Andreas Todini

With a sensibility and sincerity unusual to the hip hop scene, Andreas Todini is not your typical young rapper. With his Background Kids debut EP out today, we met with Andreas to talk about breaking stereotypes, collaborations, and the Stockholm hip hop scene.

Preferring to see himself as an artist rather than a rapper, Andreas Todini strives to break the stereotypes and bring something new to the Swedish hip hop scene. With his Background Kids debut EP out today, we met with the young musician to learn more.

How did you find your way to music?
– I was a rather shy person in secondary school. I had troubles talking to people, and to me, the solution was writing. Since I didn’t dare to express my feelings verbally, I decided to write them down instead. These texts became poems, the poems became lyrics, and the lyrics became rap songs. That was how it started.

Why hip hop?
– When I was about five years old, my cousin used to babysit me, and the only thing he listened to back then was Eminem. He had a strong influence on me, my cousin; he was like an older brother. When I was six, I got my mum to buy me The Marshall Mathers LP, and I got really into hip hop.

Was it natural for you to start rapping?
– I’ve always had trouble seeing myself as a rapper. It’s such a stereotyped role. The way I see it, I just write texts and express them in a rhythmic manner. I’m not trying to mirror the hip hop scene or live up to some kind of stereotype, I just want to recite these texts that I’ve written over music that I like. I prefer to see myself as an artist rather than a rapper.

Would you still describe your music as hip hop?
– I use to call it hip hop, just to make it simple. I think it’s hard to define what it is that I’m doing, though, since I’m working on a lot of different things. The last thing I want to do is to get stuck in a niche. No artist wants that.

I find contemporary hip hop to be a rather diverse scene.
– Everyone strives to bring something new to the scene. You don’t want to make something that’s already been done. I think that’s what I have in common with Sad Boys or Basgränd Crew, for example. We’re pioneers in an otherwise stagnant Swedish hip hop scene.

I prefer to see myself as
an artist rather than a rapper

How do you relate to all the clichés within in the hip hop scene?
– If I say to someone who’s into contemporary music that I’m a rapper, they might see me as a creative person. But if I say the same thing to someone’s mum or dad, they just roll their eyes and assume that I’m a gangster. I’ve been through that like a thousand times. You need to surround yourself with people that understand what it is that you’re up to.

What is it that you want to say with your music?
– With this project, I wanted to show that you can be a normal person with normal problems, and still have interesting stories to tell. For instance, one of the songs deals with a relationship that ended, which is something that everyone has to go through.

– The songs on this EP are all written from my perspective. But these last six months, I’ve become much more open-minded, and realised that you don’t have to take everything so seriously. Sometimes you need to lower your guard. There’s nothing wrong in writing from your own perspective, but sometimes you need to shift that perspective and write about something else. Otherwise you might get stuck, which I’ve learned by experience. But on Background Kids, I’m only singing from my perspective.

What does your creative process look like?
– I need to hear the music before I start to write. I can never write a text without knowing what it is that I’m writing to. It’s the music that sets the mood. I can’t write a turn-it-up text to a melancholy cloud rap beat. Usually, I take long walks while I listen to the beat, to reach the right state of mind. I have to become one with the music. Then it happens that I hear a beat and write down the lyrics in fifteen minutes, and it might turn out to be the best song I’ve ever written. It’s hard to curb your creativity.

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Who makes the beats?
– I’m not producing anything myself, but I collaborate with producers that I know and like. Sometimes I ask my friends for recommendations, and if I find someone that I like, I send them an email saying that I like their music and would like to collaborate. Then I just hope for the best.

It seems that collaborations are essential to you.
– They are super important. My only rule is to work with people that I look up to. I would never work with someone just because they have a certain status or a big name. I’m only working with people that I like, and I will continue to do so.

– Lil Ocean, Sir Realism, a guy called Aurum, and I are just about to form a network. The idea is to work parallel, and to help each other with marketing and establishing relations. We all have our own styles, but we share the same ambitions, and that’s what weaves us together. We will continue to release material throughout the year, and then we’ll build from that.

On Background Kids, you’ve collaborated with producers and rappers such as Lil Ocean, Yung Gud of Sad Boys, and Yemi of Basgränd Crew. How have you got in touch with them?
– It’s been a somewhat organic process. I’ve known Yung Gud for about three or four years, and it’s through him that I’ve got to know almost all of my music friends. He and I have made a lot of songs together throughout the years. He went to the same school as Yemi, so we met through him. I was starstruck the first time I met Yemi, just because he’s so damn cool. We both liked each other’s music, and started to hang out and record together. Working with him was like a dream come true.

Does most Stockholm rappers know each other?
– More or less. There’s always someone who knows someone in a crew. When it comes to Basgränd Crew and Sad Boys, everybody knows each other. I know all of them as well. It’s fantastic to be able to work with them, to collaborate with people that you that you admire.

Does it happen that you collaborate with people without ever meeting them?
– Yes, it does. But I don’t like it when you only collaborate once and that’s it. I believe in becoming friends and building relationships. I’ve become friends with all the producers I’ve worked with, both nationally and internationally, and I try to keep it that way. Otherwise it becomes so synthetic.

Background kids, that’s
a thought that’s stayed with
me ever since I was little

So tell us more about Background Kids.
– I had thirteen songs to start with, but in the end I decided to go for quality instead of quantity. These five songs were the best ones. They all have this special feeling that the rest of the songs lacked.

Where does the title come from?
– Background kids, that’s a thought that’s stayed with me ever since I was little. I’ve always felt that my friends and I stayed in the background. We were never a part of the social limelight. We weren’t outcasts, and we never got bullied, we just kept to ourselves. I’ve always seen myself as a background child. I don’t know what will happen when this is released, though, maybe I will become a limelight child instead, he smiles.

– I find it hard to understand that this release is actually happening. I’ve been working with this for the past two years. I decided to release it maybe two months ago, just because I grew tired of being a perfectionist. I just had to do something.

What reactions are you hoping for?
– I don’t even want to think about that, I just want to hide myself abroad. No, but I’m really excited. I have no idea what people will make of it, but as long as I like it, and my friends like it, I’m happy. The rest is bonus. It doesn’t matter how people react to it, as long as they react in some way. If people dislike it or love it, I don’t care, as long as I have made them feel something. If my music makes you feel something, I’ve succeeded.

How do you think that you will develop in the future?
– I’m done with half of my debut LP that will be out this summer. Those songs are not as serious as the ones on the EP. I didn’t feel the same need to be myself, but rather to have fun and stretch the limits. I’m much more confident now, which means that I’m more relaxed in the studio. The reason this EP has taken me so long is that I’ve been really keen on creating a certain sound. I wanted it to be melancholy, and reflect the feeling of being a background child. It made me really narrow-minded. Now I want to broaden my views and make everything ten times better.

Listen to Andreas Todini’s Background Kids EP here.

Tonight, on March 1, Andreas will host a release party for the EP at Stockholm club Slakkhuset, together with DJ collective Berserk. Find out more about the event here.

Photography by Mathilda Österlund.