There's never been a more important time than now to revel in the accomplishments of our country's immigrant population. It goes without saying that immigrants have contributed immensely to the fabric of American culture, food, economics, etc. So as a reflection of everything going on in the world right now, its inspiring to see the HIp-Hop community embracing new narratives. Anik Khan, a Bengali MC, immigrated to Queens, NY from Bangladesh when he was just 3 years old. Growing up in the Astoria neighborhood of Queens, he was immersed in an ethnically diverse neighborhood full of experiences that gave him the ability to create music with a first generation perspective while speaking to a worldwide audience.
We haven't heard many stories told from the Bengali-American perspective in Hip-Hop which is why Anik's new project, Kites, is so unique. Anik finds a way to blend hip-hop with dancehall, traditional Bengali music, future beats, and more into a cohesive narrative about the path of a young man in NYC trying to strike a balance between culture and tradition. We caught up with Anik for a short interview on the symbolism in Kites, finding balance in his life, winning his parent's support to do music, and more. Read the full interview below.
OTW: A lot of immigrant parents don't believe in careers in entertainment. Did your parents always believe in your music career? If not, what was the turning point that made them believe?
Anik Khan: I think any parent who hears that their kid wants to spend the rest of his or hers life doing something that literally may not work out- they would worry. Regardless if they’re immigrant or not. They want what’s best for you and that’s usually something safe with a higher work-in/return-out ratio. Regardless, it was definitely hard for my parents to accept at first, but once they saw how important it is to me, and I started making some actual income out of it - they’re now my biggest fans.
In an interview with The Fader, you mentioned not growing up and hearing jazz or soul. But rather, you were introduced to them. Who introduced you and in what setting?
So yeah man, my family didn’t listen to jazz or soul music. I had to find out what that is. My close friend from high school, Sergio, really was the one who put me on. He expanded my musical pallet and showed me a much wider variety of music besides what I was hearing at home and Hip Hop.
You've talked a lot about balance in your musical and personal life. Do you think you've finally achieved it? And if so, what does it look/feel like to you?
I think I’ll constantly be working on my balance. Working in music isn’t guaranteed and it’s definitely very sporadic in regards to your schedule but I think what I’ve learned through all this are my pillars. My family and loved ones come first and everything comes after. And remembering my personal pillars helps me regulate my schedule with music and my personal life. I make the time for family dinners, I make the time to be with my girl, and I make the time to be with friends and do nothing but watch stand up and crack jokes.
On "Cleopatra", you say "You can always judge a man by all the weight that's on his shoulders." Whats your weight?
Aw man, thank you for catching that. You know, in my culture there is lots of pressure on the son to take the bigger responsibilities and take care of things. As the only son in my family, I have certain expectations that I’m okay with and agree to. As a man who loves his city but most importantly his borough, I’m taking on a story that is something that connects with millions of people across the world. I don’t feel like it’s my duty to adhere to their standards, but my personal story is something that is shared with many and I don’t act like I’m not aware of that.
"Mango Nectar" seems to be the fan favorite on the project. What song on the project do you think is underrated and people should listen to more closely?
My favorite record is also “Mango Nectar.” There’s a lot of gems in that record man. I talk about wearing my fathers chappals (bengali sandals) and calling them “Air Golams.” I mention my girl cooking me charmoula (moroccan sauce), one of the most delicious things I’ve ever tasted. It’s one of those records where if you really take your time and pay attention, you’re going to get put on to a bunch of shit.
There's a lot of symbolism within "Kites". Were there any films/concept albums that helped inspire it?
There wasn’t a film or album in particular that inspired Kites directly but I’ve always appreciated layered art. Frank by Amy Winehouse, Nostalgia Ultra by Frank Ocean, and V for Vendetta to name a few. I’m a sucker for symbolism, thoughtful concepts- simple yet profound kind of shit you know?
Catch Anik Khan in your city this summer as he supports Jidenna on same dates of the "Long Live The Chief" Tour and stay tuned for more Ones To Watch x Anik. We got some things cooking.