︎ ANTWON INTERVIEW: OVERCOMING ADDICTION
An ‘access all areas’ pass hangs around the neck of Antonio Williams, a Californian hip hop artist known by his stage name ANTWON.
It’s the hottest April day London has seen since 1949. Antwon, proudly sporting a Belgium polo top, mops his brow and tells me Europe is his favourite place. I wonder whether he'd say the same if it wasn't 27 degrees.
We meet midway through his European tour, Escape From America.
As an artist who has been described as breaking the modern rap mould, the 31-year-old has had a music career which boasts successes of being recognised as one of Complex's "25 New Rappers to Watch Out For in 2014". He claims that this European tour will be one of the more prominent memories when looking back at his career, due to his sobriety.
Disregarding the status quo, Antwon opens up on how lifestyle and anxiety led him to become sober. Reluctantly admitting that the title of his tour is semi-true, I question why he chose to ‘Escape America’ ahead of his latest album release, Downtown Tony.
Downtown Tony is the successor to Antwon’s charismatic Sunnyvale Gardens which conveyed everything from romance and fashion, to our phone-in-hand society, featuring the likes of the late Lil Peep and Andre Martel.
Fairly secretive about what the future holds and his new album, Antwon assures me fans have something to look forward to…
So you're in London as part of your European tour, Escape from America, how has the tour been so far?
It’s been pretty good so far. We’ve played a couple of places which we’ve played before which is sick. We’ve been to Finland, Denmark, Vienna for the first time.
Moreover, is there a reason you're ‘Escaping from America’?
It’s just the title of the tour but I guess it’s kind of… semi-true.
Why was it important to you to tour Europe before you release your next album?
I love Europe. It is my favourite place.
What’s the story behind your recent EP, Sunnyvale Gardens?
Sunnyvale is the place I grew up in, and the apartment on the cover is called Botanical Gardens, I grew up there most of my life.
Do your life experiences contribute to the process you go through when making new music?
I mean the music always relates to my life and everyone’s life around me, pretty much. Sunnyvale Gardens is kind of like the precursor to the new album Downtown Tony.
So, when did your career really start?
In 2011 I think, my homies were always telling me to make music, I didn't really want to do it but then I thought lets just put out one project, and that was Fantasy Beds.
What’s been your most memorable collaboration so far?
Schlomo. I’ve done a lot of stuff with Schlomo and that was fun.
Top 3 artists of all time?
I like too much music to pick three, I enjoy a lot of Reggae.
Can you describe your sound to someone who hasn't listened before?
It’s like rap music for people who haven't listened to rap music before, I guess. It’s kind of for people that are trying to get into it, or for people who are getting bored of normal rap.
But what’s different about you, compared to other rap artists?
I mean… I’m a real person.
So, what message are you trying to convey through your music?
The normal message, that you can just be regular, but I don’t really mean be regular, I mean that everyone has a story I guess. It’s my story and the story of everyone I know.
What else inspires your music?
My life and the music I’m in to. A lot of people inspire me, I also get inspiration from a lot of things. I like to come out here (Europe) because it gives me a lot of inspiration.
What’s been the most memorable point in your music career so far?
I don’t know, I don’t remember a lot of stuff because I just became sober so now I can remember things, I’ll remember this tour.
How long have you been sober for?
All this year, pretty much.
How has being sober affected your career?
I can wake up early, not be hungover, I don’t have as much anxiety. I have had really bad anxiety, I mean I still get it but not as much from like being hungover and doing drugs and stuff.
Was the anxiety a side effect from your lifestyle?
No, it’s just me. When I get anxiety now I just meditate and try and breathe you know.
Has your battle with anxiety contributed to your music?
Yeah because I get anxious when I don’t make music, I get real anxious.
Has it had a positive effect on the music you've produced?
Yeah for sure, I think more about the music I’m making now. I guess I’m not making the same music all the time anymore.
Do you ever get anxious about pushing your music out on social media given it’s such a huge platform?
No it doesn't bother me, I guess social media made my career. I just got to keep going.
Interviewed & written by ELOISE READER
Shot by JOEL SMEDLEY