It’s 4 p.m., an odd time for a meal, but French-born, London-raised Octavian gets a massive burger and thick-cut fries—chips, excuse me—sent to his table on the pool deck of the Intercontinental Hotel in downtown LA. He’s here with a few members of his team on a typically sunny afternoon, and he’s tired.
An hour earlier, the 23-year-old musician landed on a flight from Paris. He arrives following his second involvement in a Louis Vuitton fashion show, a reflection of his ongoing relationship with Virgil Abloh. He, along with plenty of other creative stars, like Drake, Skepta, and Lily Allen, have actively supported Octavian’s rise.
“I can’t smoke here?” Octavian's friend asks his American publicist, who shakes his head. “But if I wanted to smoke weed, I could smoke weed here?” he adds, trying to work out California smoking laws. Octavian sits beside them, quietly slumped in black shorts and a loosely buttoned shirt, looking around through sunglasses for his second Arnold Palmer.
Nominated for Best New International Act at the BET Awards in June, Octavian’s motivation to break out of London’s confines into global stardom is being validated. UK Drill and Afrobeats are buzzing in London, but Octavian is taking off with an unpredictable approach. His songs—from emotional breakout song “Party Here” to more recent up-tempo hit “Bet”—ingest a kaleidoscope of genres, moods, and sounds with truly unique results.
Some of his most recent mixtape, Endorphins, was conceived here in LA, where he bought an electric guitar, shot music videos in convertibles, and spent a week in the Chateau Marmont with his friends getting “absolutely out of our minds.” In London, he worked late nights in the studio with Rex Kudo, collaborated with childhood hero Skepta, and interrupted a session to join Corbin (fka Spooky Black) in a burlesque nightclub. The colorful way it came together is reflected in the myriad ways his ideas were processed: nostalgic ‘80s synths on “Feel It,” reimagined Travis Scott melodies on “Risking Our Lives,” and a rejuvenated SBTRKT cover.
The features on Endorphins are primarily American. A strategy to push his recognition in the U.S., yes, but he didn’t just pick from the hottest names of the moment. Theophilus London, Abra, Smokepurpp, A$AP Ferg, Corbin—this feels more like a coming-together of people who’ve shaped his musical palette over the years. It’s a theme with Octavian: letting his own taste lead the way.
When he was 14, Octavian left his home in France and lived on couches, in the streets, and in a home in Kent with his friends until he signed with Black Butter Records two years ago. Left without traditional modes of guidance, trust and loyalty became sacred. He inaugurated Essie Gang, a collective of like-minded producers, visual artists, and friends from Southeast London, who have influenced not only Octavian’s music, but also his attitude, style and freedom.
Over time, Octavian’s been moving towards spiritual and physical self-purification. His first mixtape was initially titled Revenge, but he scrapped the name (opting for Spaceman) to nix negative energy. Via Instagram posts, he announced that he’s quitting smoking, and after the completion of Endorphins, he’s said to have cut down on drugs. While many artists don’t take this shift toward health consciousness until later in their careers, Octavian’s strides for clarity come right before he constructs his debut album.
How was Paris?
Paris was lit. Obviously I went to Paris for Fashion Week. It was cool, mingling, socializing, going to loads of parties and shit.
You were born in France, right?
Yeah, I was born in Lille.
Have you gone back since you left?
Not really. There’s nothing really for me there, unless there’s a show or something.
What was your life like when you were 14, right after you left home?
It was weird, being a 14-year-old in the street. I learned bare shit. I learned how to socialize and maneuver my way through life. I was 21 when I got signed, and then I got my first house.
If you could go back and talk to that younger version of you, what would you tell him?
Keep going, man. Don’t give up because pretty soon you’ll be in LA doing interviews!
When did you start to understand you had a gift?
I don’t know, when I was like 10 maybe. I can’t remember the exact moment. I don’t even really think it’s a gift, I think it’s a mind state, innit? It’s not like a gift, it’s like a determination to do this.
Why did you name this mixtape Endorphins?
Endorphins is just how I feel right now. I feel like that’s the main focus of my life. Anything that gives you endorphins; drugs, sex, and rock and roll, know what I’m saying? Just the happy side of darkness. My life is yin and yang, it’s dark and light, it’s always constantly that, and i feel like this mixtape is putting that into perspective.
I saw you got a guitar and used it on this project. Are you getting into production?
I was always into production. I started most of my tunes and people finish them for me. I started playing guitar here because I felt like it was the right moment. We stayed at Chateau Marmont for a week and we got absolutely out of our minds. We met the right people and made great music. It was sick.
How did the song with Spooky Black [now known as Corbin] happen?
It’s mad. I got like five songs with Spooky Black. He’s like my favorite artist in the world, I’ve listened to him since I was 14. Everyone was like, ‘Oh yeah, he’s a ghost.’ I was like, 'One day I’m gonna get a fucking track with Spooky Black.’ One day I was in the studio in London and my friend calls me and goes, ‘I’m next to Spooky Black.’ I’m like, ‘What?’ Because no one’s heard of Spooky Black, or even knows what he looks like, really. He was at The Box. So I was like, fuck it, let me just go. So I stopped our session, and all the boys and I went to The Box. He came to my house the next day, we got fucked up together and made loads of songs. We realized we’re really similar; he’s a dark, weird guy and so am I, so we became friends.
Can we expect an album next, since Spaceman and Endorphins were mixtapes?
Yeah, an album next. Got a song already with Spooky and with Bobby Raps.
Is it finished?
The album’s not done, no.
How is the approach to the album different than it was with the mixtapes?
Those mixtapes, Endorphins especially, were like, bare rushed. We just put all the tunes together and put it out, know what I’m saying? A mixtape is just like a compilation of tunes that you’ve made. An album is completely different. It’s like a piece of art. It’s so much different, it’s like a proper body of work.
You’ve been nominated for Best New International Act at the BET Awards, and you’ve kind of made it a point in your career to belong to the world rather than just to London. Is the nomination validating in that way?
Is it? Yeah, maybe, yeah. It is. It’s crazy to be nominated for a BET award, actually, because I used to watch it all the time. It’s crazy to be involved in it, and to be involved in the process and the culture. Yeah, I love it. I don’t really care about awards in general, but to be nominated, I honestly feel appreciative.
What’s the most important song you’ve made?
"Party Here" is the most important song I’ve ever made because it’s me talking about pronoia, which is the opposite of paranoia. Paranoia’s being afraid of achieving shit and pronoia is not being scared. That song was an example of pronoia and that’s what I live by.
I need to be the healthiest and the best person I can be, so I’m setting an example for my friends and my family to be a better person. you have to be good to yourself to be able to do that.
Is there a difference between what the public thinks of you and what you think of yourself?
Yeah, maybe, I don’t know. When they meet me it’s more like… maybe I’m more rockstar than people think, I don’t know.
Do you think you’re misunderstood?
I don’t really care, maybe. Maybe everyone is. I think everyone as a human being, before you leave your house, you put trousers on because you think, ‘If I don’t put trousers on people are gonna think I’m nuts.’ Everyone’s scared of how they’re perceived by the public. I just don’t think I care that much.
You’ve taken strides to better your physical and mental health, like quitting smoking and changing the name of your album from Revenge to Spaceman. What’s motivating you to be a better person?
You know what it is, it’s just horrible people. There’s bare horrible people in this world—trust me—that are just like, proper draining. When you vibrate high, you vibrate so high so things happen to you. If you say you want a million pounds, some people who are very positive, that comes straight away. It’s weird, but that’s the law of attraction and that’s how it works.
Some people are bare positive and they get what they want. Some people are bare negative and never get what they want. I need to be the healthiest and the best person I can be, so I’m setting an example for my friends and my family to be a better person. You have to be good to yourself to be able to do that. Even though I live a very rockstar lifestyle, it’s good to slow down and take a break sometimes.