Interview: Aggro's better on stage than streets

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YURI SANTOS, better known in the pop world as Aggro Santos, boasts that he has music pumping through his veins.

It's a claim that can be verified at Lava And Ignite on Sunday, when he performs his first official single, Candy, which features Kimberly from the Pussycat Dolls and a mix by Rob Orton, who has mixed chart topper Lady Gaga.

The 21-year-old says he has been surrounded by beats and rhythm his whole life. From samba in Sao Paulo, where he was born, to UK garage in London where he was brought up. Santos got his big break, however, when Take That's Gary Barlow signed him to his label, Future Records/Universal Mercury.

"Gary has given me great advice," he says. "What he's said has really had a strong impact on me because he's one of the greatest songwriters this country has ever had. To have him saying to me that he likes what I do and giving me advice is great."

Not that Santos is a newcomer to the music game. "When I was about two I went missing at a birthday party in Sao Paulo. My mum found me in the samba room banging on a dustbin, trying to play the drums," he laughs.

By the age of nine Santos was teaching himself guitar. At 15 he wrote his first rap record and three years later was appearing on MTV.

Entirely self-taught, the aspiring MC first fell in love with making music after buying Carlos Santana's album, Supernatural – he was eight at the time. Later his influences would include Jimi Hendrix, the So Solid Crew and Dizzee Rascal.

Recalling how he started making beats, he says, "I saw other people with songs getting played and I thought I could probably do as well, if not better than them."

But the road to success was not easy for him. His family were poor and at 16 Santos, who changed his name to Aggro "because he was determined to aggressively make moves in the music business," had already been arrested several times for petty crimes. It was a worrying time for his mother, who had moved to the UK with her two sons after their father was shot in Brazil.

"My dad actually missed my birth because he got shot that day, in a bakery," reveals Santos. "He was shot through the neck, and although he survived, for my mum that was the final straw. Soon after that she began making plans for us to leave Sao Paolo because she was so worried that we could get caught up in that life."

In London Santos took a job at a Marylebone caf, washing dishes for four months to raise 1100 to shoot a video for his track Free Yard – two weeks after its release the single shot straight to No1, where it stayed for 18 weeks throughout 2008.

"It was a lot of word of mouth and kids Bluetoothing it that made it big," Santos offers, adding that Free Yard gained him more than 50,000 friends on MySpace and has received more than 600,000 plays on YouTube.

"A lot of kids here try to glamorise gangster life, but coming from where I've come from, you know if you have gun shots outside your house and drug trafficking all over your area, you wouldn't want to glamorise it. Life situations inspire me, whether that's love or partying or my friends."

It seems the stage is set for the leader of the new school to bask in the spotlight – step forward Aggro Santos.

Aggro Santos, Lava And Ignite, Tollcross, Sunday, 10pm-3am, 7/4 students b4 11pm/5 students after 11pm (or 4 Q-Jump b4 11pm on guest list at, 031-228 3252