by Lara Arbid
It takes a lot to stand out in the hip hop world today. Cue Anik Khan, the Queens-based rapper with a magnetic energy and compelling story.
LA: So you grew up in Queens, that’s a very diverse part of New York. You recently told The Guardian that you’re telling immigrant story. Tell me more about your message and how that relates to what you’re producing now.
AK: There are a lot of people that are unheard in music, but even more so in hip-hop. I wanted to open a space for a kid who looks like me, or a kid who had a family that struggled, and made something out of themselves. I want them to be able to listen to something like that and relate.
LA: Tell me about your latest album Kites.
AK: Kites was about me releasing something in the moment and in the time that I was in. It’s really important to me because it felt like my first real body of work. If you want to listen to Anik Khan, listen to Kites. You can go back to I don’t know yet and see my growth, but Kites is who Anik Khan is.
LA: Did you ever have any formal music education?
AK: I went to Full Sail University for Audio Engineering. I can mix my own stuff, but I don’t because I hate it. It taught me a lot about sound dynamics and that’s why I’m so particular about post production. An engineer cant fool me, I know what I’m talking about I just don’t like doing it.
LA: You mentioned that Kites right now is very definitive of who you are. Tell me more about how your music changed over time.
AK: It changed the more I started realizing how important my identity is, and what comes with being a Bengali American, an immigrant American and a kid from the hood. Before I only talked about what it was like to grow up in lower income housing, which was only a part of me. Once I started being proud of that, it changed my music.
LA: What’s your writing process like?
AK: It’s hard to explain. Some days I go to the studio to work, and it comes out. I always have a huge writers block after I put out a project. A lot of my songs happen in my head before they happen out loud, down to the production too. For example with Tides, I knew I wanted a West Indian sample with Jazz on top of it. I heard the rhythm and we executed the idea well.
LA: Would you say that being as well-rounded as possible and reaching as many people as possible is a big part of your brand?
AK: I’m just very interested in culture. I’m interested in languages, food, architecture, and those things you find when you travel. I’m super into history and culture, and I think my music is resonant of that.
LA: Why is it still within a hip-hop genre?
AK: It’s interesting because people call my music “international” sometimes, but I think my music is as American as it gets. I am the product of America, to be a Bengali American that grew up around West Indians, Africans, South Americans, Arabs, and makes music that influences all of them. You can’t get more American than that.
LA: Something that I always think about as a Lebanese American is whether or not I’m making the biggest impact for my community not on home ground. Do you ever feel that battle?
AK: I have a lot more to do for my community and my surroundings in general. I’ve never considered myself completely Bengali. I moved here when I was four, so I knew Queens before I knew Bangladesh. But as I grew order I realized that’s a huge part of me.
LA: Do you see yourself moving into another medium other than music?
AK: Definitely! I believe in brain stimulation, I can’t do the same shit forever. I might want to be a chef, if not then at least a food critic. I want to get into archaeology when I’m older, when I’ve got grey hairs and shit. Traveling, writing, doing work for the places I travel to, that’s the goal for me. Music will always be a part of me and never leave me, but it’s definitely not the only thing I’m doing out here.
LA: What’s next for you?
KA: I think artists move so fast, you forget to appreciate the things we have in front of us. Kites has only been out for 3 months and I’ve already been on a national tour. I am in love with this project. I think there are millions of people who still haven’t heard it and I want to keep pushing it.
LA: You mention your family a lot as a major influence. Tell me more about that.
AK: They’re my heart. They’re the reason I walk and what keeps me going. We always just had each other. When you grow up in means like that, all you care about are the people that hold you down and go through it with. Growing up I didn’t look up to rappers or entertainers, my father was always my hero.
LA: What’s been your favorite performance?
AK: My headliner at Rough Trade in Brooklyn. It was such an overwhelming feeling. I’ve never seen so many people chanting the words to my songs. I didn’t know how to handle that emotion. I’ll remember that day for the rest of my life.
LA: That sounds amazing.
AK: The people that come out to see me are important to me. They choose to come to a show when they literally could do anything else. That’s important to realize and I try to always remember that, when you don’t that can get to your head.
LA: Right, that’s not a good place to go. I think it’s also a personality thing.
AK: I think so too, and the way you were raised. I think Islam has a lot to do with it, even though I’m not a practicing Muslim but the things I’ve learned from it has definitely shaped me as a person in terms of how I interact with people staying grounded.
LA: What advice would you give someone that looks up to you and your work?
AK: There’s no formula to anything in life. There are ways it’s worked for other people, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to work for you. One of my favorite quotes is by Steve Jobs and he says, you have to be insane enough to want to do what you love. Any sane person would stop because of the stress, anxiety that you put yourself through. But if you work really hard, stay persistent, and patient you will get where you want.
Grooming by Ann Benjamas
For the full story and more content, get your copy of Phosphenes #4 – “Music”