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We meet Avelino in a studio in North London where he’s been rehearsing for his debut appearance at Reading festival. He’ll perform at Leeds and Creamfields the day after that - making it home in time to catch the McGregor vs. Mayweather fight on pay-per-view.
It’s a hectic schedule that stands in contrast with his calm aura. Similarly contrasting is the soft intonation with which he speaks and his enormous, athletic frame; a boxer’s, perhaps, although he says he’d always considered himself a footballer - the only thing other than music that he’d want to spend his time doing as a kid growing up. “But,” he admits, “I wasn’t Cristiano Ronaldo, even if I liked to think I was.”
A disarming 24-years-old - you’d guess he’s older, though not so much because of his appearance as the way he conducts himself - Avelino is a symbol of the new post-adolescence of UK MC culture. The Reading and Leeds appearances are worth noting in this respect, as the traditionally rock-dominated line-ups are this year more than just peppered by hip-hop, rap and grime artists. It says something not only about a historically cynical industry’s pivot towards recognising the pulling power of these types of music, but also the maturation of these sounds and the artists pioneering them.
And Avelino’s is a style that demands attention. Stuffed with smart wordplay, metaphors and semiotics, they’re tunes you wheel up to make sure you caught all the references rather than because of the way he hit the drop. He’s gearing up for the release of his most ambitious project to date. Titled ‘No Bullshit’, he refers to it as a playlist rather than an album, and envisions it as a “living, breathing body of work” that he can add elements and make changes to over time. That could be by adding guest vocals or even whole tracks, but the overall idea is to increase the record’s life span.
Today, he says, “you get so much new music, you’re spoilt.” He may be a relative youngster, but he still remembers the days of HMV - and having to live with your album choices until you made your next trip.
This sense of unbridled creation - and ambition - underpins much of what he does. The studio we’re sitting in is a stone’s throw from the iconic Alexandra Palace, the scene of a string of recent triumphant homecoming shows for fellow Tottenham MC, Skepta. Avelino was there, taking it in. “Ally Pally’s a beautiful venue, and of course I’d love to do that,” he says, “but I have stadium ambitions. So these are the checkpoints.” No bullshit, indeed.
WHERE: Tottenham, North London
WHAT: Wordplay-heavy MCing that can compete with grime’s greats
GET 3 SONGS: ‘Late Nights In The 15’, ‘On A Roll (feat. Abra Cadabra)’, ‘Energy (feat. Stormzy & Skepta)’
FACT: Avelino speaks French as a second language, though he doesn’t recall ever having to learn it.
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Words: Will Pritchard
Photography: Sophie Maynne
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