Rising 11: AJ x Deno x EO
This article is an excerpt from the Rising 11 feature from Issue 01 of GAFFER: ‘England’s Finest’. Available from our online shop now.
Childhood friends who’ve combined their sound to impressive effect, the incredibly young London duo have found an enthusiastic fan-base through their heartfelt and infectious Grime meets Afro Beat hybrid. Trailblazers in the powers of social media community engagement, Deno’s viral success as a schoolkid earnestly singing hits in his uniform tells the story of two young people led by their hearts. It’s worked, as since the two decided to collaborate, the AJ x Deno’s fanbase has swelled rapidly by the day. With influential industry heads such as Stormzy a signed up member of the fan-club, the duo met with GAFFER to discuss everything from their sound, their dreams to work with Yung Bane, and Jesse Lingard for good measure.
What’s your relationship with football? Do you have a team?
AJ: I don’t watch it as much as I used to, but I support Arsenal and have done from a young age.
Has it inspired your work, and have you their mutual paths crossing at points?
AJ: I would say listening to a few US and UK artists, that kind of inspired me to want to take on music, and from listening to their sounds and style of music I’ve learnt from that and done my own spin on it I guess and found my sound.
How did your upbringing growing up influence what became your sound?
D: My sound is real and raw. I’d say my upbringing does impact on my sound a lot. The topics I speak about and how I say it because of the things I’ve been through and seen.
AJ: I don’t really think anything influenced my sound. I feel like I have my own sound. I don’t sound like anyone else. That’s why I’m at where I am.
We feel there is a tribal energy to football that also exists in music, notably Grime. Do you agree?
D: Yeah, grime artists definitely do like referring to football players.
How do you see the future relationship between football and music developing?
D: We got big players like Jesse Lingard doing music a bit as a joke, which helps the culture grow with football and make people who don’t really listen to the sound take notice.
What helps you get into the headspace to create?
AJ: Listen to other music, and just vibing. Having fun with it.
D: I like to vibe to an instrumental using melodies and talk about what I think will suit the sound and topic.
Who is, or would be, your ideal artist to collaborate with?
AJ: Yxng Bane, Drake, Chris Brown, Lil Baby, Gunna, NBA Young Boy, Not3s.
D: Drake. Would be a madness.
The UK is undergoing social and political tension on unprecedented levels. Do you feel this is a difficult time to be doing what you’re doing, or the opposite?
AJ: Not really. I tend to just focus on what I need to do and not get involved in any political tension.
D: The opposite to be honest, because it just shows you how much more people are now taking the music into consideration.
Which artists are coming through alongside you right now that you admire?
AJ: Yxng Bane, Drake, Sean Paul, Chris Brown
D: Everyone’s doing their thing. I respect everyone’s hustle.
Do you have a favourite football kit from the past?
AJ: An arsenal top
D: Football kit from the past? Hmm… Probably England or Man United.
You need to create a 5 a side team with four other musicians. Who’s on your team?
AJ: US Wise: Drake, Chris Brown, Justin Bieber, Lil Baby, NBA Young Boy. UK Wise: Yxng Bane, Young Adz, Not3s, Deno, AJ Tracey.
D: Dave, LB (D Block Europe), Yxng Bane & Chris Brown – what can’t that guy do?