This story is part of an editorial series created in collaboration with ASOS Supports Talent.
Londontown is an unforgiving beast during winter. While the 2016 Christmas season unfolds, unexpected crowds, unpredictable arctic blasts, and widespread transport disruptions ensue. A spate of planned train operator strikes is causing havoc right in the middle of the busiest time of the year.
While many feel rightfully disgruntled, 22-year-old rapper Loyle Carner isn't letting the drudgery bring him down. As an outspoken sufferer of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), he's got far more important things to discuss, feelings that he strives to channel constructively through identity, culture, and art.
A plethora of exciting avenues for a man, like many, who found concentration one of life's hardest challenges, Loyle himself once declared that "ADHD isn't my disorder—it's more like my superpower."
Receiving widespread props for his music, the thought-provoking artist carries on a lineage set by the likes of UK heavyweights Jehst and Braintax. Mixing rapping and spoken-word poetry with classic traits of golden-age New York rap, a young Loyle found identity and meaning through hip-hop's expansive culture cannon, helping to hone in and streamline his own rapid-fire ideas and channel his emotions into positive energy.
"I first got into hip-hop listening to lots of golden-era stuff, particularly the first three Nas albums. But in terms of the homegrown culture, Channel U was a big influence. Roots Manuva really influenced me, especially with helping UK fans of hip-hop to build an identity. Plus, he looks like my dad. Family has always been a big influence on me," he says warmly.
"Along with that, my mum and dad were listening to a lot of Bob Dylan and David Bowie and were really into the storytelling from the album side of things," he points out while discussing their influence on his development.
Loyle's focus had been captured and sustained by hip-hop's broader culture. Aside from his focus on music, he built an identity taking pieces from the clothes that his favorite New York rappers were wearing, as well as looking to his own family for style influence.
"Rapping is part of a wider culture, which is hip-hop. There are many facets of it that influence me from the music, to the style and fashion, to the messages behind it all. I guess I based what I was wearing on things that came from my grandad. He was part of the Black Watch, that was his clan" Loyle says. "I just used to rep that and kind of incorporate that tartan aesthetic into what I was wearing, lots of check shirts," he adds tentatively.
"My uncle used to go and work in the North, and he used to bring back a lot of workwear with him, stuff like Dickies and that. So I guess my fashion ideas were based a lot around that too. I like that working-man style," laughs Loyle. "I went for that baggy look of big, oversized denim, big leather coats and really thick shirts and hard wearing T-shirts that the East Coast rap scene was associated with in the '90s."
Music and style are just two of many facets that the aspirational artist channels his "hyper emotions" into, much like the shape-shifting aesthetic rooted at hip-hop culture's very core.
With the help of ASOS Supports Talent, an initiative run by online fashion destination ASOS, Loyle also brought his cookery school, Chilli Con Carner, to the next level. Starting as a school for kids, aged 14 through 16, who are struggling with ADHD, ASOS provided Loyle with the financial support, legal advice, marketing tools, and more to help establish Chilli Con Carner as a formal charity. And like for many of us, Loyle’s experience learning life skills in the kitchen helped him to channel his emotions and feelings into a creative outlet, and follow a passion that has been running through his family for generations. Plus, he can cook up a mean plate of grub in the process.
"I've got food running through my blood. My mum used to spend a lot of time in the kitchen with me making food and teaching me about it, but it runs deeper than that. My grandfather is a Scotsman and was in the Navy," Carner reminisces. "He spent a lot of time away traveling around the world and would often bring home his culinary discoveries and show us how to make them, which was really cool. He was the one who first introduced me to Jollof rice. I mean he's as white as they come, but he made such a sick Jollof rice. He was inspirational."
His pop-up kitchen was designed to inspire that same feeling amongst the younger generation, who are dealing with and learning about living with ADHD. It’s a necessary support network in Loyle's eyes, and it helps continue dialogue around the disorder.
"Trust me, I love making music, but it's my job and I earn a living from it. Cooking is just one thing that I would have loved to do professionally. When I was growing up, it appealed to me. Even though I was surrounded by South London dinner ladies, I still found inspiration at home in the kitchen. Making a decent wage, meeting cool people, taking pride, and traveling the world. These things pushed me and they still do and I want others to feel they can aim high."
"I think that food is an important part of learning how to manage ADHD," he says when discussing future awareness of the disorder. "Instead of kids being fed Coca-Cola and then getting into trouble when they are thrown out of class, give them water and fruit. There is a link between the body and the brain and you have to look after your body if you want to be in control of your mind. People with ADHD are a little bit more susceptible to it."
With cooking as such an important part of Loyle's identity, he tells of his plans to bring Chilli Con Carner to a wider audience, aiming to get kids involved from participating to eventually running the school when he "is not about."
And as the interview draws to a close, it seems clear that this absence is due to the next phase of his burgeoning musical endeavors. It’s also blatantly clear that Loyle possesses the focus and drive to keep his outlets all running at the same time.
"Yeah man, music is looking busy," he exclaims. "I've got my album out in January, and I'm working on new material and also doing some touring. I dunno man... I'm 22 years old; I guess I've decided that I need to get cracking, you know? Get all of these plans and put them into action."
ASOS Supports Talent is a global initiative from online fashion destination ASOS, providing up and coming creative talent with funding, mentoring and support to realize personal passion projects. Find out more here.