AJ x Deno
Childhood friends AJ and Deno are two of the most popular young kids in London right now. Apprentices of the 'DIY generation', AJ and Deno are independent musicians with their sights set on big things. A fusion of Afrobeat melodies and UK Rap bars they're young musicians out to carve their own lane in the game.
Since the beginning of their journey in music, AJ and Deno have consistently used social media to harness an audience that spans the country, marking them out as some of the most promising talent in the UK at the moment. As a solo rapper, AJ's debut track 'Say It Back' piqued the interest of many female fans and gained views well over 100 thousand online, "I started off doing music by myself, before music, I was quite known in the area where I came from so when I started music I made one song and put it on Soundcloud, I didn't really expect it to get a buzz, but girls seemed to like it, and they were sharing it around and it got 60k views in two days! So I just stayed consistent with what I was doing and it just built up my fanbase."
AJ teamed up with Deno shortly after and the pair wasted no time in deciding they would release tracks as independent artists in their ascent to the top. Deno started life as a musician uploading covers to Instagram, "basically, I started off in school and one of my friends was like 'ah Deno can you sing for my snapchat?' I wasn't sure about it at first, but I just did it. I told him not to post it, next thing I know I go on my phone and see my video up there! I was like 'ah why did you post it, cringe basically." Deno was able to swiftly harness the interest of 80 thousand people before gaining the attention of Stormzy, who Deno has now worked with on a number of occasions. "I started getting a lot of positivity from those uploads, people started sharing it, and from there it started popping off. The followers started going from two thousand to three thousand. By the end of the week I was on ten thousand, end of the month was 30 thousand and now it's nearly 100 thousand. If my videos weren't on social media none of this would have happened."
With both boys still yet to turn 18, AJ and Deno have already earned a combined view total of over three million, catching the eye of notorious US rapper Chris Brown in the process. For AJ and Deno music is an outlet, a chance to shrug off the awkward shyness of adolescence and grow as performers.
Their new single 'Ride Or Die' is a mainroom summer anthem that is
part Afrobeat and part Hip-Hop. Produced by Team Salut, Deno's carefree
R'n'B hooks underscore AJ's unapologetic London accented delivery,
"For us, our music is all about the vibe. If we're feeling the beat
then [songs] come to us quick. We usually start with the chorus, feel
the vibe from that and then take it from there." AJ says
"lyrically, I take inspiration from what's around me, the things that
are current, that happen in everyday life, and I try to work around
that." AJ and Deno regularly fuse classic and contemporary in
their music, drawing inspiration from pop music giants "I take
inspiration from the styles I like, the music I like and the artists I
like." Deno says about his songwriting approach, "I like Hip-Hop
and R'n'B, and all the great artists that do that like, The Weeknd
definitely inspires me, I think what inspires them, inspires me too so
like Michael Jackson - everyone's inspired by Michael Jackson, so if
those people inspire me, it's hard not to be inspired by him."
Having grown up in London, AJ and Deno have spent their lives immersed in mixed cultures and sounds, all of which they bring to their sound.
Vibrant and contemporary, the pair continue to grow beyond being a simple viral hit, AJ and Deno have not been short of offers from the major labels with Columbia Records among the first to recognise their talent and offer them a deal. Other major labels have followed the path of Columbia, but AJ and Deno relish the freedom that comes from independence and they remain keen to pioneer their own sound. Fans have loved AJ and Deno from the jump, the boys were left overwhelmed when their 'Ride Or Die' video shoot was shut down by the Metropolitan police after crowds of fans descended on London's Westfield Shopping Centre to catch a glimpse of the young stars.
'Ride Or Die' represents their first chapter, twisting Afrobeat with Bashment, they play with lush basslines and island melodies to create a sound that can propel them to the top, "our vibe is like an Afrobeat, Hip-Hop kind of thing" AJ says. "It's kind of commercial but also underground as well, so it works for both crowds." AJ and Deno know they're capable of using their underground roots to secure commercial success and they continue to work with Team Salut, as well as lauded JHus and Dave producer Jae5 as they seek to elevate their sound.
Not short of ambition, these boys are focused on crossover success and in this age of DIY there's nothing to hold them back.