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Aitch 1

Aitch's top five tips for success

26 September 2019, 18:08

As the UK rap scene begins to recognise that there’s life beyond Watford, Manchester’s golden boy Aitch gives his advice on staying ahead in the game

Manchester has given the UK, and the world, some of its most pivotal musical moments. And although the bucket hats, mod haircuts and monobrows still lurk beneath the crane-littered skyline, the city is once again evolving, laying the foundations for a new scene to break through.

Over the past few years, a wave of hip-hop, grime and soul artists have been emerging from the North West, such as Bugzy Malone, IAMDDB, Children Of Zeus and [ K S R ]. But there’s one Northern light that is shining that little bit brighter than everyone else, and his name is Aitch. His rise has been rapid, but not without its hardships.

Following the release of his storming new LP, Aitch 20, we get his expert advice on staying on top. As he says himself, “Dad said there's not a lift up to success – you gotta take the stairs.”

Be everywhere

“I was up and down from London all the time, trying to get on radio stations, trying to do grime sets, trying to spin all the London man. I was just working hard, constantly travelling up and down, trying to make myself a familiar face and be everywhere, innit. Every time someone turns ‘round you have to make sure they just see you. Make them think, ‘Who is this kid from Manny?’”

It was when he dropped the video to "Straight Rhymez" back in 2018 that things really started to go crazy for Aitch. This was the first time a lot of people were exposed to that inimitable flow. Watching the young kid in a car park with his mates, you could literally be watching any grime video on YouTube – until you heard the casual Manc vowels, the to-the-line lyrics. He took everyone by surprise.

There's no rest for the wicked

“It’s all natural. I’m not even really trying my best to be the maddest barrer. I just feel like it rolls off my tongue; it just comes out. It’s my little secret weapon. When Straight Rhymez started picking up, that’s when I thought ‘oh shit’ it’s working now. Finally it’s working. I need to follow up with something sick, and ever since then I’ve not stopped working.”

That “something sick” appeared when he jumped on the remix of “Keisha and Becky” with Russ and Tion Wayne. With one track, Aitch managed to cause mass hysteria throughout festival crowds nationwide, piquing the interest of concerned suburban parents along the way, with one infamous line:

“Both hands on the back when I tap it / grab it and slap it / Becky a savage”

In one fell swoop, Aitch bodied every other emcee on that track, earning himself an instant reload on any stage he graced. He also set an unusual tattoo trend, with a job lot of female fans getting the words “Grab it and slap it” emblazoned on their behinds: another reason for those suburban parents to get pissed.

Aitch 2

Don't think too much

“Aitch20 is just straight vibes, straight energy. It’s just a mood. You can tell what mood I was in when making each track just by listening to them. I don’t want people to think too deeply about it. There’s no one big meaning behind the EP. It’s just me saying ‘I’m here, and I’m here to stay. Here’s some music for you guys to finish off the year with, I’m going to come back next year and go mental, see you soon’.”

Aitch is a toerag, he’s a scally, and he also seems to be one of the most genuine people in the industry. You watch his interviews, the way he interacts with his fans, and it’s evident he’s in love with what he’s doing – as if he’s been waiting for all this to happen. His explanation? Aitch knew he had it, he was just waiting for the pieces of the puzzle to fall into place – no need to plan or panic.

Winning is everything

“At the end of the day it doesn’t matter who has the hardest verse on whatever tune, as long as the tune is a banger. But when I jump on a tune, I think to myself, ‘No one is having a better verse than me on this.’ It’s not a winning or losing thing really... but I always think, ‘You can’t lose, I need to be the best.’ ”

Lyrical confidence – and competitiveness – is something that has been instilled in Aitch from a young age. Rather than it being learned, it’s something that always came naturally: you’ll struggle to find many 19-year-olds this comfortable hanging out with the likes of Stormzy. To anyone who’d doubt his bravado, his retort rings loud and clear: “Hatin' on the kid, it's kinda long, you're all depressin' / But since the day I started, it's been nothing but progression”.

Aitch 3

Home is where the heart is

“Ed Sheeran messaged me on Instagram saying that he fucks with my music. He said that he was doing a remix for a track off his album with Stormzy, and he wanted to do a Manchester version and a Birmingham version, and get me and Jaykae involved... Ed came up to our cities to do the video, and that was when we met him. I’ve got to rate Ed, he’s a sick guy. He’s proper. We just wanted to keep it original. But I had to represent and take it back to Manchester. I had to go full Manc mode, and just go in.”

Staying true to his word, Aitch did go “full Manc mode” on that "Take Me Back To London" remix, tearing out of the blocks with yet another ice cold one-liner:

"Old school raving, back to scally / and the AP, packed with gally / take me back to Manny."

Aitch’s charm is rooted in his unapologetic Northernness. Not since the early 2000s when the Arctic Monkeys crashed their way into the charts has there been a proper Northern accent on mainstream radio. Having grown up in the North West myself, Aitch’s voice reminds me of home, my mates, my family: it’s comforting.

But it’s not only Northerners that Aitch’s sound is resonating with. The "Take Me Back To London" remix stormed the charts at number one. In the same week Aitch had three hits in the top 10. As I write this, he is currently sitting at number 1 and 2 in the singles chart. With the release of AitcH2O, he wanted to leave his mark on 2019; to go out with a bang: and he did. AitcH20 went straight in at number three in the UK albums chart. His tips for success might not sound like rocket science, but judging by those numbers, Aitch is definitely someone worth listening to.

Aitch20 is out now.
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