Exclusive Interview: One Acen – “I want to be part of those 4/5 names that comes up frequently in terms of top tier artists”
One Acen speaks about being part of the 'Sound of Rum' crew, shooting 'Xpensive Habits' and aiming to be a bigger artist
Simply put, One Acen is a star and he is on his way to reaching supernova.
The Hatfield by way of Tottenham artist has been building his catalogue for the past few years, first breaking out with the catchy anthem ‘Pattern’ and then going on an onslaught with Hardy Caprio, gifting us with smash singles ‘Unsigned’, ‘E I O’ and ‘Best Life’, before turning up the Richter scale recently, delivering the future hit, ‘Xpensive Habits’, shot in style out in Paris.
The level up is truly being realised and big brands are starting to take notice, with him being added to Casa Bacardi’s ‘Sound of Rum’ crew, alongside: Donae’o, P Money, Br3nya, Rudekid, Siobhan Bell, Yinka and Harry Pinero.
So ahead of his set at Croydon Boxpark on Saturday, RWD caught up with One Acen to chat about linking up with the ‘Sound of Rum’ squad, revealing what’s been hiding underneath his durag in ‘Xpensive Habits’ and aiming to take his music career to the next stage.
What are you most looking forward to about being a part of the ‘Sound of Rum’ crew?
Overall it’s just going to be a good time. I think it’s a nice mix of artists, it’s going to be like a party on stage. All the artists have got there own genre going on; it’s a lot of urban music, but it’s different types of urban music: you’ve got Donae’o there, you’ve got Br3nya, Rudekid, P Money and the way all the sounds are going to blend together is going to be mad.
Who are you trying to collaborate with on the line-up?
Donae’o. I actually met him a few times before we linked up for the ‘Sound of Rum’, but I’d never actually spoken to him properly. So recently because of this whole ‘Sound of Rum’ thing we spent the whole day chilling together with the rest of the crew and realised that we are very similar. P Money does grime, but I’d like to find a way to make a tune with him, because him and I get on well also, so it would be good to see what could come out of a collaboration between us.
On the topic of rum, what’s your drink of choice?
I don’t really drink that much. It’s just not really my thing. But if I am drinking, I just like something subtle, like a tiny bit of alcohol then something sweet as the mixer like tropical juice.
You call yourself the sex-SYMBL, so who would you say is the female sex-SYMBL?
On a random one, probably Nadia Rose. She’s got like a certain style, the way she carries herself and even the way she raps is very sexy.
I saw your Ends festival performance and it was a madness for various reasons – you had an epic fall at the end of your set – were you seriously hurt? you looked like you took it well to be honest.
When I actually fell, I landed on my chest, so I was winded. I couldn’t breath for a second. But for that day I was cool, it was probably because I was still in shock. Then around two weeks after the performance, I was in a bad condition, it was very bad – but I still made it look good on stage when I jumped back on, as the show must go on!
In terms of your music, you’ve got a unique mix of Afrobeats, dancehall and hip-hop – who were your musical influences growing up?
It went in stages. I originally lived in Tottenham and in that area there’s a lot of Ghanaians, Jamaicans and Nigerians, so all of those cultures influenced my sound and then I moved to Hatfiled, Hertfordshire and I started listening to a lot of R&B at that time, because of my older sister. After that came the grime phase, where I was listening to the likes of Dizzee Rascal & Kano and I literally blended it all together to create my style.
Your debut project SexyOddRose dropped last year and I was really feeling it – but why that name?
I tried to get a variety of tracks on that one. A few of them were Caribbean influenced, like ‘Pina Colada’ which is named after the drink. I’m excited to perform that one at the ‘Sound of Rum’ on Saturday with the whole rum connection going on there.
In terms of the name, I used to call myself Odd Rose, because I’m different but I’m still beautiful in my own way. Then the sex-SYMBL moniker came onboard later, so I just put it all together. My next EP is going to be called SYMBL, so I’m just trying to bring everything together with my projects.
Hardy Caprio is also releasing his debut tape soon – how did you two initially connect?
Basically, he liked some of my older songs and whilst he was liking my stuff, I was feeling a lot of his early freestyles. I liked his style of rapping. I feel like the way he raps is very unique, which is rare in this era, even his voice is interesting. We were just fans of each other and then he DMed me and before we even made a tune, we just started talking and it just grew from there.
Why do you think your musical chemistry is so strong?
I think it’s because our individual styles are so different. I’m very melodic and into sweet harmonies, whereas he’s very hard-hitting with the way he raps; so when you put it together, it’s just an interesting blend. Also, he’s from south, I’m from north and there like opposite areas, so we’re different but it still works. Also, with this show I’ve got on Saturday, since it’s at Croydon Boxpark (his ends), I might try and get Hardy to come through. It’s always good to perform in your hometown.
Your latest track ‘Xpensive Habits’ is a madness – why did you choose that song to reveal what’s been hiding underneath your durag?
The reason I like that song so much, is because a lot of my songs in the past have been smoother and mid-tempo, like a wavy type of vibe and I just wanted to add something a bit different to my catalogue. Even with my stage performance, I want to add a different type of energy to it. Also, as the song is so hyped, I wanted to make the video the best it can be. With the reveal, I’ve been wearing this durag for 7/8 months, so I just felt like it was the right time to take it off.
And you know what’s crazy, if it wasn’t for ‘Sound of Rum’, I probably wouldn’t have had Siobhan Bell in the video. Similar to Donae’o, I had met her a couple of times before in passing, but it was through spending the day with her, when we were sorting out the set list we properly connected and then the video shoot was the next day after that, so I was like “I’m going to Paris tomorrow, do you want to come and be in the video” and she was down.
What goals do you want to achieve by the end of the year to attain your ‘Best Life’?
By the end of this year or in the near future I want to be a bigger artist. I think at the moment people know of me, I reckon a lot of people have probably heard a song of mine, but they might not know who it is.
I want to be one of the top tier artists, like if Drake was to come to the UK and ask “who’s popping right now”, I want to be part of those 4/5 names that comes up frequently. I think I’ve built a good foundation, I just need to take it up a level now.
Wicked, so have you got a date yet for your upcoming ‘SYMBL’ project?
I haven’t got a date yet, but I’m literally just one song away from it being complete, all the other tracks are pretty much done, I’m just looking for the right feature for that last song. With me, I’m very particular with the features I get, so once I find that last missing piece, I’m done. It’s definitely coming this year – it should be out before December.
Will the tape be principally produced by you?
Nah, what I’ve tried to do with this EP is get different beats from upcoming producers. The person who produced ‘Miss Diva’ and ‘Xpensive Habits’ is called Mitchel ‘X’ White and to my knowledge I’m the first person that has used his beats. At the moment I’m just getting producers to send me beats through email, so I can work with a new batch of creatives. I’m trying to make it a point to have fresh producers. It’s easy to go to the names that everybody already knows, but it’s always interesting when people don’t know who the producer is and the beat is hard.
That song you did earlier this year with 5EB ‘Scum’ is a banger and I didn’t know about him before that to be honest.
I like finding fresh talent. It’s always sick to come across a random person that no-one has heard and find out they are super talented.
Interview by Denzil Bell