Interview: A Conversation with Asco
When thinking of the typical entrepreneur, musicians wouldn’t necessarily spring to mind. At the end of the day, to make a living, these artists need to produce a high quality product, market it to the correct audience, and figure out a way to receive monetary value for it. A lot of artists struggle to do this because they either shy away from the business aspect of music or are just not versed in the art of selling. Asco has no issue in this domain. An entrepreneur in his own right for many years, he’s always had the talent to reach the upper echelon of Rap in the UK. Being financially driven, it didn’t make sense for him to initially pursue that particular dream. However, seeing the landscape change, and how it is more conducive to make a serious financial gain in Rap, he decided to leave his old life behind in 2016 and hasn’t looked back. Influenced by American legends in Styles P and Mobb Deep, As has a gritty style, lyrically laden with half rhymes, and bars that hit the listener, whether he’s talking about being drippy or content more close to home. Arguably a veteran in Rap, who dropped freestyles with the Mashtown collective nearly ten years ago, the almost annual release of his infamous ‘Straight Drops’, caught the eye of new fans. Further singles like ‘Last Night In London Fields’, and ‘Ride With Me’ featuring Kojo Funds contributed to the growing buzz, which positively exploded when Asco released arguably one of the songs of the year in ‘So Litt’.
His increased work rate paid off, signing a deal with Warner Bros. Records, to put out his debut mixtape, ‘Better Late Than Never’, which includes ‘Cheque’ featuring fellow break out star, Loski. I had the opportunity to sit down with Asco and talk about his recent cancelled shows, debut mixtape, his ‘Straight Drop’ series, being Muslim, and more. Check the interview out below now:
TP: Your headline show at Village Underground was cancelled – what was the reason behind that?
Asco: Basically the police scared off the venue… this was the second headline show of mine that got cancelled. The first venue was O2 Islington, originally scheduled for last month. The police spoke to the venue and said that the show shouldn’t take place, so I got another venue willing to put the headline show on, and at the last minute, the police did the same thing and scared them off, warning them of potential risk factors.
I find that strange because only very recently I was at Headie One’s show in Brixton, and they are allowing Drill artists, as they rightly should, to perform. So for your show to get locked off, doesn’t make sense…
Basically, there is a long history between myself and the police. I feel that it’s more personal… I’m not saying others have not been subjected to what I’ve had to experience, but I feel like mine is a bit more intense, due to the police having personal issues with me. It’s a deeper issue, do you what get what I’m trying to say?
So it’s personal?
Hundred percent… I’ve been subjected to this before doing music, now I’m doing music, I’m trying to make a better way for myself, I pay the taxman… and as everyone can see, they’re still fucking with me.
They don’t want to see you win…
They don’t want to see me win at all…
I find it very strange that… your success isn’t affecting their lives, so for them to do that-
Back to my point, it’s very personal…
It’s very personal… even though (my success) makes no difference to them, they would rather it be bad for me.
Shows how sad their lives are…
There you go…
You just keep winning man
Nah, it won’t stop I’m just going to go harder, that’s all
The first show was meant to be in Islington, but the fact that the second show was meant to be in Hackney, does that mean something more to you, that it’s closer to home?
It wasn’t actually Hackney, but even though it’s close to Hackney, I didn’t even look at it like that. The whole reason they said I couldn’t do it in Islington was because of the area as well. But then I book another venue that’s closer to home – do you get what I’m trying to say? Like I said, there’s no real issue, the show would have gone on perfectly fine, and when I finally do my headline show in the future, I’ll prove it by making sure everything goes well so they won’t be able to do this again… it’s timing. Maybe right now wasn’t the time.
Yeah it’s unfortunate man… so you’re from London Fields and you consistently mention that in your music – with increased success would you see yourself leaving the area?
Yeah, I don’t live in the area… my mum still lives there,but I don’t live there. I haven’t lived there since my late teens, but I come to the area regularly and have a big presence there. I just don’t actually reside there.
It’s interesting, because one of my close friends is from Hoxton and I remember growing up he was telling me what it was like to grow up there, but if you look at the area now, it’s become quite gentrified… do you think that’s positive or negative for the area?
Well it depends what walk of life you come from… it’s been negative for certain people and positive for others. I think coming up in poverty in Hackney, which a lot of people still are, single parent households,more than two or three siblings, your mother is having to work all the time to ensure you’re not getting kicked out of school. Bailiffs coming, all of these things. For them people it’s harder, because before, Hackney was all theirs. Now, wherever they are from, it’s the only part that they can call theirs. I’m assuming it’s like this for all the other boroughs and areas that suffer from the same thing, i.e. poverty, single-parent households. So for those people, it’s not good… Hackney before – if you were from where I’m from, you can go to other places, whereas now it’s a bit of a problem for the kids to do that.
So if anything it’s just increasing the divide?
At what age did you decide to actually start rapping?
I’ve been rapping on and off for years, over ten years, but I was rapping to my mates since my late teenage years. I started recording with Mashtown, obviously, they are my guys, from my area, around 2007 or 2008… 2006 I came out of jail, so yeah after that. And even then, you might have heard me once a year, if that.
There’s one freestyle, I think it was on ‘Streetz Inc TV’… you guys were mad waved-
Yeah that’s way back, that’s like 08 or 09!
What did you guys drink that day?
I don’t know, just liquor… was most likely henny on deck or something, henny and weed, you know our ting-
Because it was a cold freestyle, but you lot were just gone (laughs)
It was extra cold, if I do say so myself (laughs)
Following up from that, there was a freestyle on Westwood from 2009, and in your lyrics you speak about aspiring to be rich, but in your content now, you talk about your current wealth. You’ve been on and off with music, but if at that moment in time, you saw that music could give you the same kind of financial gain, would you have stuck with the music?
Big facts, hundred percent. That’s the reason I didn’t take music serious, for that exact same reason. Because I didn’t think it was beneficial at the time, given the way the industry was set up. It was hard for people like me, coming from our walk of life, trying to keep it authentic to our walk of life, spitting what we were spitting, but there were no doors open at that time, you get me? One or two artists were slyly making a break… K Koke, maybe because of his skin complexion, I don’t know… they were blocking Giggs, and these were the big people in that lane at the time. Apart from that you had to be making music like Tinie Tempah and that.
Facts… but then 2016, I saw what was going on and I felt like I was talented enough, and good enough to make it happen, and make a better way for myself, so I sacrificed my other life to come to this. But at the time, when I was rapping in the Mashtown days, I had never really established myself, I’ve only established myself now. But to those that know, they would say I’m an OG in this, but I’m not. My first project was only the other day!
In 2016, you saw that you could make a career out of music, but what drove you more, your passion for music, or the financial gain?
Don’t ever get it twisted, I’ve always liked to rap, and I like what I’m doing, but at the same time, I’m not in this for fun. It’s a bit of everything. I have a dope passion for music, when I’m in the studio making songs with my guys, and it’s unreleased, it’s the best feeling for me. But I’m not just going to put music out, get myself hot, bait, famous, can’t really walk around too tough any more, and all of these things, if I’m not going to get anything in return. I just feel like that’s hustling backwards to me. I’d rather not be known, because I don’t care about the fame, you get what I’m trying to say? I’m literally in it, for what I’m in it for. I didn’t come here for the fame, but obviously fame is part of it.
With your debut tape, ‘Better Late Than Never’, ‘Intro’ has a real throwback feel to it, from the instrumental to the visual – whose idea was it for that video?
Right at the end you were walking in a Muslim cemetery, I know you’re big on your faith, but what was the purpose of that clip?
My dad got buried there, in the ‘Gardens of Peace’ Muslim cemetery last year… there’s a part of my song where I speak about him basically: “my pops weren’t around, he was up on the other side, got three sisters and a brother, they’re from his other wives, now he ain’t around, I’ma hold it down, and pray that I meet him in Jannah up on the other side.” It’s part of the story, there were other things that I could have put in the video and to be fair, I didn’t really execute the video how I would have liked to, but yeah, part of the song where relates to that, so that’s why I put that in.
For anyone it’s difficult to lose their dad… how was that process for you?
To be honest, I wasn’t really close to my dad as he wasn’t really around my whole life but he’s still my dad. The pain that I felt may not have been the pain that someone else would have felt if they had a different relationship with their father… like, grew up with them, not even necessarily in the same household… so it was painful for man to know that my dad is no longer here, but the pain was different to someone else who maybe, was close to their dad, you get me?
Yeah man, definitely… going back to the project, you had songs like ‘Going On’, ‘Want Me’, and ‘Pink Notes’, that a lot more catchier and upbeat than the material that you normally release… do you personally enjoy making those type of tracks?
Yeah, I’ve been making those types of tracks for a long time, but I just haven’t released them. I’m known for spitting and freestyling but that’s easy for me. But I’ve always been in tune with other music, like I listen to non-lyrical people, English and non-English. For example, Future is not lyrical, but I grew up on Styles P and that. Mobb Deep, that type of rap, and that’s how I rap. But I do like to make other types of music i.e. turn up, more club friendly music, and man has been making that music for time. There are songs on that mixtape that I made, three or four years ago. ‘Friendship’–
‘Friendship’ was three years ago?!
Maybe more, four or five!
So you wrote that, but what about the actual instrumental, was that more recent?
Yeah the instrumental was more recent to the song, but at the time… so you see for me, I’d have lyrics written to an instrumental, but it doesn’t mean it’s going on that instrumental, it’s a song, however you want to put it. And when it’s time to record it… and that’s another thing, it doesn’t matter what times I’m in, my music is always hanging. Like I said, I made songs, four or five years ago, that I still wheel in 2018. My music is not for the times, I feel my ting is more time-less.
I don’t want to name no names but there are people who make music, and it bangs at that time, but next year that music no longer exists. It’s a phase… them other songs like I said, whatever the times we’re in let’s just say, you got Uzi Vert, Thugga, people will come and go.
‘Friendship’, I think any guy whose been involved with a girl can relate to that song, but at the same time one lyric that stood out was about how girls you slept with told you that they love you – did these girls actually say they love you after you beat?
This is what they do though, girls will say they love you, but they might say that to five, six or seven people. Then I say “yeah right.” I’m basically trying to say I don’t know who you think you’re kidding. You’ll be alright, “but to make it all worse, she’s fucking Tom, Dick and Harry, trying to find Mr Right”. She’s not my ting, she’s trying to convince me to make her my ting.
Do you think some girls have the wrong approach? Do you think some think sleeping with a guy will make them want them to be their girl?
Hundred percent, but it’s deeper than that, I think these type of girls have deeper issues that make them act in a certain way, and look for love in these random boys, making the same mistake over and over, not knowing their worth. There’s a lot more to it, you get what I’m trying to say. There are girls, you can’t con them, because they know you’re checking ten other people. But then there are girls who are like, “maybe he’s taking me serious”. She’s fucked twenty man doing that! And now she’s back to square one. It’s reality.
I knew a few girls like that at university…
Just wild, but they really want love!
That’s the thing, they think that’s the way to get a guy to like them
They get it all twisted, and I’m not saying you can’t have a one night stand, and then get married, and live happily ever after with that person. I’m not saying you have to wait three months to lay down to take them serious but, like I said, we treat people how they treat themselves, in general. How much are you respecting yourself, and how much respect are you demanding from others, that’s what it really boils down to. It’s like, you’re moving in a certain way, and we can all see that, and everybody can see that, but then you want to get treated nice. You can sleep with someone, but don’t expect to be respected after.
Tracks like ‘Friendship’ and ‘Betrayal’, those are very personal… did you find those difficult to put out or more therapeutic?
I wouldn’t say therapeutic… I have to think before I put those songs out. It’s not difficult to write them, or to lay in the studio, but it’s more “when do I want them to know this story”, it’s the same thing with ‘Pink Notes’. It’s like songs that I’ve made now, that might not get released for another few years. There’s songs on the tape that I made two weeks before the tape came out, ‘Killys Dem’ for example. There are a lot of songs that I’ve made that I’m shook to put out, and ‘Friendship’ was one of them, as I was scared of the backlash, hurting people’s feelings, you understand me? You need to think “do I really want to put this song out?”
So you were worried about your chick listening?
Nah I mean, imagine you’ve got a girl at that moment in time, over the space of four to five years, I’ve never wanted to put the song out, because at the time I did have a girl, I didn’t want her to feel no type of way, or I don’t want fans to be like “raa, what’s wrong with As? Is this what As is on now? What happened to ‘Straight Drop’ kind of music?” I’ve clocked that I could put a ‘’Straight Drop’’ out every month, and it would do a million a week like they all do, but it’s not that. There’s more to me than that.
And yeah the hardcore fans want that, they don’t want anything else. They’re gonna take in everything else that I do, because they’re my fans, but I can’t please everyone all the time.
The way I see it, when an artist gives more of themselves, they build a stronger core fanbase.
Those particular fans – some won’t connect to it, but the ones that do, will then be like, “I want to hear more of that”. Have you heard of an artist called Freddie Gibbs?
Yeah of course I have
So he’s known for rapping about a certain lifestyle, and I’ve always been a big fan, but when he puts out personal stuff, that’s what hooks me in as a fan.
That’s why I call it ‘Straight Drop’, that’s the raw, uncut… let’s say I’ve got some other stuff, but it’s got some stuff in it, but my fans are used to ‘Straight Drop’, they don’t want anything that’s been tampered with. But then there’s another market that will buy that, so why would I not? And I feel like I’m good at anything, and although I’m best at the ‘Straight Drop’ kind of music, it doesn’t mean I’m shit at other things.
Everyone has their strengths, and they might be decent at other things, but super dope in one area. Same thing with a striker, he could be dope at holding up the ball or scoring with his head, and everything else is alright, but not as good as his main strength. But he can’t sleep on everything else, he’s still got to work on his other attributes. Them fans, I will put out ten songs, but ‘Straight Drop’ is touching them different, but I can’t just cater to them. There’s more to my game to that. I’ll never forget it, I’ll always bring ‘Straight Drop’, and that essence of music, because that’s what my core fan base loves, but I’ve got to juggle.
Speaking of ‘Straight Drop’, how come you decided you only decided to release ‘Straight Drop 4’ after the tape?
It would just cause more noise… it was my birthday, there were a few reasons behind it. My last ‘Straight Drop’ was coming up to a year, since I last released it, so I thought it was a dope way to end the year as I won’t be releasing anything for the rest of 2018, at least not my own music, although I just dropped a feature with Dappy (‘All We Know RMX’) the other day. I thought it was a dope way to leave my fans with something that they want and what they love me for.
I’ve wheeled ‘Straight Drop 4’ too many times… I wanted to ask, in the video, there’s the lyric about the girl jumping into the jeans, and then there’s actually a clip of that happening, whose idea was that?
Come on (laughs). Any sick shit you see in my shit, it’s me!
That clip is beautiful man…
I should be a director-
And you chose that girl as well?
It’s all me bro! Iconic shit
That was perfection
And remember on ‘Straight Drop’, there was another iconic shot, where the girl steps out the car, same thing. You lot see that first with As. You can see that anywhere else, but first thing that will come to mind is ‘Straight Drop 4’, and I’m cool with that (laughs).
I think there was a comment on YouTube saying, “every girl is going to be talking about jumping into the jeans”–
Hundred percent… I was going to do a “Jump in the Jeans” challenge
You still should man… in your opinion what do you think is your best ‘Straight Drop’?
That seems to be general consensus…
Three, maybe four now, and two is also massive. They’re all very big, but three is personal, it’s more close to the heart, and it was an emotional situation for me, with what was going on at the time. It means maybe the most to man. And four! For me personally, I feel I like myself the most on four. But ‘Straight Drop 3’, overall, for everything, video, lyrics, beat… yeah, it’s got to be the best one.
‘So Litt’ is one of the tracks of the year… the amount of times I’ve said Mashallah because of that track… so how did you actually come up with that hook?
When I’m around people that don’t live the same walk of life as me, on deen brothers, anything nice they’ll just say Mashallah. You drive a nice car, in the streets, man will say “ah that’s dope”, or “that’s lit, Mashallah”. So same thing, I might have been with a girl, and she would have said, “ah As you’re so lit”, I just told her “yo look, say Mashallah”, and the rest is history (laughs). And I just made sure the rest rhymes with it… “parking the car”, “Mashallah”, you get what I’m trying to say? And same thing with that, there’s a lot of brothers and sisters that love me for that, letting them know that when it’s nice, you say Mashallah. And there’s a lot of brothers, that are on to me for that? See what I’m trying to say to you? Like, don’t be mixing God’s words with haraam, you get me?
Coming to the end of ‘Better Late Than Never’, on ‘Outro’ you speak a lot on your faith, and I feel there’s a conflict… how do you feel Islam helps you with life?
There’s a lot of people that’s Muslim, and shy away from it, especially people that’s in the industry, and that have a voice. So for me, anything that’s a big part of my life, I talk about it. Bottom line… money, gyal, my bruddas, my area, and Islam. So if I talk about everything else, why would I not talk about Islam? That’s just not me being me. I’m around brothers and that, I’m in the Masjid, do you get what I’m tryna say? So why would I not mention that? This goes back to ‘Last Night in London Fields’, “Jummah prayers, got my aks with me, top drawer got them straps with me”. People, even Muslims are on to me for certain things I say. Not to say that I don’t care, but it’s between me and the big man at the end of the day. My whole outlook on that is, someone can say, “raa, you’re saying something, about the deen, and your next bar is about fuckery”. But like I said, my whole thing is, I wouldn’t mention Islam, because I know I’m not a good Muslim. I’m not out here, saying I’m a good Muslim, furthermore I’m a bad, bad Muslim, but I am Muslim! How about that?
I’m nowhere near the best Muslim bro… but I try, that’s it. And I want man to know that. I’ll be on Snapchat when I’m praying and I’ve got people asking about it. There are times where I don’t pray all the time, but there’s a difference innit? I’m not showing off, I’m just happy that sixty or seventy people, are watching my Snap, and there are bare people struggling just like man. Man can help them to do the right thing, even though I might not always be doing the right thing. So call me a hypocrite if you want, but how about, every single person is a hypocrite? How about that?
So if you want to get into all that, they can’t throw no dirt on me, because there’s already dirt on them bro. None of us are squeaky, everyone just do what you can do, and try and be good, and try and do best for others. And if it’s negative I don’t want to know. So, I’m staying mentioning Islam for as long as I’m Muslim and Inshallah I’m Muslim for the rest of my life. That’s it. It’s like anything else, it’s second nature for man to do that. Same way I want them to know I’m drippy, same way I want them to know I’m lit, I want them to know that about me as well. That’s my ting. I’ll get a bit of backlash for it, but alright cool.
What does Jannah (paradise) look like for you?
For me Jannah, is all you dream, and more. Jannah on earth in this Dunya, for the most, is cars, mansions. Jannah, heaven, if you read the Qu’ran, they say the lowest form of Jannah is you get seventy two wives of your choice, and they’re all virgins, so any girl you’ve lusted for in this Dunya, you can have seventy two of them. That’s the lowest form. So when I close my eyes it’s everything you dream of, and way more. People call loads of places on earth, paradise, alie? You see captions on Instagram, and anything that looks pretty, anything that looks dope to the eye they class it as paradise, and heavenly, so that’s how I picture Jannah. Very light, very bright…vibrant… pretty… exotic, you know what I’m saying? (Laughs)
Bro, it’s been an absolute pleasure.
Love, everytime bro.
Follow Asco @asco_mullionz to hear more.