We caught up with Anik Khan to learn more about his Debut project.
Anik Khan is a Bengali-born Queens rapper, who like many Queens residents was exposed to a variety of cultures growing up. Anik likes to say “The entire world is Queens…my friends are like the United Nations.” His rich cultural background is what informs his music and has shaped his identity. Anik’s foundation is rap, the type he hopes Queens would be proud of and on top of that foundation he layers traditional Indian and Bengali music along with Bhangra, Dancehall, Afrobeats, and so on. He’s dubbed his debut project a World album because it encompasses genres from all around the world while simultaneously paying homage to his hometown of Queens. Anik’s garnered the praise of many publications and talented individuals including a co-sign from fellow Queens rapper Heems, from famous rap duo Swet Shop Boys.
While Anik has released unofficial projects he’s hoping ‘Kites’ will be his formal introduction into the music world. Anik finally knows himself and knows what matters most and this project relays him having that epiphany. In the same way the production uses diverse sounds, he hopes the themes will also be universal and relatable. Scroll down to listen to ‘Kites’ out now on Spotify, iTunes and Soundcloud.
To find out more about how Anik’s upbringing has influenced his music and what to expect from ‘Kites’ check out our interview below.
How often do you get to go back to Bangladesh ?
I’ve been back twice, once when I was 9 and once when I was 21.
You struggled a lot with your identity in your formative years, at what age or what point did you finally find peace and embrace all the various parts of your identity?
I think it started when I went to Bangladesh at 21 and how much I started appreciating it more and then by 23 it was like a glass ceiling I broke and it instantly happened. It was one of those things where I woke up and was like I’m gonna rep this shit hard and I did.
How do you balance repping both your Bengali / Queens roots in your music? Do you feel like you always need to give each equal attention? Is it something that’s very conscious or is it more natural?
It’s not conscious at all because there are dudes from lower-income housing in Queens that are just like me that have nothing and are very much a part of hip hop and a part of black culture because they grew up in black neighborhoods, but they’re also a part of Bengali culture because when they go inside they have their Bengali parents so I think it was never about a balance thing for me. In the early stages it was because I didn’t know who I wanted to be essentially, but once I grew up I was like ‘nah this is me.’ I’m just a regular kid from the hood who happens to be Bengali.
How big is your family?
My mother is one of six and my father is one of six and they all have children and their children have children. I have three siblings, two older sisters, and a younger sister so that’s why I talk about girls so much.
What was it like growing up in a house of mostly women?
It makes you respect and look at things differently. I don’t miss the toilet or else they’ll kill me. I wear like women’s deodorant because it’s better and besides just product wise. It was humbling – it makes you proud of your emotional side, it didn’t make me any less weak to be able to show my emotion and I think that came from the women in my life.
Was your family always supportive of your musical dreams?
Absolutely not. I don’t think anyone’s family regardless if you’re an immigrant is supportive of somebody wanting to become a rapper. That shit is a one in a million thing, but the more they saw how much I loved it the more they realized alright he’s not gonna give it up and he’s gonna do it forever. When the checks started coming in they’re like, ‘ok I see you making a career out of it.’
In other interviews you’ve mentioned that your father would recite poetry, can you talk about how that influenced your love of lyricism and rap?
You know it’s funny I don’t think I consciously ever knew it inspired me because back in the day I would stay away from it because I was on my bullshit, but now that I look back I remember that my father would have 2000 people going crazy. I’ve always seen him entertain and recite his poetry. My family loves to entertain so it was just instilled in me.
Who were some of your biggest musical influences? I know Nas is one of them can you tell us more desi and hip hop influences?
My biggest is probably Bob Marley, I listened to him the most. The Marleys in general, Damien, but besides them A.R. Rehman is insane. James, he’s a Bengali artist, he’s fire, he’s the first artist I heard who did indie rock and it almost sounded like he was rapping when he was singing. Classical Bengali music, classical Indian music.
Let’s talk about kites, I, myself am Indian was born there and have been back a few times- is the title in anyway related to the popular past time of flying kites in South Asian culture?
You know what’s funny? I didn’t even know about that! I knew my cousins flew kites but I didn’t know there were festivals. So basically Kites is a wider perspective of where I am in my life. If you asked me like a few years ago I would say here’s this image, this thing up in the air focus on that and where I am and how I’m about to be and I want to sell out MSG and all these other wild pipe dreams I had and Kites is about me growing older and realizing that it’s not really about focusing on the image in the air, but instead the people steering and keeping you up there and if I do fall who’s gonna be there to catch me and bring me back up and that’s my family, my friends, my girl, basically the people I care to be around. It’s the story of a regular person from Queens New York City going through ups and downs in his late 20s. I think anybody in their 20s, whether you got fired from your job or you don’t have this or now have this, that’s what kites is all about.
How would you say this EP differs from “I DONT KNOW YET?”
Really I consider “Kites” my first project so ‘I Don’t Know Yet’ was called that for a reason and it’s because I didn’t know anything that was going on with the industry side of things. Most of the records on ‘I Don’t Know Yet’ were 3 or 4 years old, but I still put them out because I didn’t want records to go to waste. I worked hard on those songs and wanted to put them out, plus I come from a rap foundation – a rapping my a** of Queens would be proud of me foundation and I wanted people to be able to go back and see that, but I knew that even when I released that, that, that wasn’t Anik Khan. Now I finally got to work with the producers I wanted to work with, create the songs I’ve always wanted to create, that I held off on creating for example records like “Tides” or “Cleopatra,” those were ideas I’ve had for years that I never dropped because I just waited for the right time to have the right producers to be able to execute those ideas the way I want to. To me Kites is my first introduction to what Anik Khan sound truly is, what he’ll be talking about and what you’ll be hearing from him from here on out.
How has the production changed between the two projects?
I went hardcore into producing and produced every record on the project, more in the sense of writing this bass line or here let me hire these musicians and put this horn section at the end of a record and let me write out the horn section, because I come from a musical theory background so I can write shit out I just can’t play it. The production shift has been me accepting these cultures I grew up and wanting to mix Brazilian music and wanting to mix Dancehall and west Afro pop and Indian music and the Bengali poetry. I know the term world music is corny, but this really is world music, but more from the perspective of Queens. The entire world is in Queens.
How would you describe your style?
My father’s closet mixed with – my jewelry never comes off because I feel like every piece has a story and every piece is from my family so it’s like I feel like I’m carrying them or wearing them with me, besides that I think my style is like if a fashion designer from New York went to Bangladesh or West Africa and picked up some patterns and some clothing from there and I’ve infused it with what I’m wearing. I’m the kid that’s going to wear the Kurtas with some Air Max.