Working in silence and letting the art speak for itself: Meet UK rap artist, Love Okami

When and why did you start rapping and performing?

I have been into rap ever since I can remember. Genuinely, my earliest memories are being at my cousin’s house, staring at the TV screen watching the video to ‘Forgot About Dre’. At the time I was a 4-year-old living in Portugal, I didn’t understand a word that was being said. I barely had a competent grasp of my first language, let alone English but the music moved me. Dre’s flow on that song is just crazy, absolutely ridiculous. The instrumentation was just crazy, those strings are still iconic now. As soon as those first stabs come in, you know exactly what song you’re listening to and the video was just hypnotic. The energy was palpable, I think that’s where my fascination first started.

I moved to the UK in late 2003 and as part of the move I needed to learn the language. I remember as my English improved to the point where I could form coherent sentences, I started to write poetry. Not just to express myself but to become more articulate with the language. It was like exercise. I guess that was when I first dabbled with playing with words.

The entire time I was going through this whole personal revolution. I would always listened to rap, I have always been enamoured by it. Suddenly I had the tools to actually understand what was being said. All of my favourite songs suddenly existed within a completely different context because I finally knew what they were actually about thematically. The subject matter finally became accessible, I could finally sing along without just emulating vowels and consonants phonetically.

I was 12 when I started pursuing music full time. I was flicking through the music channels on Sky and stumbled upon Channel AKA, or Channel U as it was called back then. Dizzee Rascal’s ‘Jus A Rascal’ was playing. I honestly can’t describe how it was to be exposed to that song for the first time without calling it a religious experience. The way Dizzee used his poetic license so liberally, twisting syllables, stretching and pulling words to syncopate his cadence, riding that beat so effortlessly. It was mind-blowing. The last verse especially is just blasphemous in the way that it rejects genre conventions. It’s just a big ‘f#ck you’ to the listener.

I loved that song so much that it felt bitter sweet to know I didn’t think of it first. It was a poignant experience. But yeah, 2007 was when, and Dizzee Rascal was the reason.

Where did you get your influence from or what made you pursue your style of music?

My influences have always fluctuated and are constantly changing depending on the given period in my life. My earliest influences were whatever rap MTV was playing. The internet hadn’t yet been commoditised back then, and I was too young to have the disposable income (or the autonomy, for that matter) to go out and buy records. So MTV did the work for me.

Moving to the UK exposed me to grime, and for a long time it was all I cared about. In 2006 things started changing a little, Grime lost momentum, a lot of its key players shifted towards a more friendly sound, as we all know. Giggs had re-popularised UK rap and made it acceptable to flow on 90BPM again. So then it was a lot of Giggs, a lot of YouTube, a lot of Tim Westwood radio freestyles and a lot of SBTV F64s.

But around this same time I started diving back into my US hip hop roots. The internet helped to facilitate the process and suddenly I could go back and listen to these deep underground cuts that MTV could never play, and really started to understand the history that way. Around 2011 is when I started looking away from hip hop and embracing other sounds. I went back and got hip on my oldies as well as the newer sounds that were emerging on the internet at the time. Around that year is when I started listening to different genres of music.

Vocals are super important to me. I love instrumentation, but nothing about a song resonates with me more deeply than the vocals. This isn’t true for all songs, obviously, but for the vast majority of the stuff I listen to, definitely. It started with tone, you know? English wasn’t even my second language yet, so to me it was just about the energy and the emotion being conveyed through tone. But then I learned the language, and suddenly had a deep appreciation for the lyricism itself, and that was the priority for a while. But now I think I’m at a place where the two are perfectly balanced, and it’s very easy to understand if a particular record is about the words or the tone, and the truly special records are the ones that are about both.

The artists that have had a deep enough impact on me that they have remained constants in my GOAT list are Flying Lotus, Kanye, Andre 3000, Biggie, Dizzee, Skepta, Sade, Erykah Badu, Prince, MF DOOM, Kid Cudi, Drake, Frank Ocean, Blood Orange, Toro Y Moi, Kendrick. I’m going to force myself to stop or I’ll be here a while, I know I’ll kick myself for missing out a name or two when I read this later.

I have to show love to some hometown heroes, because I honestly wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for a couple of the olders. Seeing people from the ends doing their thing and receiving love and support was inspiring, and definitely put the battery in my back as far as the realisation that I could do it too. Not to mention a lot of those sounds they were cultivating were just crazy and influenced me a lot. Shout out to Smiley Smuggler first and foremost, he essentially molded me into the musician I am today. Invested hundreds of hours of his time and energy into giving me free studio time, mixed everything, mastered everything, recorded videos for me, made me beats, taught me good microphone technique, all of that. I owe him a lot man. Smiley’s this omnipresent figure that seems to play a role in almost all the music that comes out of Reading. His work rate is crazy, and his Box Room sound is instantly recognisable. Also shout out to Data, that man does more for the Reading scene than anyone else I can think of, and he is absolutely untouchable on 140bpm. The skippiest flows and the wittiest bars.

Nothing but love to Mukz and Tanch, I used to listen to those guys online and just wanted to emulate them, and now I call them my peers, which is crazy. Listening to Tanch taught me so much about multisyllabic rhyme patterns. Tanch’s pen game is lethal. Listening to Mukz pretty much single-handedly taught me how to stop writing raps and start writing songs. I learned to craft hooks from listening to Mukz. He’s so versatile, it’s a joke. Also big, big love to Wezzy. I think in terms of sheer creativity and interpolating concepts into a cohesive package, nobody had a bigger influence on me than Wezzy. His rhyme schemes and the things he talked about, the way he had no regard for limits or taboo and said whatever the f#ck he wanted to say in a way that was fluid and engaging was just hypnotic. I studied him for a long time. I’m definitely missing a few names.

How do you get people to take you seriously as a musician?

I don’t really – for a long time, I did. I tried hard to earn my stripes and to get my hometown to support me. But I always occupied this weird space as the underdog. But then I moved to London to pursue music seriously in 2015, and while I was cutting my teeth over there, that’s when I started to notice my hometown showing me love. Which was cool, I love my town!

It felt good to finally see my work paying off. But it was just funny that it was when I stopped caring about that, that it finally went in my favour.

For the most part I try to work in silence and let the art speak for itself. I’ve realised I’m much more vocal about championing the people around me than I am about championing myself, which is cool. I take my craft seriously and I work hard to make constant improvements. I think the proof is in the pudding.

What personal advice would you give to someone wanting to pursue this career?

Honestly, just disregard rules, no rules out here just make it work! Save a couple hundred quid, buy a starter pack home recording kit and teach yourself how to mix. Tutorials on YouTube are great for this! Do things your way and don’t ever compromise creatively. Don’t ever impose limits on yourself. Do your thing and let people gravitate to it organically, and most of all network with other like-minded people. Go to local music events. Share your music. The Internet is wonderful. You have no excuse.

Do you perform in public? Describe those occasions? Concerts, radio, TV, festivals?

I definitely couldn’t name you every public appearance I have made at this point. I’ve done a bunch of venues in and around Reading countless times now. I’ve done Basingstoke Live festival, Bestival 2016 and Stratford Theatre in London. I have also had music played on Wired Gold. This question is so broad, it’s overwhelming just thinking about it.

Do you get nervous before a performance?

I used to, when it was still new. At this point, not so much. The part that I hate is the waiting, most venues have you soundcheck a couple of hours before your set so then you’re just sat in this green room, drinking bottled water back to back with butterflies in your stomach waiting for the time to pass.

But once I walk on stage, it’s kind of an out of body experience now. I do the thing, and then afterwards I remember doing the thing, even though it’s only been 5 minutes since I did the thing.

Where can we find music from yourself?

Just click on my socials below, all of my music can be found there.

What albums/ singles are you feeling at the moment?

Myself! I just dropped the third and final project in a trilogy of mixtapes about death. The latest one is called ‘Tales From The Crypt’. You can pree that on Spotify, Apple Music, or any other streaming site you can think of just search Love Okami.

My brother IZAK just dropped his debut single ‘Pace’ with a new visual to go with it. You should definitely go listen to that if you haven’t already because it slaps. Right now, I’m bumping Saba ‘Care For Me’, Young Fathers ‘Cocoa Sugar’, Tinashe ‘Joyride’ to name just a few. I have a lot in rotation. Singles are cool, but albums are definitely the format that’s most dear to me. When an album drops, that whole process of setting aside an entire evening and listening to it from top to bottom in a good pair of headphones, that’s a ritual that’s very sacred to me.

Who has been your favourite artist to work with?

It’s a lot of people – I love being in the studio with Smiley because he understands my aesthetic so well that at this point it’s almost telepathic when we’re in the studio together. The whole FOS team, it’s always a blast whenever we’re in the studio. We get a couple drinks in, get faded, try to impress and outdo each other constantly, push and encourage each other to be better, and turn out like 6 or 7 songs in a single session.

I love being in the studio with IZAK and Aubrey Trnql. Those are my brothers. They’re both so unique and constantly pushing their creative limits trying to reshape the envelope. My brother D.Live he has been my Earth from young. When I first started doing this music ting seriously, it was with him. Whenever we work together it’s always nothing but vibes.

My G Souler. Honestly man, the funnest studio sessions I’ve had have been with Souler. This guy is just too funny and there isn’t a bad bone in his body. He just wants to see everyone have fun and hands down he is one of the coldest rappers I have ever met. We’ve got a couple songs in the vault for you lot, still. In due time. Just wait on it.

Where can you see yourself in 5 Years?

In the Bahamas recording my sophomore album with my brothers in a villa by the beach. Shaking hands with FlyLo, hopefully.

What is next for you?

I’m doubling down this year. I finally finish University for good in May, so for the first time in my life I’m not going to have any educational commitments. Which means, more time. Which means, more tunes for your head top. No games this year. Let’s get it!

Connect with Love Okami

Twitter | Instagram | SoundCloud |

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