The countdown has concluded today (January 11) with the announcement that Anglo-French rapper, Octavian has taken home the top spot in this years BBC Music Sound of 2019 poll. The 23-year-old joins previous winners Adele, Sam Smith, Haim and Elle Goulding, and last years winner, Sigrid, in the industry poll that has traditionally anointed the next big thing in music.
Speaking about taking home the title, Octavian said: “I knew that one day I was going to be successful. I get inspired and I try to make a new sound every day. It’s going to be a very loud year for me. Loads of music, loads of visuals, loads of albums.” He continued, “If I can get this, I can get anything. 2019 is going to be a great year.”
Octavian is the first rapper to win the BBC Music Sound Of… since 50 Cent topped the inaugural list in 2003. He was chosen by a panel of 136 critics, broadcasters and DJs, including former nominees Ellie Goulding and Stormzy – who were each asked to name three of their favourite new acts.
Also among the voters was Anna Karatziva, head of talent and music at MTV UK, who called Octavian “a unique and exciting talent with an incredible vision and passion.” Meanwhile, BBC Radio 1 DJ Benji B, the first to play Octavian on Radio 1 and 1Xtra, said: “From the very first moment I heard his music I was hooked. The first couple of tunes he released – Party Here and Hands – were some of the most futuristic, forward thinking, raw and inspiring tunes to come out of the UK in the last two years.”
The rapper was born in Lille, shuttling between France and London throughout his childhood, eventually landing a scholarship to the Brit school – the performing arts school that trained Jessie J, Leona Lewis and Adele. However, he dropped out and, amid friction with his family, became homeless. Speaking about that time in his life, he told the Guardian, “I didn’t have no money, but I still managed to eat, to live. It wasn’t the worst thing in the world. Once you’re there, that is your life. You can only look up, because down there’s nothing left.”
Rapping over genre-straddling production that is a mix of US trap, UK drill, grime and more, Octavian’s rise has been prompt, with him releasing his debut mixtape, in September 2018. Canadian superstar Drake was filmed rapping along to Octavian’s breakthrough track ‘Party Here’, and he was chosen by Louis Vuitton designer, Virgil Abloh, to model for a collection.
Speaking about Octavian’s win, Annie Mac said: “BBC Sound Of is always a wonderful opportunity to get a snapshot of the new music landscape in the UK and this year is really interesting. 6 of the 10 artists are women. And we have two rappers in the top five! I am delighted that UK rap music has got such great placement in the list – Octavian is a truly original and exciting artist, pushing the boundaries of the genre and it’s great to see such a progressive artist getting such a huge accolade.”
The, Drake endorsed, rapper beat, runner-up, pop singer King Princess at No 2, widely tipped this year after debut track ‘1950’ gathered 183 million plays on Spotify. Rounding out the top five are British balladeer Grace Carter, Northampton punk rapper Slowthai, and Spanish neo-flamenco star Rosalía.