Akash Ahuja is the hottest young name in music right now. Born in New York & raised in New Jersey, Akash is an Indian-origin hiphop artist, and the first Indian to have his own Billboard at Times Square. He’s been on the iTunes Charts and has a monthly Spotify following of 70k+ listeners. His music clearly resonates with people all around the world as he uniquely blends the old with the new, classical Indian music with western pop, masculinity and femininity, all the while staying true to his authentic self. His first single, “Come Closer” debuted in February 2020 and became an overnight hit. On 10 June 2020, he released a song titled “Affection” which which charted on the iTunes Hip-Hop top 50. His music is fresh, young and has a distinct tone to it. And in all this, he remains humble and grateful. The most important thing to Akash is to tell his story, and to tell it honestly.
We had the pleasure of speaking with Akash, who is far more modest than his accolades demand him to be.
MIRCHI PLAY: Tell me about yourself and your journey as an artist
AKASH: It’s hard to speak about my journey because I feel like it just began. Music was always a part of my life; when I was 3 I received my first set of Tablas, at 6 I started taking lessons, and I’ve just been dabbling with music ever since. It was never anything super serious; it was just a fun way to express myself. I saw my older brother making hiphop music and I got inspired by that. I started making songs, just writing about anything that was going on with me and inspired me, record it, and then I would release it. So I’ve been doing that — I still do that — and, here we are.
MP: So you’ve been interested in rap, hiphop for a long time?
AA: I don’t know really how to classify the genre. I feel like classifying genres is more of like a business. I feel like art is difficult to classify, you know? You kind of, just, go with what you feel and make whatever inspires you. Sometimes you want to sing, sometimes you want to rap, sometimes you want to talk, sometimes you want to autotune…it doesn’t really matter. It’s just…it’s art.
MP: Akash, right now you’ve reached the iTunes Top 100 charts, iTunes Top 50 Hiphop Charts, you have your own Billboard on Times Square, over 70k monthly Spotify listeners…how does it all feel?
AA: Well, for me, it’s definitely all surreal. I never expected it, I never planned for this, this is just super surprising and I love it. But it was never about a Billboard or a chart. It was about if I can make you feel something when you hear my songs, if I can make your day just a little bit better and you can go “wow, someone else is going through this too”, I feel like that’s success. If I can impact people’s lives that way, I feel like that’s all that really matters.
MP: Apart from originals you’ve also made some remixes, like Choli ke Peeche. We live in an age where remixes are pretty common, so what’s your secret to making a good one?
AA: If [I] hear a song and it resonates with [me], and especially if it adds history like ‘Choli ke Peeche’, it’s culturally impactful and makes [me] feel something, [I] feel like [I] can add [my] own style to it, that’s pretty much the mindframe I’m in when I’m doing a remix. I don’t really focus on making something ‘good’ or ‘bad’, I just focus on how authentically I can express myself. How can I tell my story in a way that you’ll understand it? If you can stay authentic, stay true to who you are, then the remix is naturally going to be different. It’s going to be good — hopefully!
Affection and Eye Can Tell (Live) by Akash Ahuja
MP: We have to talk about Affection. What’s the story behind that song?
AA: So the story’s that…it’s really funny. Uh, it’s actually really personal. When I recorded it, I was really nervous about releasing it. I remember thinking, “do I really want to put it out?” I was really into this girl from overseas – India, actually – and it didn’t work out because she ended up in a relationship with someone else. I was obviously upset about that. But then I found someone that actually showed me what it means to feel alive and feel passion and feel loved. It hit me; I’m so happy the first relationship didn’t work out and now I have this opportunity with this new person. I realised that everything works for the best.
I felt like I need to turn this into a song coz I’m sure there’s someone out there who’s either upset that something didn’t work out, or is happy that they have the person they have now. Immediately I called up my producer Da Vinci like “I got this idea, can you send me a beat” and I told him the story. Then I had a studio session, I had a beat, and recorded the song. But because the song is so personal, I wanted it to feel like when you listen to it, you were in the room with me when I was singing it. So I stepped away from too many effects, synthetic sounds, Anthony put some real guitar on it.
So yeah, that’s pretty much how we created it. It was a straightforward drum pattern with a lot of guitar and me telling my story. I have no idea how it went where it did. I remember waking up to a post from Viral that said “Top 50” and I didn’t even know! So yeah, it’s just super awesome.
MP: When you’re making a song, do you generally start with the emotion, the story, the music…?
AA: I’m pretty laidback with this stuff. I just chill, do my own thing, enjoy life, I try to live in the moment. I feel like if you’re always living in the moment then you’re always receptive to inspiration. When something happens, only then do I go to the studio. Only then do I make music. Sometimes I’m just sitting around, waiting for something to inspire me for, like, two months and it’s not there. Sometimes I have something to inspire me and so we have a song. I’d say 90% of the time I’m just waiting for inspiration to strike.
MP: Your music has definitely struck chords with people all over the world. Amidst all the love and the rise to fame, how do you keep it real?
AA: It’s like the same thing I said to your question about remixes. If you can just tell your story organically, authentically, then that’s the truest way to keep it real. Once you put out the song, what journalists write about it, what reviews you get, how many times it’s played…none of this is in your control. The only thing that is in your control is the story you tell in the song. If what you say is true to you and you can stand behind the story, then you just have to put it out and be okay with whatever happens.
MP: Akash, who are you listening to right now? Any recommendations?
AA: There’s a new Pop Smoke album which is really dope. I’ve been listening to a lot of, like, older music too recently. I’ve been bumping some Michael Jackson. I also like John Legend, I love Diljit Dosanjh, he’s like one of my favourite Indian artists. So, yeah. A whole lot of stuff. AA: I really like Roy Woods. He’s really good. Billie Eilish, yeah, tons of Billie Eilish.
Akash Ahuja makes great music and he is super talented. Check out all his latest songs and updates for live events on https://akashlife.com/