Close To Home

Close To Home

“Wherever I go, I always seem to come back to the saying ‘Home is where the heart is,’” Aitch tells Apple Music. “That's why this had to be called Close to Home. Because for me, everything comes from the heart, and it all comes from Manchester.” In 2018, the sizzling freestyle “Straight Rhymez” saw then-18-year-old Harrison Armstrong became one of UK rap’s most talked-about (and hotly pursued) unsigned talents—with EPs AitcH2O (2019) and Polaris (2020) continuing to build momentum. And after worldwide writing trips, studio time, and concerts, all roads led home to Manchester for his long-awaited debut album. There are odes to family members on “My G,” Ashanti-sampling serenades with “Baby,” and a rumbling blast from the city’s “Madchester” past on “1989”—with the majority of tracks overseen by fellow Mancunian and longtime producer Whyjay. “'The Palm' puts me in Dubai, and as soon as I listen to 'Louis Vuitton,' it puts me in Toronto,” Aitch says. “I made a lot of the songs in LA and London, but of course Manchester, too. I get home and sometimes only have three days to spend and see my family. And then I'm gone again. But home is always on my mind, and that’s why it’s all over this album.” Read on as Aitch opens up on how he made his debut album with this track-by-track guide. “BelgraveRoad_1” “This track started off as a voice note, and a way for me to get some stuff off my chest. It was more ideas for raps, things I’ve been wanting to say in songs. And because of where I was when I made the recording, it was saved [on my phone] as my [home] location, which I’ve kept as the title of this track. It’s only right we call this song 'Belgrave Road' because that's where it all started.” “Louis Vuitton” “I felt like I needed some drill vibes on here. But a drill song, if that makes sense, not a drill track—a song that actually means something. I know people think I’m always flexing, but the storyline is me talking to a girl that wants a certain type of man. I'm telling her, ‘Listen, he's doing it wrong. He's got a chain. He ain't even got a house.’ But that's just my little vibe—I still say each to their own!” “1989” “I just get jealous when my mum and dad are telling me stories about back in the day. I feel like it was all better than it is now. So I put myself in their shoes on this track, and in that world, to do it for the older generation of Manchester, really. This is for my town.” “Money Habits” (with Mastermind) “This song is about admitting our addictions to money, and how it’s sometimes not a good thing. I’m quite close with Mastermind, we’ve spent a lot of time together since he came into doing this thing, but it’s the first time we’ve worked, and if I'm honest, this was his song to start. I heard it through my producers and got a verse on it, I loved it straight away. But afterwards, I was like, ‘Nah, this is too cold. I'm going to ask to have it for the album.’ And he agreed. I threw on another verse—and that was that.” “Baby” (with Ashanti) “Growing up, I can remember my mum listening to Ashanti. So when Fred again.. played me this beat, it just clicked straight away: ‘Yeah, this is the one.’ And I picked up a vibe naturally, listening to the beat in the studio, on my fun stuff, bouncing around on the beat.” “Bring It Back” “I’ve had this song for god knows how long! It’s probably one of the oldest songs, but I have a certain friend who just absolutely loves this song. He’s always saying, ‘No way. This can't not be on the album.’ And I’m like, ‘All right, I'll take your word for it.’ I just hear this and I always imagine myself onstage, going crazy.” “Sunshine” (feat. New Machine) “This song just sounds like Manchester. It's quite gray, always, and you're just trying to wait for that little pinch of sunshine, that little bit. And once it comes: everyone's out. Whyjay wrote the hook—and he got New Machine to sing it. He’s just perfect on this, his voice is just so sick, and it grabbed me straight away.” “Fuego” “I like to keep a fresh festival song—and to me, this is that mosh pit song. I remember I was in one of those moods and boom, Whyjay and Jacob Manson started cooking up this beat [in the studio]. I was already making another song which I was a little bored of, because it was quite a slow song, and I was too giddy. I was acting, I wanted something else, and this was more my vibe.” “Cheque” “I do songs like this for my guys in the car all day—driving round, doing what they're doing. They need something to play. I don't know what happened that day for me to feel like this. I don’t know, maybe I was angry at someone. I was in the studio with P2J, feeling like: ‘Yeah, I'm the guy, I’m doing what I want and saying what I want. Just get me a beat that I can float on.’” “In Disguise” (with Bakar) “This is a story about a girl I met at a bar in Manchester. I liked her as soon as I saw her, and I called her over, with her friends, but they never came. I liked that: She wasn't easy to get. So I went back over and kept asking her—she finally came and they spent the rest of the day with us, and afterwards, we went on to another bar. Finally, I got her Instagram, I went on it, and I see that she's been messaging me since 2019! She was pretending that she didn’t know me all night.” “The Palm” “I took a writing trip to Dubai, to get some headspace and whatnot. I ended up making about two songs in three weeks—after partying all the time! But thankfully, this is one of the songs that I did make. It was literally about a crazy time we had out there. And I already know based off experiences with songs like [2019 single] ‘Taste,’ these rap songs go off in the club with the heavy 808s. That's my vibe.” “100x” “I feel sometimes you’ve got to let the realness out, and I’ve tried to open up a little bit more on this album. This is another little story, all about a relationship—making it work whilst trying to hit your goals and make your partner happy.” “R Kid” (with AJ Tracey) “I made this song probably not long after [2020 single] ‘Rain,’ actually. We've got loads of songs, me and AJ, so we didn’t necessarily make it for this album, it was just one that we had in the locker. And I feel like no one really makes songs for their mandem, or about them. It's always money, girls, bottles, beef.” “My G” (with Ed Sheeran) “My dad came up with the idea for this song, years ago, and since then, it’s always been in the back of my mind. It's about my sister. I have a sister called Gracie, but we all call her G, and this album is the perfect time to make this song. She loves a bit of Ed Sheeran, he’s her favorite artist by far. I’ve even sent Ed some videos in the past of my sister singing his songs. I know he’s the biggest artist in the world, but this is genuinely just a personal song. I wouldn't care if it got 10 streams.” “Close to Home” “Again, I feel like I had some stuff to get off my chest. I was spitting to this beat, and it still felt a bit incomplete; I didn't have a hook, and I didn’t really want one. I knew it needed something else. Not a singer, or anyone else, because we already had enough features [on the album]. Eventually, I decided on a kids choir. And when I got back to London, linked up with the kids in Church Studios in North London. It was absolutely sick, they went crazy, and it turned into one of the best experiences of making this album. And after all the work, we sat there and ate donuts with the kids.” “Hollinwood to Hollywood” “There's an area around the corner from me called Hollinwood. It's just one for the ends to appreciate. And I just feel like it's a perfect ribbon on the box to tie up the album.”

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