Latest Trends: A1 x J1 on how Houseparty changed their lives

By Steve Holden and Manish Pandey
Newsbeat reporters

Published
image copyrightLucero Glow
image captionA1 (left), 15, and J1, 17, juggle school work with making music for millions of fans

Remember awkwardly entering different rooms on Houseparty, when the video chat app took off during the first Covid lockdown? For rappers A1 and J1, that interaction has been life-changing.

Without it they would have no viral fame, no collaboration with 2020 Brit Award nominee, Aitch, and no song reaching number two in the charts.

"For me, it's just a blessing the position we're in," 15-year-old A1 tells Radio 1 Newsbeat.

The pair didn't know each other before meeting on Houseparty during lockdown in March 2020.

"I didn't have A1 added as a friend, but he knew one of my friends on the app," 17-year-old J1 says. "So I joined the room and the first thing he does is say 'go away'. And I was like what?"

Despite the not-so-friendly introduction, A1 (Phinehas Waweru) and J1 (Joshua Somerkun) soon started bonding over music.

One major thing they had in common was the freestyle videos they'd both been posting on Instagram.

image copyrightLucero Glow
image caption"I feel over the moon. I was just thinking about it again and screamed that we're actually second in the charts," J1 says

The pair began working together, but A1 was reluctant to share their tracks on TikTok.

"For me, it's a thing where I don't like people judging too much, especially when it comes to music. I was scared to put it out."

J1 went ahead and did it anyway, for which A1 says he's "thankful".

"We didn't know it was going to do this well. And then it just started taking off," J1 says.

The artists now have 2.6 million monthly listeners on Spotify, with fans including the likes of KSI and Aitch.

Aitch liked them so much he featured on the remix of Latest Trends.

image copyrightLucero Glow
image captionAitch (left) has appeared on the remix of A1 x J1's Latest Trends, which reached number two in the charts

"He posted on his Snapchat that he wanted A1 and J1. And I was shocked - there's no way Aitch wants to see us," J1 says.

When Aitch walked into the studio where A1 and J1 were working, J1 admits his "mouth dropped".

"That's Aitch in the same place as us, and he lays down his verse in that studio session we're in. It was amazing."

A1 adds: "He's a great guy honestly. We just bounce off each other, it all happened very naturally and it wasn't forced."

In some ways they're just ordinary teenagers. A1 is doing his GCSEs and J1 is studying music technology at college.

But they now have to fit studies around making music for millions of fans.

"I have to distribute my time so I know when to revise and when I can go on my phone and relax or write lyrics," A1 says.

With stardom comes attention, and it's something they are getting used to - even in the school canteen.

"People actually notice us walking in and you're getting stared at when you're eating," J1 says.

"I went out in the park and I was getting stopped for pictures."

"The Year 7s now that have never seen me, they just come and say, 'that's him'," A1 adds.

image copyrightPA Media
image captionHouseparty was one of the most downloaded apps in the UK during the first coronavirus lockdown

They count their blessings to "even be in the charts" but still have big dreams ahead.

"When people think about the top 10 rappers in the UK, I want mine and J1's name to get there," A1 says.

And they're looking forward to performing live once the pandemic is over.

"I just can't wait to give my energy to the crowd, can't wait to perform," A1 adds.

media captionSam Ryder says TikTok has helped him launch a solo career

A1 and J1 are grateful for how much their lives have changed since they met.

"Last year I'd be sleeping on my bed and my family would say go wash the plates. Now, they tell me to get up and go to the studio," J1 says.

A1 adds: "If I didn't go on my phone and go to Houseparty at that exact moment, I may never have met J1. It just shows that sometimes God brings people in your life for a reason."

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