It’s been a whirlwind few years for Aitch, from first blowing up with ‘Straight Rhymez’ to the cover of The Face. In that short time, he’s had six top 10 smashes, a string of brilliant collaborations including Stormzy, Young T and Bugsey, Russ and Tion Wayne, Ed Sheeran’s worldwide hit ‘Take Me Back To London’ (or ‘Take Me Back to Manny’, as Aitch’s contribution cheekily rechristened it) and BRIT-nominated smash ‘Rain’ with A J Tracey. Plus a Brit nomination, MOBO Award, Global Award, and countless other accolades.
“Everything’s been a blur,” says Aitch, (Harrison Armstrong to his mum, “I’m still a mummy’s boy”). “It all happened so fast I feel like I just blinked and I arrived here, but in another way I look back and it feels like ages ago, when I first blew up, ‘cos so much has happened since then. Everything just gets bigger and better. Everything is times ten now.” The Face were only the latest to chart the unstoppable rise of this Northern star, anointing Aitch and NQ, the musical family he was incubated in as singlehandedly making Manchester once again the focal point of the UK scene. Coming out of lockdown, Aitch is coiled like a spring, using his time to put the finishing touches to a debut album he’s cocksure will back up all the hype and cement his position as a major musical force. Not just in the UK, but internationally. Make no mistake, the ambition of Aitch is bigger than the UK scene, it’s global.
Northern roots, Global influence. “This whole next year is about showing I’m back and I’m better. Aitch 2.0. A thousand, million per cent better.” One silver lining of lockdown meant Aitch has been afforded more time to double down and concentrate on his debut, meaning he’s written and recorded over 30 tracks, that still need to be whittled down. “Lockdown has made me appreciate everything more, everything I was missing, but on the sly I’m a bit thankful for it too, as I wouldn’t have made half the music if I’d been on the road playing shows. It put me in proper album mode. I’ve got so much music we could put an album out tomorrow, but we’re just taking the time to get it right.” He might have gone from local North Manchester hero to international rising star, but Aitch has taken it in his stride, retaining a refreshing line in self-deprecation to counterbalance his nonchalance. He takes his music seriously, but not himself. He’s unfazed by success, it’s just made him hungry for more. The most successful players from his beloved Manchester United used to talk about how addictive winning trophies was, and that insatiable desire is there in Aitch. If the world is there for the taking right now, Aitch doesn’t need asking twice. “I don’t think anyone else makes music like me. But I don’t really take myself too seriously either. Nothing really fazes me. I feel like the more serious people take themselves, the less they enjoy themselves… and I’m not going to do this and not enjoy it!” A lot of comparisons have been made with Aitch and NQ and Factory Records, and no-one’s prouder of his Mancunian heritage, but let’s remember the Haçienda shut down five years before Aitch was born – “I know all about the history and respect it, but to a lot of people the Haçienda is just a bunch of apartments now” – so, while he’s proud of his Mancunian roots, it’s certainly no millstone around his neck. The outlook and ambition are definitely international. Like Roc-Nation or Motown, for Aitch and NQ, their home city is a base for international domination, not something which restricts their vision. Northern Roots, Global influence. For now, Aitch is keen to get back out there. “I’ve really missed playing live, and I know the fans have missed it. It’s amazing to see what impact the music has physically. I think the shows are going to be even crazier when we come back. It’s a new chapter now. I’m back and I’m better.”