his verse down after, I put another verse down after and that was the record. I'm always going to try and work with different producers, I'm always going to make new things happen because I believe that's what I'm here to do; create art, create new art.

Alongside working a lot with him, you've also been compared to Wretch 32. How do you feel about this comparison?

I can't look at that in any other way than with pride. I was a young boy, growing up, listening to him in our ends, now I'm listening to us in my headphones on the same mixtape so I can't look at that with anything other than pride and take that in my stride because with greater pride comes greater responsibility. Not only fulfilling that but making your own mark so that's going to happen.

Do you have any other interests outside of music? I always think it's interesting to find out musicians do away from music.

Yeah, I like normal stuff, like... hanging out and... to be honest, hanging out probably ends up in the studio anyway [Laughs]. I like spending time in the mornings with my niece... I can't really put my finger on anything that takes my time up as much as tunes and the lifestyle but, yeah... I just like doing normal stuff. There ain't much to me other than tunes. I've already lived a long life, I think now, the next phase is me being in the studio and telling you about that long life I've lived [Laughs].

What would you like your legacy to be? What would you like to be remembered for?

That's easy, man. The first thing is good music. The second thing is always trying to push myself. I was going to say push boundaries but the first boundary is yourself. If I'm known or remembered for doing that consistently and constantly, then hopefully people will look at that and try to emulate that, to push themselves and do even better. That's easy, man, that's it.

Avelino's recent projects FYO and Young Fire, Old Flame with Wretch 32 are both available from all good digital platforms. Avelino headlines London's Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen on September 29. Tickets are available now from here.