HipHopOnDeck Interviews Ahmen | @iamAhmen

HipHopOnDeck Interviews Ahmen /
New Jersey-based rapper Ahmen presents “Headphones”, the Hollywood Legend-produced single from Hero Ball, his debut album featuring production from Taliband, Hollywood Legend, Diamond Style, Trill, Scarecrow and Ear 2 Tha Beat. The son of Sri Lankan immigrants, Ahmen was born in Minneapolis and raised in Queens, Alaska, Atlanta, Washington, and India., a site centered around an algorithmic program that gauges the average length of a rap or hip-hop star’s multi-syllable rhymes (the key to the “dopest flows,” Flocabulary says) has ranked Ahmen #3 in the world, just behind the Wu-Tang Clan’s Inspectah Deck in the top slot. Independent A&R company Taxi featured “Headphones” as a song of the month in January 2015. Regarding Hero Ball, Ahmen says “Music is best when the listener hears their life reflected in it. Today, there’s far too much of the status quo, and not enough of someone stepping up to take a shot with the game on the line. That’s what Hero Ball is about: being daring enough to connect with everyday people in ways that are exciting and maybe even hated. That’s what being a leader in the 4th quarter is all about.” Of the “Headphones” single Ahmen says “Far too often, our potential is limited by society’s pressures: generational poverty, homophobia, racism, conflict, and more. We have the ability to achieve the unthinkable and defy odds, and sometimes it requires escape. ‘Headphones’ represents more than a fashion piece – it’s a method of escape so we can fly away to greater heights.” Hero Ball is out now, and Ahmen is working on a new mixtape set to drop in May.

How do you feel about the direction hiphop is going in?

The beauty of hip-hop is that it doesn't have a single direction. (Don't worry, I'm not going to digress into a Jaden Smith-style explanation of the complex universe.) Hip-hop has always been a voice of the people, and we have countless voices. That's why you have guys like Drake, Eminem, and Kendrick Lamar at the top of the charts, yet they have three completely different styles. That said, some voices haven't been represented enough, and that's a real problem. I'm hearing a lot of "I have money and you don't" and "I hustle blah blah blah", but what about the real everyday people and their struggles? Those are the voices I try to represent - the regular kid trying to get out of the projects, the average office worker who is miserable at his job, the girl who knows a brighter future is out there. There's a struggle and pursuit of greater happiness that's happening everyday - it's time for hip-hop to reflect that reality.

What song of yours do you recommend people listen to first and why?

“Troublemaker”. Taking a cue from the last question, I want to say "it depends on where you're coming from". With this song - which is equally powerful when bumping in a club, in your car, or during your commute on the subway - you realize you have the power to be a troublemaker for the systems that surround us. This is a song for the people who know things aren't quite right, but they have the potential to do something groundbreaking and amazing, no matter what other people say. We're looking at the status quo in the face and laughing right back at it. This is a song for the rebels and the people who aren't rebels yet, but with a nudge or even a punch in the gut, will get there and achieve something memorable.

What’s your process for writing songs?

Every Ahmen song is a project. Sometimes I'll have a concept in my mind for weeks, and during that time, I'll collect ideas, stories, and other forms of inspiration. Those concepts come from a lot of places, but they all have to stand up to two tests: are they true to me, and are they true to the everyday person I'm connecting with. By the time I sit down to write, I have a pretty good sense of where that song is going to go and how it's going to connect with the listener. At that point, I'm incredibly meticulous. I'm intentional with everything I do, to the point where I might scrutinize a bar for what seems like an eternity. When I'm done, I go back to my original questions - have I represented myself properly, in terms of skill, sound, and impact, and have I represented the concept/audience properly? When the answers are yes, it's time to rock the world!

What have been some of the reactions to your “Headphones” single?

I'm blown away by the positive response to “Headphones”. It works because the content connects with you and the sound moves you. I've heard from people across the country, from white collar workers to students to kids, that Headphones reflects how they feel when they're driving toward a goal and need to block out the noise and naysayers. “Headphones” doesn't sound like your average "conscious" or "storytelling" track. Both hip-hop and rock ‘n roll heads have told me they love the song, and that's what my music is all about - going across barriers to engage and inspire real people of all backgrounds.

What are your plans for the next year?

It's time for some new music! Last year was huge - I performed in a dozen shows across NYC and my music was featured in countless blogs. I have more stories to tell, I've met more people who are joining me on the journey, and there are several cynics who need to be put in their place. I'm planning to release a new project this spring and I'm excited to see where we can go. I'm also going to continue building the #Troublemaker brand. It's a mindset that is shared by millions, and together, we're going to revolutionize the world. If you want to collaborate, hit me up!

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