“Never!” AV beams when asked if he ever expected he would work on a No.1 album. It’s just a matter of days since Digga D’s ‘Noughty By Nature’ hit the top spot in the UK Albums Chart when he speaks to DJ Mag, with AV collaborating with Gotcha on ‘Amelia Amelia’ from the tape. It’s a major milestone in what has been another big year for the South-West London producer, with AV also working with the Godfather of drill, LD, on his January release, ‘Daily Duppy’.
Real name Jamal Richards, AV is equally adept at delivering the harder-edged UK drill sound of that track — and releases like the AV, Gotcha and Ghosty produced ‘Shinobi’ by Obladaet — as he is an R&Drill beat or the more melodic instrumental of Billy Billions’ ‘Murder On My Brain’. “My main thing, as a producer, is to branch out and [work on] new types of sounds,” he explains. “You have to delve deep into different types of music or work with different people. And I love working with people outside the genre. Collaboration is so important to me.”
Through doing this he has built a supportive network of producers around him, with his release schedule and Instagram account showing recent production labs with Ghosty, Gotcha, X10, Hayze and many others. He says he feels those relationships can be even more important to a young producer than relationships with MCs. “Producers orchestrate the sound,” he explains. “And if you’re working with a lot of people, and they’re pushing the sound, you’re able to get involved and steer it in a way. Once you build your network of people around you, like an unofficial team, you work back and forth and share ideas, so everything else goes up. You elevate everybody else, the production goes up, then the artist has to step up as well.”
Richards believes that to succeed as a rap producer now, you need to be much more than just a beatmaker. “Music is the core part of it but it’s 20%,” he explains. “I always advocate for people to actually get out there and be in new places, because that’s when your beats will be needed rather than just sitting at home hoping if you send beats through to someone’s emails they’re gonna get on it.”
As well as his music production, Richards also works as an A&R at The Go 2 Agency, where he sets up sessions with artists and other producers, runs production camps and gets involved in the creative process with artists on things like videos. “I believe the best A&R is a producer,” he explains. “Someone like Dr. Dre — he’s like a big A&R. He identified the artist to bring into the studio, with writers, and other artists and engineers to create the record. I feel like that’s the most important thing to me. We’re missing a lot of that in the UK.”
So what would he say to people that say UK drill has died? “Drill’s not dead. It just went number one!” he enthuses. “People might not like where it has gone, but we can’t say it’s dead. Drill has evolved. The real drill that we knew isn’t the same drill that we’re listening to today. The market and demographic has evolved. There are people that will keep it original drill, but there are also people that will take a new light on it. I don’t know how much further it’s going to go here. Statistically you can’t go further than number one. But the genre itself is here to stay as people will keep changing it.”