As welcoming and inclusive a city as London likes to portray itself, life in the capital can be incredibly hard for those its institutions exclude. For all the talk of diversity and cultural melting pots, there’s a divide in the city that grows on the daily; wealth. Whether you have money or not hugely impacts a life in London, especially when you’re born there. It’s the difference between making rent and joining the one million people on the waiting list for social housing, or enjoying the city’s culture and feeling excluded from it. Ebenezer grew up on the outside of that equation. Born in Homerton and raised in North London, he spent most of his upbringing at his cousin’s house under the watchful eye of his older brother. “I didn’t grow up like my peers, who had both parents throughout their childhood” the emergent singer and rapper explains. “My brother was my dad; he was the man of the house. He put clothes on my back, he put me on when I didn’t know anything, he was the person who I aspired to be like.”
Their mother, a Nigerian immigrant, held down two jobs to support the family, working tirelessly to make ends meet while avoiding the immigration services. “Our suffering just gave me a different outlook on life and how society likes to dictate people’s ambitions, aspirations, beliefs and ideologies,” Ebenezer says reflecting on his upbringing. Today that outlook has proved to be the core of his success. Aged just twenty-five, he’s managed to carve a niche for himself in the industry, working with Craig David, Rejjie Snow and Ty Dolla $ign all before dropping his debut single. When that single, ‘Cliché’, did arrive it was met with critical applause. Ebenezer seemed to have emerged fully formed with a unique, more open take on the autotuned rap and R&B that’s prospered so well after that last few years.
His lyrics, both in this track and those since, demonstrate a self-awareness lacking in the work of his American peers, opting for honesty over self-aggrandisement. “I tried to talk to a girl one time,” he explains of ‘Cliché’. “You know how it goes – I’m using my best lines, which ain’t really that great and she drops the line, ‘I bet you say this to all the girls…’ Then it dawned on me she must have heard this time and time again. I tried to reassure her that I’m not like other guys, I know how to treat a lady, but by that point, I sounded so cliché I couldn’t really get my point across. The more I tried to defend myself, the more cliché I sounded. I thought it’s time someone wrote a banger about it.”
In a rap world that still has serious issues around its treatment of women, it’s hard not to be a little charmed by Ebenezer’s decision to turn what was no doubt a cringe-worthy encounter into his first solo single. Since ‘Cliché’ dropped, all of three months ago, Ebenezer’s gone on to work with M.I.A.’s producer ADP and Atlanta singer Jeremih, each track one-upping the previous for charisma, and with the year coming to a close, 2018 is looking bright.
Ebenezer wears: jacket C.P Company @ 18montrose.com
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