Live at The Garage, London
At first glance the ascent of Birmingham’s Lotto Boyzz appears meteoric. In September 2016 the vocal duo Ash (20) and Lucas (21) released Hitlist; a summery fusion of sweet RnB harmonies, hot afrobeats rhythm and bass heavy dancehall swagger, Hitlist effortlessly reflected the current fusion sound of Britain, establishing Lotto Boyzz as hotly tipped new artists in the UKs exploding afrobashment scene. Before Hitlist had a chance to settle, they followed up with two more self-released singles, Bad Gyal and No Don, honing their sound to a slick mix of earworm vocal hooks and irresistible dance floor energy. Drawing on afrobeats, rap, bashment and gospel, they had created a sound that was both familiar, yet unmistakably their own creation, bursting onto the scene with three massive songs in the space of half a year, notching up millions of Youtube views along the way.
But this sudden rise to the top masks another side to the Lotto Boyz story – the years of grind they have put in that, grind that lends their music a depth and maturity far beyond most of their contemporaries.
“We met five or six years ago at a youth club called Transformations in Birmingham,” Ash remembers. “I was 15, and I started going there because this girl that I liked went… I saw this guy sitting there with all these people around him, and I thought, who is that guy..? That was Lucas, he bought me in.”
“You had bars!” Lucas interrupts “-we started recording tracks together, and when you do music with someone you have a different connection. We did our first tune and just bonded from there. This youth club had an amazing studio. There was a vibe. We got shown the basics and learned the rest ourselves; we just wanted to make music.”
At first the duo were trying to write grime bangers, but they quickly widened their scope to push their sound forward, citing everything from DJ Mustard to the grime producer Preditah (who also happens to be Ash’s cousin) as an influence. Principally, they were making music for their friends in Birmingham, as Lucas acknowledges-
“You have to be aware of the sounds that are popping. You have to take in what’s going off in your city, and shape yourself to the point where your city will back what you are doing. So we taught ourselves how to make all types of vibe.”
This lead them to embracing the embryonic afrobashment sound being produced by artists such as J Hus and Belly Squad, determined to stamp their own take on the genre. They switched up from being Ash & Lucas, became Lotto Boyzz (Lotto standing for Last Of The Trill Ones), and created a new name for their sound; Afrobean, a word that highlights how they mix afrobeats with their own Caribbean roots- Ash’s family hailing from Montserrat and Lucas’s from Jamaica. The final element they needed to create the Lotto Boyzz sound came when they hooked up with producer Amos.
“I met Amos at another youth club” says Ash. “He was playing the keys – I play piano as well, so when I saw him playing keys, I could just feel it, he just had this thing. I started describing and singing beats I’ve got in my head to him, and he could just put them down. From there on it’s been amazing. I don’t feel like there’s anyone who sounds like Lotto Boyzz”
“We produce all our tracks from scratch in the studio –“ Lucas adds “we’ll come up with a tempo, Ash will start singing the melody, Amos will follow on keys, Ash will build a chorus which I’ll then work on, and start building my verse.”
This tightly intertwined approach to songwriting is mirrored in the way Ash and Lucas interact day to day; they finish each other’s sentences, crack in-jokes, and share a flat in Birmingham. They joke about what the other gets up to in there – “Lucas is hooked on playing UFC. All I hear is mad grunting coming from the TV” Ash laughs.
“He’s addicted to Facetime,” Lucas responds “-he’s on it so much we’ve even written a song about it…”
This is typical as well; everything they do is poured back into the music.
“We’re studying how to get better all the time,” Lucas concludes, “We’re serious about this. We have to be.