Ones To Watch: Atlas Azure interview

London-based performer, musician, model and writer Atlas Azure talks rap music, his poetry anthology, and how his cousins Rapman and the late Harry Uzoka inspire his work.

Real name Khariis Ubiaro, Atlas Azure is TNN’s latest one to watch. The multi-faceted creative finds base in London, involving himself in an array of projects spanning across music, dancing, modelling and writing.

With a published anthology, a debut album and multiple works to come, it was the right time for us to sit down with Khariis and get talking.

How’s lockdown treating you?

Lockdown’s been alright, of course it’s sad that people are dying and going broke and I’d love for things to be better but I’m just focusing on all the things I can do rather than what I can’t. Usually when I’m in between jobs it feels a bit like lockdown anyway, so I probably have it easier than others. 

You’re involved in so many different areas of the arts, including dancing, music production, modelling, writing — has there been a chronological pattern to your journey so far? Did one craft lead you onto the next?

Acting was something I did as a game when I was a kid, just playing different characters and letting my imagination do its ting, but I guess dance was the first I was invested in. You Got Served inspired me to dance as did an older cousin.

I don’t really dance anymore and would love to return to it at some point. After dance, I decided I wanted to focus on acting. Writing kinda came out of nowhere, I think it comes most natural out of the other things I do. Music was just an outlet for the writing and modelling was inspired by cousin Harry Uzoka. 

In late 2017 you published a poetry anthology called ‘My Mind’s Dark Parties’. In it, you address a lot of political, social and racial issues as well as mental health. By the title, it seems autobiographical — was writing this collection a way of venting for you? A way of explaining your mind in short-form?

It’s a bit weird to be honest, a lot of the stuff I wrote in My Minds Dark Parties were pre-suffering. I wrote it before I’d experienced half of the stuff I mention. It was more feelings than thoughts. It felt right to do. I also romanticise pain a lot as well as letting my imagination do its thing. 

In March you released your debut album, Genesis Waters. What was the creative process leading up to this record being finished? What motivated you to make it in the first place?

I never really treated it as full album, it was more of an EP to me. I called it Genesis Waters because it was my first body of work musically. The creative process was just to enjoy music and release whatever I’m feeling. Alex Vesters, my friend and producer, helped a lot: we’ spend hours in the studio just chilling and seeing what felt natural to make. We made tons of tracks and these were just that ones that seemed most relevant for the project. 

Where does dancing fit into all of this? Your performance in the music video for ‘Mistakes’ by Mind is brilliant — does your mind go to a different place when you dance?

I dont like to say I dance, I just call it movement, it’s like feeling energy and following it.

You have also been involved in script writing in recent months — talk us through your plans with this going forward.

Oooooo, this conversation will have to follow another time, but I’ve been writing a lot and I’m excited. 

Has your cousin, Rapman, been a driving force for your involvement in acting and writing? How do you feel about the place that Shiro’s Story and Blue Story have in our culture today? 

Not from the beginning , I didn’t realise he was my cousin until my parents passed. He’s my Dad’s cousin. Seeing what he does though does inspire me more and it was a comfort to know that the family can do this!

Our conversations are edifying and he has helped me a lot tbh. My cousin Harry was a driving force though as well as my parents. I owe the universe to them in ways I can’t articulate. 

What can we expect from you in the coming months?

I wish I could say, but I honestly don’t know, anything could happen.

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