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Discipline and Dedication: AntsLive on Becoming the Number One Candidate

The London-based rapper is forming multi-faceted waves with his breakout single ‘Number One Candidate’ and new EP Just A Matter Of Time. He talks us through the creation of the project, the importance of cracking on, and how London breeds positive competitiveness.

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Arena-ready horns howl. Bellowing 808s blast through the mix. A smorgasbord of flows rich with wordplay bounce with the tempo of head bop-inducing drum patterns. These are the facets of AntsLive’s track ‘Number One Candidate’, the single that put this prospect on the radar. 

On the surface, this London rapper seems to have popped out of nowhere. However, his success is the result of his own calculated proverbial propellor, honing in on his craft in the creative utopia that is London. AntsLive has been working on music for a hot minute, learning from peers and exiling himself to the studio, in order to equip himself with the tools needed to traverse the crowded rap scene. The results come in the form of his debut EP Just a Matter of Time, a multi-faceted bag that finds him toggling through an array of sounds with a self-assured swagger. 

In celebration of the EP, I hopped on a Zoom call with AntsLive to learn more about this burgeoning talent. He talked me through the creation of Just a Matter of Time, the importance of continuing to crack on, and how London breeds positive competitiveness.

Congratulations on the release of Just a Matter of Time. How are you feeling?
Thank you, brother. I’m feeling great; the reception has surpassed my expectations. 

The title is a phrase that alludes to possessing a great deal of patience. How did you develop that?
I’ve been doing this for a while now. Before I was a solo artist, I was in a group, so I’ve been releasing music for about 5 years now. The title has always been a mantra of mine, so I can stay disciplined and focused in this game. It’s important to have that patience in an industry that’s so saturated because sometimes it can be hard to cut through, and it can often make you not feel like making music. I feel like I’ve always known that this was going to be the title of my first EP. 

This EP feels like both an introduction to your musical talent, and aspects of your personal life. How do you think this mantra helps you throughout both?
I think sometimes people in general, myself included, lack patience. We’re often in a rush to get to our destination, which doesn’t allow us to understand the whole experience. Good things take time, and this EP took probably over a year to curate. A lot of times things like this can take longer as you’re learning to get your foot in certain doors. So I like to look at the title as something that can apply to everyone, and when I wrote about this EP on my social media I wanted to make it clear to people that if you put your mind into something, you can achieve it. 

I’ve seen you talk about London as a place that’s very hectic and competitive. Was it hard to learn to be patient in a place that’s so fast-moving?
I think London breeds a competitive culture but in the best way. I don’t think that aspect of the city made me want to take shortcuts or anything because there are so many people who are doing so many incredible things, so you’re learning every time someone wins. Seeing others achieve something is crazy inspirational to me, and doesn’t get me down. I do understand that you can get caught up in things, but for me, it has always been a motivator. 

Is there any point in your life you can point to that has made the competition a motivator, as opposed to something that you’re afraid of?
Yes, I can, but it might be something that I’ve overlooked, to be honest. But I grew up playing football, and it was quite regimented. I’d train 6 days a week, and I had a coach who was quite strict from a young age, who made me understand the importance of discipline, and things like arriving on time, putting the work in, and leaving all your effort out on the pitch. I try to take those aspects with me when it comes to music. 

In Football, you’re learning this sense of discipline within the context of a team sport, but with your music now, you’re introducing yourself to the world as a solo artist. Has that changed your idea of discipline at all?
Yes and no. I’ve always had a great support system and the ability to learn from my mistakes along the way with people that I trust, so it never really feels like I’m by myself. But also, being a solo artist means you have to emphasise a sense of self-confidence and belief so that when something doesn’t go well, or you make a mistake, you realise that it isn’t the end of the world. So if you’re someone who doesn’t have that sort of support system, my advice would be just to keep cracking on because one day, your vision will click for you. 

The video for ‘Number One Candidate’ is a great representation of your artistic flair. I’ve seen you describe your quest for your visuals to be interpreted more as a film as opposed to a traditional music video. Are there any movies or music videos from the past that you think fuel this vision?
I grew up going to my friend’s house across the road and watching MTV all day. Because of that, music and visuals have always had a direct correlation for me. But specific influences are something I’m actively trying to avoid. For ‘Number One Candidate’, the director and I sat down and listened to the song over and over, using it as the direct source, so we didn’t have to go to outside references. Shoutout to the director Tom Emmerson who collaborated with me on the video, because he deserves all the available flowers. 

What was it like filming that video in the Dolomite Alps?
We really took the discipline and mindset we developed in the city out there and worked hard to film everything in 4-5 days. It was long hours on a skeleton budget with not a lot of film, so everything you see was done in a maximum of 2 takes. Visually it looks like a nice and natural retreat, but in reality, it was quite intense and focused. 

It really sounds like you’re in work mode 24/7. Do you ever allow yourself downtime?
Man, you sound like my mum [Laughs]. You know, I do work hard, but when it’s something you love, and you’re passionate about, you don’t really consider it work. It’s all a big game to me at the moment, and I don’t want to stop playing it.

An album I’ve seen you reference as a pivotal moment in your music discovery is 50 Cent’s Curtis. What is it about that album that you gravitate to?
Curtis, alongside albums like Get Rich or Die Tryin’, speaks to me because it’s self-assured rap. The bravado and confidence he displays are something that really speaks to me, and I love that ‘fuck everybody else’ mentality. When I first came across those albums, listening to them made me feel alive. 

Do you think bravado and confidence sometimes get a bad rap?
For sure. In my song ‘Kill Bill Freestyle’, I rap, “Please don’t mistake this confidence for vanity, don’t get lost in that mob mentality.” It’s one of my favourite lines because when I show this self-belief, it’s because I’m working my way towards winning. I think when you hear that sort of bravado, you should root for people the same way they root for themselves. It can be hard, though, because there’s a fine line you have to tip-toe between confidence and arrogance. 

You close out this EP with ‘Detoxing’, a song that shows your confidence, not in the context of bravado, but instead vulnerability. When writing that track, what did you feel like you had to detox from?
With that song, it was important for me to close out the EP with something that showed my vulnerability and kind of spoke to the masses. We’ve all been through a period where we feel like we’re doing too much or something, and that can be a different thing for everyone. That song is about me looking in the mirror and realising there are some things I need to change to better myself as an individual; I wanted to translate that because I wanted to make it clear that’s a moment we can all reach. Funnily enough. ‘Detoxing’ is my favourite song on the EP because of the message it conveys. 

Lastly, as this EP continues to grow, what do you want to do with the rest of 2023?
I’ll be dropping another project in the near future, way sooner than people expect me to drop. I also want to drop some freestyles as well, because I love getting into that sort of rap bag. There will also be some visuals to accompany both of these as they form. I also want to give people access to who I am as a young artist in London, creating things like vlogs and whatnot. The most important thing for me right now is connecting with the people through live music, and we’ve got a bunch of shows planned for this year. All I can say is, wait for the announcements.

Follow AntsLive here for more and stream his new EP Just A Matter Of Time here.

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