12 Songs, 38 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

“In London, it’s just hard to shift people,” Octavian tells Apple Music. “I feel like that’s my job: to shift everyone’s views from being so closed-minded and just being into drill or grime or Afrobeats. And then there’s me, who is none of those things. You have to not be scared to listen to different types of music to find this mixtape great.” Octavian might feel like he’s operating in an isolated place, but it’s a productive one. In January 2019, his singular, left-field take on hip-hop earned the him top spot in the BBC Sound Of... poll, the annual music industry vote to ordain Britain’s next big thing. Endorphins, his second mixtape, fully honors that result, broadening his horizons even further until it becomes reductive to label the music UK rap. Gospel, R&B, house, indie, rock, trap, and drill are all absorbed, twisted, and deconstructed into capricious beats that back Octavian’s serrated, emotionally honest vocals. “'Endorphins' is just a good word to describe the feelings you get when you do something you like,” he says. “When you’re in the gym, when you lift that weight, you like that pain. Surviving the pain—I think that’s what I wanted to portray.” In this track-by-track guide, Octavian takes us through the highs, the lows, and every other feeling that fueled Endorphins.

“Gangster Love”
“This was produced by my friend Rex Kudo. ‘Gangster Love’ makes me…feel. There’s no real concept to any of the songs—just what I was feeling. That’s the whole point of the mixtape: It’s all about that what I felt when I made it, and what you’d feel from the songs. It wasn’t anything deeper than that.”

“King Essie”
“It’s just celebration, a great feeling. I made this in a house in Kent. I booked out a studio. Went out to Kent, and it was just me and all of my Essie boys [the audiovisual collective Essie Gang]. I was just kind of drunk, looking around the room, and I thought, ‘Wow, it’s great to be in Essie Gang.’ And I literally just made this song. Karma Kid, who produced it, played the beat and I was like, ‘Yeah, this is how I’m feeling right now.’”

“Molly Go Down”
“‘I love the money, but f**k fame’…Before the fame I was a very introverted person, not really a talkative person, a very analytical person. I don’t really like the fame that much. I’d rather go onto the Tube and be no one. People always come up to you and expect you to be this person that they want you to be. Everyone likes to be private and pick when they want to be appreciated. If I could have my music be appreciated without me being appreciated as such, then I would love that.”

“Take It Easy” (feat. Smokepurpp)
“Smokepurpp came in to London and he said, ‘I need to someone to work with in London. It’s you, man.’ So we went to the studio and we made ‘Take It Easy.’ Working with him was easy. We took it easy.”

“BET” (feat. Skepta & Michael Phantom)
“My boy Michael Phantom [fellow Essie Gang member] found the beat and he jumped on it first. And I wanted it so bad but I didn’t want to take it off him. I mean, his verse is sick. So I was just like, 'F**k it, this would make a mad track.’ It made the biggest track of my career, I think. Then Skepta heard it and he jumped on it and I was over the moon.”

“Feel It” (feat. Theophilus London)
“[Theophilus] is very similar to me, in the way he’s not on the fame thing. We’re free-spirited guys. I feel like there’s certain people that shouldn't have fame, they just want to make music and only some people, like tastemakers, would know who they were. I can’t afford to be like that, because I want to be the biggest in the world. But it comes at a price.”

“Risking Our Lives”
“The song’s about being in that house in Kent, being in that environment. It’s all about the feelings of being on drugs. It was my last expression of how that felt: I’ve stopped taking drugs now. I’m completely sober. I feel great. It feels better than being on drugs, trust me.”

“No Weakness”
“I was getting back with my girlfriend at the time. The song’s all about how, if you’re with me, you can’t be weak, because there’s so much s**t that’s about to go on. You have to be mature. She’s actually on the track, going, ‘Wanna be by your side.’ I feel like that’s the whole point of art—to make it as real as possible. ‘No Weakness’ is not about getting the girl or losing the girl, it’s about if the girl wants to be with you, she has to show you no weakness. I feel like girls or boys, whatever, can relate to it: ‘If we’re going to go into this relationship, we have to both be mature.’”

“World”
“This is me and Spooky Black [the Minnesota hip-hop/R&B artist now known as Corbin]. He’s singing underneath. He was my favorite artist from when I was 17 or 18, so to have him on a song is just crazy. This song is very special to me. I feel like you have to listen to it in your headphones, on your own. It’s a song to relax. Or if you’re in a bad mood, it just lifts your spirits.”

“Walking Alone”
“‘Walking Alone’ is actually SBTRKT’s song (‘Right Thing to Do’). Sampha co-wrote it, and Jessie Ware sings the top line: 'Walking alone, I’m in the red lines.' When I was 16, that was like my favorite tune ever. I was like, ‘You know what? What if we just made a tune like that?’ And then [longtime collaborator] J Rick was just like, ‘Make that same tune. You’ve never done that before.’ I was like, ‘F**k it, man, can we just do it?’ We made a more darker, trippy vibe of it. To commemorate the tune, I'm not going to not have Jessie Ware on it. She said yes, which was just crazy.”

“My Head” (feat. Abra)
“This was when I was breaking up with my ex-girlfriend. I remember actually being in the studio with her as I made this song. I was really, like, angry, and [producer] Fred was in the studio and he got my anger and made this angry beat. Then I explained the tune to [Atlanta singer-songwriter] Abra and she completely understood it. She was like, ‘What if I be your girl?’ She’s like this sweet person on this angry tune. It’s a good contrast.”

“Lit” (feat. A$AP Ferg)
“Again, [A$AP Ferg] came down to London, he was like, ‘You are the only person I want to work with, man.’ It was great. He’s a cool, swaggy guy. I’m the same. Literally, we’re the same people.”

EDITORS’ NOTES

“In London, it’s just hard to shift people,” Octavian tells Apple Music. “I feel like that’s my job: to shift everyone’s views from being so closed-minded and just being into drill or grime or Afrobeats. And then there’s me, who is none of those things. You have to not be scared to listen to different types of music to find this mixtape great.” Octavian might feel like he’s operating in an isolated place, but it’s a productive one. In January 2019, his singular, left-field take on hip-hop earned the him top spot in the BBC Sound Of... poll, the annual music industry vote to ordain Britain’s next big thing. Endorphins, his second mixtape, fully honors that result, broadening his horizons even further until it becomes reductive to label the music UK rap. Gospel, R&B, house, indie, rock, trap, and drill are all absorbed, twisted, and deconstructed into capricious beats that back Octavian’s serrated, emotionally honest vocals. “'Endorphins' is just a good word to describe the feelings you get when you do something you like,” he says. “When you’re in the gym, when you lift that weight, you like that pain. Surviving the pain—I think that’s what I wanted to portray.” In this track-by-track guide, Octavian takes us through the highs, the lows, and every other feeling that fueled Endorphins.

“Gangster Love”
“This was produced by my friend Rex Kudo. ‘Gangster Love’ makes me…feel. There’s no real concept to any of the songs—just what I was feeling. That’s the whole point of the mixtape: It’s all about that what I felt when I made it, and what you’d feel from the songs. It wasn’t anything deeper than that.”

“King Essie”
“It’s just celebration, a great feeling. I made this in a house in Kent. I booked out a studio. Went out to Kent, and it was just me and all of my Essie boys [the audiovisual collective Essie Gang]. I was just kind of drunk, looking around the room, and I thought, ‘Wow, it’s great to be in Essie Gang.’ And I literally just made this song. Karma Kid, who produced it, played the beat and I was like, ‘Yeah, this is how I’m feeling right now.’”

“Molly Go Down”
“‘I love the money, but f**k fame’…Before the fame I was a very introverted person, not really a talkative person, a very analytical person. I don’t really like the fame that much. I’d rather go onto the Tube and be no one. People always come up to you and expect you to be this person that they want you to be. Everyone likes to be private and pick when they want to be appreciated. If I could have my music be appreciated without me being appreciated as such, then I would love that.”

“Take It Easy” (feat. Smokepurpp)
“Smokepurpp came in to London and he said, ‘I need to someone to work with in London. It’s you, man.’ So we went to the studio and we made ‘Take It Easy.’ Working with him was easy. We took it easy.”

“BET” (feat. Skepta & Michael Phantom)
“My boy Michael Phantom [fellow Essie Gang member] found the beat and he jumped on it first. And I wanted it so bad but I didn’t want to take it off him. I mean, his verse is sick. So I was just like, 'F**k it, this would make a mad track.’ It made the biggest track of my career, I think. Then Skepta heard it and he jumped on it and I was over the moon.”

“Feel It” (feat. Theophilus London)
“[Theophilus] is very similar to me, in the way he’s not on the fame thing. We’re free-spirited guys. I feel like there’s certain people that shouldn't have fame, they just want to make music and only some people, like tastemakers, would know who they were. I can’t afford to be like that, because I want to be the biggest in the world. But it comes at a price.”

“Risking Our Lives”
“The song’s about being in that house in Kent, being in that environment. It’s all about the feelings of being on drugs. It was my last expression of how that felt: I’ve stopped taking drugs now. I’m completely sober. I feel great. It feels better than being on drugs, trust me.”

“No Weakness”
“I was getting back with my girlfriend at the time. The song’s all about how, if you’re with me, you can’t be weak, because there’s so much s**t that’s about to go on. You have to be mature. She’s actually on the track, going, ‘Wanna be by your side.’ I feel like that’s the whole point of art—to make it as real as possible. ‘No Weakness’ is not about getting the girl or losing the girl, it’s about if the girl wants to be with you, she has to show you no weakness. I feel like girls or boys, whatever, can relate to it: ‘If we’re going to go into this relationship, we have to both be mature.’”

“World”
“This is me and Spooky Black [the Minnesota hip-hop/R&B artist now known as Corbin]. He’s singing underneath. He was my favorite artist from when I was 17 or 18, so to have him on a song is just crazy. This song is very special to me. I feel like you have to listen to it in your headphones, on your own. It’s a song to relax. Or if you’re in a bad mood, it just lifts your spirits.”

“Walking Alone”
“‘Walking Alone’ is actually SBTRKT’s song (‘Right Thing to Do’). Sampha co-wrote it, and Jessie Ware sings the top line: 'Walking alone, I’m in the red lines.' When I was 16, that was like my favorite tune ever. I was like, ‘You know what? What if we just made a tune like that?’ And then [longtime collaborator] J Rick was just like, ‘Make that same tune. You’ve never done that before.’ I was like, ‘F**k it, man, can we just do it?’ We made a more darker, trippy vibe of it. To commemorate the tune, I'm not going to not have Jessie Ware on it. She said yes, which was just crazy.”

“My Head” (feat. Abra)
“This was when I was breaking up with my ex-girlfriend. I remember actually being in the studio with her as I made this song. I was really, like, angry, and [producer] Fred was in the studio and he got my anger and made this angry beat. Then I explained the tune to [Atlanta singer-songwriter] Abra and she completely understood it. She was like, ‘What if I be your girl?’ She’s like this sweet person on this angry tune. It’s a good contrast.”

“Lit” (feat. A$AP Ferg)
“Again, [A$AP Ferg] came down to London, he was like, ‘You are the only person I want to work with, man.’ It was great. He’s a cool, swaggy guy. I’m the same. Literally, we’re the same people.”

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