An Interview With The London-Based Rapper, ASHNIKKO!
Posted On 17 May 2018
London-based rapper Ashnikko recently premiered the video for her newest track “Blow.” Watch/share the video HERE. The song is the first single off her forthcoming EP Unlikeable, out this summer on Parlophone Records.
Ashnikko wrote the track within a single session, with production from Culture x Tones. She explains the track’s strong message of female empowerment: “‘Blow” starts with ‘Take it off and show them how much you want it,’ which is poking fun at the culture of women being exploited in music. I’m tired of being brainwashed that my body is my biggest asset. And it’s me saying to myself that I will never exploit myself in a way that doesn’t empower me.”
The accompanying video was directed by Can Evgin and shot on 16mm film, featuring a range of costumes with nods to Ashnikko’s love for fantasy and sci-fi as well as cameos from her friends; Greatness co-host Emerald Lewis and singer-songwriter Etta Bond.
Unlikeable is Ashnikko’s second EP; it follows her debut, Sass Pancakes, which features Avelino and production by Raf Riley, who has also collaborated with Diplo, Labrinth, Skepta and Professor Green. She is working with CallMeTheKidd on additional songs for the forthcoming EP, with lyrics throughout that explore themes of misogyny, consent and equality.
Ashnikko was born in North Carolina but relocated with her family to Estonia and then to Latvia in her early teens. She entered public high school as the only American student in the entire Latvian school system, taking courses entirely in Latvian. Isolated in the classroom, she began flying to London on the weekends to pursue music, beginning with small open mic nights. She eventually established a home for herself within the OddChild community, where she’s spent the last four years focused on developing her music.
She also participated in the Kyra TV series Greatness alongside her friend Emerald Lewis, with the mission of understanding “greatness” by spending time with, and learning from, the most inspiring and extraordinary people in the world. The pair did everything from exploring a floating island built by two artists in Canada (watch HERE) to spending a night in an incredible glacial ice cave in Iceland (watch HERE).
Connect With Ashnikko Here:
Learn more about Ashnikko in the following All Access interview:
Thanks for your time! So where does this interview find you? What’s on tap for the rest of your day?
Thanks for being interested in me! That’s cool of y’all. I just got out of a session and now I’m gonna go home and water my plants.
Overall, how do you think 2017 was for you and your career? What is one big goal you have for 2018?
I haven’t really stopped to think about 2017 as a whole. It just kinda just bled into 2018 as one continuous hustle. I put out a project last year and kinda just started to find my feet. I feel like I’ve kinda just been hurtling through space without any clear idea of what i want until summer of 2017. So now I finally feel like I’ve found my sound, my look, my brand, all that good stuff. It’s a great feeling. I used to beat myself up that things weren’t happening fast enough but now I realize that I needed that time. Regardless of what happens this year, I feel confident with myself as an artist and that’s all I could’ve hoped for.
Growing up, did you ever think that this would be the kind of life that you would? Can you recall your earliest musical memory?
I was always a bit of a show-off. I would gather a crowd at family barbecues to watch me do a shitty cartwheel. I feel like I always knew this is what I wanted to do. I’ve been writing songs since I was 15. I used to do musical theater and talent shows and basically anything I possibly could that involved performance in my small country town. I think I’ve been blessed/cursed with the perfect amount of narcissism for this industry! (lol)
How do you think that your hometown has influenced the kind of artist that you are today and the kind of music that you make? How do you think your move from North Carolina to Estonia and then to Latvia and then finally to London affected your music?
It’s been isolating moving around a lot. Music was a safe space for me throughout all the bullshit. I knew I wanted to do this since I was a little country kid in NC. Living abroad gave me the angst and drive to start rapping and writing and London has taught me how to be an artist.
Let’s talk about your newest single “Blow.” What was the inspiration for this female empowerment track? How do you think it prepares listeners for more music from you on your upcoming EP “Unlikeable”? Why did you pick this song to be the first single released from the collection?
“Blow” is a reminder to myself that I’m going to do this and I’m going to do it well. It’s hard out here. Ex-managers, ex-boyfriends and ex-friends have really crushed me in the past. I wrote this song when my self esteem was in the toilet. I was in a really low place. I needed a pep talk and nobody was there to hype me up so I did it myself. The songs only get weirder and more topical further into the project so this was a good place to start.
What was it like shooting the music video for “Blow”? How creatively involved were you with the process of making it?
I lost my damn mind shooting the Blow music video. I was so bruised the day after shooting. I banged up my head, my knees, and my elbows. The whole thing was just a bunch of wild performance shots so I was pretty involved in how I moved, what I wore, makeup, hair, all that good shit. But I had a sick team that helped make all of that possible. I made heaps of mood-boards beforehand and everyone just executed it perfectly. I loved it.
Can you talk about what it was like putting together “Unlikeable”? How did the process compare to your previous ones? Can you remember the first time that you heard the entire collection the whole way through? What was that like for you?
For a while I was stuck in a vicious cycle of comparing myself and my journey to other female artists coming up around me. But then one day I just realized that everyone has their own timeline and their own journey. There is no one way to make it. Stop fucking comparing yourself to other people or it just won’t work for you. It’s sooooo toxic and I’m angry that I wasted so much time doing that but I realize now that I needed to get caught up in all that to be where I am now. I finally feel like I’ve found my feet.
“Unlikeable” is the first body of work that I’ve made where I wasn’t comparing myself to anyone, I was just making these songs because its what I felt like making. I don’t give a shit about making music for the masses and I wanna make music that makes people feel something. I want them to hate me or love me. Like me or not, I’m solid and confident in myself.
How do you think you as a musician and your music has changed since your debut “Sass Pancakes”?
Oooooooooh lordy. I moved to London when I was 18 so practically a baby. I became a woman in London. I surrounded myself with the brilliant creatives at Oddchild and they taught me SO MUCH. My music went through puberty big time, awkward, embarrassing and cringe-worthy puberty. “Sass Pancakes” was made when I was 18 and 19. With “Sass Pancakes,” I was in my safe space, rapping and focusing heavily on lyrics. “Unlikeable” is definitely out of my comfort zone but I kinda like being uncomfortable like this. Mama look, I’m singing!!! Who knew??!
What do you think you learned from being in the Kyra TV series, “Greatness”?
We met so many insanely interesting people on our travels. They’re living lives I couldn’t have even dreamed about. It just really cemented the idea that you can really customize your own life. You don’t have to fall into what you “should” be doing and what’s “expected” of you. For all we know our whole universe could be a crumb in somebody’s buttcrack in another universe. Let’s just have fun and be kind to each other.
We are living through a very trying and politically charged time right now so I am curious how you think being a musician gives you the most joy in life today? How do you think that music is going to reflect these challenging times?
I feel like its my duty as someone making music with intent to share it with the world to reflect my own personal values and morals in my lyrics. It’s all I’m good at so i want to make a positive impact. Music is going to change. People are going to be less tolerant of bullshit and fakery and the music industry is going to reflect that.
Who are some of your favorite artists or rather, what musicians have continued to inspire you and your music? What musicians would you absolutely still love to work with in the future?
M.I.A., Rihanna, SZA, Cardi B, Paramore, Stevie Knicks, Nicki Minaj! I could go on and on and on. I’m so inspired right now. I specifically really want to work with SOPHIE, the producer and Charli XCX right now but I’m open to anything. I like working with my pals the most though so I’m blessed.
At the end of the day, what do you hope your fans take away from your music?
I just want them to be able to sing my lyrics in their rooms and dance around in front of their mirrors and gain some sense empowerment. That is what music is to me and to be able to provide that same feeling of confidence to other people is the dream. Don’t compromise who you are. Being smooth and polished and cool is gross, I’m just winging it.
Would you like to share anything else with our readers about yourself or your music?
Just stay tuned! I’m trying my best on this odd little planet we live on.