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Get To Know: AAA

Get To Know: AAA
Credit: Rafael Vencatachellum

Get acquainted with AAA, the East London selector and No Signal resident with a penchant for polished transitions and stunningly varied selections

The phrase ‘triple A’, long associated with ‘access all areas’, has taken on a different meaning, co-opted by an East Londoner with a penchant for polished transitions and jaw-dropping selections. In the seven years he’s been on the scene, AAA has built a name for himself through consistent momentum on the underground circuit both at home and worldwide, playing hugely varied sets that take in sounds from amapiano to d&b, Afroswing and dancehall. He also champions R&B with his Slow Jams with AAA radio show on No Signal and wildly popular parties that have followed post-lockdown.

It was in 2015, the same year that he started DJing at Recess — then just a party thrown by friends in warehouses before growing into the powerhouse it is today — that AAA began throwing summer block parties with mates in Hackney. “I was hiring Carnival sound speakers with no permit or permissions, grab a generator and tell everybody to pull up, for free,” he says. “We’d have a barbecue — with no food on it — in case the police came, and we’d make out that it was somebody’s graduation; you know, style it out like it’s a big deal that somebody in the ‘hood is graduating!” He recounts DJing for 11 hours on average and being surveilled by police on social media as well as in person, with the block parties often dispersed by bully vans.

Growing up in Hackney, he mainly listened to rap and dancehall — the likes of Giggs, Squeeks, Joe Black, K Koke and Vybz Kartel to name a few — while listening to NTS Radio and attending events such as Tate Lates helped him discover alternative sounds too. AAA was a student of music — the same adaptability and eclecticism that makes his sets so special is what initially sparked his foray into music. “I touched decks for the first time when I was 11. There was a local youth club called the Gold Seal Music Project; I was the only child attending for the entire summer and they kept it going just because of how dedicated I was!’’ he recalls.

Now taking risks in his seamless mixes, AAA handpicks the best of every scene and genre. “Learning how to mix so seamlessly, where you take the crowd on a journey and they barely realise the music is changing, is something I picked up from going to house raves, where you hear a set that progresses in a barely noticeable way,” he explains.

His discovery of alternative music is something he credits to late producer and DJ SOPHIE. “I was going to all these alternative music events alone. I saw SOPHIE play at a museum, I think the Tate or Tate Modern in 2010, and I was so impressed and shocked at the skill being displayed.” That night would be fateful, encouraging a 15-year-old AAA to open his ears to the likes of Arca, Hudson Mohawke, Lunis and James Blake. “I started listening to Highlife, which is funny because even though I was raised in a Ghanaian household, it’s not something I listened to growing up, but something I rediscovered once I started to appreciate good music irrespective of genre.”

It’s this vast musical education and knowledge that has led him to prefer the term selector, rather than DJ, and his inability to be boxed in — both sonically and metaphorically — have launched his ambitions further than any festival or dancefloor. Equipped with experiences from organising block parties to playing Boiler Room sets, there’s seemingly no facet of Black British nightlife that AAA hasn’t been involved in; so what’s next? Pointing to the hybrid role of people like Benji B — who has worked extensively with fashion houses and designers, notably with the late Virgil Abloh and Off White — AAA envisions himself bringing his selection skills and creative expression to musical direction with art, fashion and moving images.

Want more? Get to know M3NSA, the endlessly innovative Ghanaian-British MC, beatmaker, and member of influential hiplife duo, FOKN Bois

Rahel Aklilu is a freelance music and culture writer. Follow her on Twitter