With a gold-toothed grin and an underdog charm, AntsLive is poised to be an iridescent force in the UK rap game. The surreal video for his track, Number One Candidate, shows the 23-year-old galloping elegantly on a horse in the Dolomite Alps while rapping triumphantly over epic horns and booming 808s, before charming the daughter of his rural Airbnb host.
Having been shared on Insta by KSI and Mia Khalifa (who Ants recently met IRL in Paris), clips of the Number One Candidate video have spread like wildfire across social media.
A rudeboy with an entrepreneurial attitude, on Number One Candidate AntsLive chests bumps cocky bars like “I’m a young CEO, gotta do as you’re told”. This confidence oozes throughout his new EP, Just a Matter of Time.
“It was my London upbringing that made me,” the rapper says over Zoom from Paris, where he performed at a Fashion Week party last night. “There’s so much competition and if you weren’t doing anything, you were a slob. Competition only breeds growth for me.”
With the intention of making Number One Candidate his “standalone moment”, Ants trusted the suggestion of the video’s director Tom Emmerson (who’s also his manager) to mount a horse in the idyllic fields of Northeastern Italy. This required Ants to learn how to ride a horse six days before filming. “If you break it down, I actually did it in six hours. I had to trek to Warwick and learn the basics quickly,” he says. “Shoutout Knights of Middle England for teaching me.”
Ants was born in North London to a Romanian father, who would play Latin-American music around the house, and a Sierra Leone mother, who loved MoTown classics. When Ants turned seven, he got his first CD player and a copy of 50 Cent’s 2007 album Curtis, sparking his passion for hip-hop and spurring him to download torrents of rap through LimeWire. “I remember doing the little Bluetooth swaps on the Sony Ericsson with my mates,” he says. At the wish of his grandma, he started to write poetry aged just eight, sharpening his pen and ear for rhythm and verse.
Before he became devoted to music, Ants also had a passion for sport. He was scouted for Chelsea’s U16 when he was six-years-old, and he practised football six days a week until he turned 16. “I’ve always been an obsessive winner,” he says. “It helps me develop as an artist, listening to my music and seeing what I can improve, [from] the song composition down to the lyrics.”
Before going solo when Covid hit, AntsLive and his friends Tejy, an R&B singer from North West London and producer Jay Blu formed the trio Trademark. You might’ve seen them perform to a crowd of a hundred people in Sweden or a group of five, including the security guard. But today, Ants looks at those early days with a dewy-eyed appreciation. “All of that experience helped me develop my showmanship. It helped me become who I am right now.”