The ever-eclectic and diverse Octavian has given fans a brand new body of work in the form of SPACEMAN.
If you haven’t heard Octavian’s name in the past year, where have you been? The star garnered attention with his breakout hit ‘Party Here’ which picked up extra steam when Drake gave it a co-sign and also gave it rotation on OVO Radio. Spinning from the success of that song, Octavian was signed by the fledgling Sony music label imprint, Black Butter, and since then he has released a stream of singles. SPACEMAN whilst seeming like his debut project, is actually the second project Octavian has released – the first being the Essie World project he released via Bandcamp in early 2017. Seeing as his single releases since becoming signed have been so varied, there wasn’t a clear sound to expect from the charismatic star.
Now that SPACEMAN has dropped, and yes he himself has called it a mixtape, we can see that we have an interesting first outing from the young talent. It’s here that I will add my first personal opinion: because this is a mixtape I am judging it differently to how I would judge an album. I am still of the belief that an album is the more well thought out and polished work of an artist, in comparison to a mixtape. Granted this doesn’t mean that I think a mixtape is unpolished or thoughtless, it’s just not quite that next level that an album is.
Back to the original point, interesting is exactly what we should have expected from Octavian based simply on his single releases. This in combination with the fact that it is a mixtape leads me to say this – SPACEMAN shows Octavian’s huge potential and glimpses of what his best work could be like. What this project has proved if anything, is that he is an artist adept of capturing and recreating a mood for his listeners. Not to oversimplify but for the sake of ease, I would have to compare him to A2 in this respect. Capturing a mood often leads to a more lasting impact than just making a catchy song, as a mood resonates with a listener and something that can constantly be turned back to. Octavian blends the catchy nature of a hit with this seemingly innate ability to create a mood, and that is why he has been so successful so quickly.
However, Octavian still has huge room to grow as an artist despite the levels of success he has achieved already. He has already shown that the talent is there and that he is open to trying new things and as such his evolution should be a pleasure to experience as a listener because he is already one of the UK’s most standout artists.
One of the places it feels like he could do the most growing in is meaningful content. Now granted not every rapper or artist needs to be the deepest in the world but seeing as how well Octavian captures mood it would be nice to see him add a message too. In this regard up until now, it has almost felt as if Octavian has been focused on making tracks that sound great without much emphasis on the content. Obviously, whether a song sounds good is one of the most important aspects of music, but consistently having subject matter that appears shallow, kind of takes away from that. On a few tracks on the project I would finish listening and think “that sounded great but he didn’t really say anything”. This is clearly something he is aware of and working on however as tracks like ‘This Is My World’ where he gets very introspective whilst being personal, which is why this was one of the tracks that immediately stood out to me.
Aside from that, another teething issue seems to be track length. It’s not that there is a perfect length for a track but often on SPACEMAN, tracks would seemingly be building up to something and then all too abruptly they would come to an end. Or a track would be just over two minutes long and the first minute of it would be a skit, making some tracks feel more like interludes than full-fledged songs. Don’t get me wrong an interlude is fine – just label it an interlude to avoid confusion. More so, this could be a song structure issue more than track length but whatever it was, it often made the project feel like it was perpetually stopping and starting rather than offering cohesion.
Now to me those are just minor issues, they are things that he will work through as he grows as an artist and he seems to already be in the process of addressing them. He is only 22 after all and SPACEMAN actually bodes extremely well as a glimpse into his future potential and maybe what kind of quality we could expect on an album. He drew in some very specific featuring artists and all of them perfectly complimented the tracks that they were brought in for – yet it was rare for one to really steal the show away from him. Bringing in Suspect, A2, and Swift and getting them to enhance but not outshine him on tracks is something that deserves credit as not many could get away with featuring such bold characters without being drowned out by them.
To close it out I won’t end with more overall speculation, I will leave you with the impression a particular track had on me as testament to just how good Octavian can be. ‘Think Twice’ is the swan song on SPACEMAN and features fellow South London native A2. Now, I will openly admit that there may be some level of bias when speaking about the track not only because I am a fellow South Londoner or even an avid A2 fan, but because I first heard this track in March. On March 1st, 2018 at A2’s headline show at Koko, I saw Octavian come out and perform a couple tracks that ended up on the project – but it was his collaboration with A2 that left the lasting impact. It had such an impact on the crowd as a whole, that the track got a reload before A2’s part even came in – remember this is not Octavian’s show, yet the track carried that much weight and since then I and many more had longingly been waiting for its release. From the tracks ethereal sounding production, to the two titans of mood waxing lyricism the track is nothing short of a vibe. It is definitely in contention for one of the best tracks on the project, but only time will tell in the court of public opinion which track takes that top spot on the project.