Ashnikko Interviewed: “I’m Not Gonna Let A**holes Take My Dream Away From Me”

Rising rapper and singer Ashnikko is fighting patriarchy one sassy and sexy punch-line at a time and empowers young women to know their worth just like she’s gone to.

Ashnikko by Vasso Vu
Ashnikko by Vasso Vu

Each year, musical tastemakers across the globe try the impossible and predict which artists will conquer the charts and make waves in the sea of new exciting acts with the potential to go big. This past year, Ashnikko has been one of them, and the predictions were right. Looking at her top 5 songs on Spotify solely, the numbers add up to more than 438 million streams, and unless the world has stopped turning since I did my counting, her growing fanbase has made sure that those numbers are much higher as you’re reading these words right now.

So who is this new blue-haired artist with a disruptive approach to popular music? Well, if you’re an advocate for the liberation of women’s sexuality, she’s the kind of person who dares saying what you’ve been thinking for years. If you’re a fan of the patriarchy, she’s your worst nightmare. 

Born in a rural town in North Carolina, Ashton Nicole Casey and her family relocated to Estonia when she was a teenager and lived there briefly before settling in Latvia where she lived for 4 years. She’s revealed that the upbringing in the American south and the Baltics was dominated by a quite conservative and patriarchal environment not super well fitted for a young feminist. And let’s just say that her teachers in high school didn’t always “get” her explicit writings. The internet became her true home where a site like tumblr.com served a parallel education in equality and liberation with like-minded feminists making up for both fellow classmates and educators. When Ashnikko turned 18, she went off to London to pursue a rap-career after she’d been writing poems since forever and rapping since she was 15.

Praise the p*ssy

We’re in the beginning of 2021 as I catch Ashnikko on Zoom where she’s joggling interviews and her new title as ‘dogmommy’ to the cutest puppy with the perfect name Lady Wednesday. Her other baby, the mixtape DEMIDEVIL, came out a few weeks prior to our chat to critical acclaim from some of the biggest media. We’re talking NME, Pitchfork and The Guardian praising an album where the final track is called “Clitoris! The Musical” and makes up for all the constructive sex education that never were. Call me hypothetical, but I don’t think a record by a female artist with the lyrics “Me and your girlfriend playin’ dress up at my house//I gave your girlfriend cunnilingus on my couch” would’ve received the same kind of acknowledgement just 10 years ago.

“I think that it probably would have been villainised and twisted into a very bad light. But women before me have paved the way for us now to be very outspoken which is great, and I’m happy to be making music now in this ear of music for sure,” Ashnikko says from the other side of the screen. “I think it would have definitely been cooler to be born in like the year 2700,” she adds and laughs.

Ashnikko grew up on a musical diet of some badass female artists. Björk, Kelis, Missy Elliot, Lil Kim, Nicki Minaj, Joan Jett, Janis Joplin are all some of the “powerful figures in my life,” as she puts it and they inspired the And then there’s M.I.A. whose album Arula was probably one of the first steps in her journey towards musical stardom. 

“When I was like 11, I got a pink iPod Nano for Christmas, and my aunt downloaded M.I.A.’s Arula album on to it. And that really just blew my little brain,” she remembers. Two months later, Gwen Stefani’s album Love Angel Music Baby got thrown into the mix as a birthday present – “My brain was blown,” she says and continues. “Then like Nicki Minaj came along and I was just like… OMG!” She whispers the last word, simulating the loss of breath you can feel when you hear something so good you know there’s no turning back.

Ashnikko

“I’ve grown as a woman and as a person into someone who doesn’t take any shit.”

A mixtape worth your attention

After growing up with a string of iconic albums, incredibly hard work, determination and pure creative talent resulted in Ashnikko releasing her 10-track mixtape DEMIDEVIL on January 15th in which she passes on the empowering sex-positivity she got from her musical predecessors.

It would be quite romantic saying how young kids now listen to full bodies of work like Ashnikko did after every occasion to gift her with records in her teens, but truth is, the way we consume music has changed. 

“I know that we, as a society, have a much shorter attention span than we’re used to. I mean, even I’m like a 30-second-clik-through an album like, ‘oh, okay’, I pick my favorites and then I’m out. So I am definitely guilty of doing that,” she says. However, if you dare to switch up your habits, DEMIDEVIL is way more than the provider of a few new tracks to your playlist:  “I want it [DEMIDEVIL] to become more of an experience, I guess. You know, I’m not jaded. I think there are still people out there who listen to projects all the way through.”

If you do listen to the full mixtape, you’ll learn that it’s not just a catchy rap- and pop record, but also a personal outlet for an artist whose openness we’ve been gifted. She has previously described her music as an open diary for everyone to read, and she tells me that she’s put a lot of thought into the lyrics. “I hope it doesn’t go over everyone’s heads,” she says. 

I’m sure it won’t, cause the at times punk-infused production site of Ashikko’s music is stacked with tongue-n-cheek punch-lines and witty observations that make you wanna laugh and cry at the same time. Even though her visual identity may seem far away from what we see in our everyday life, her lyrics are informed by her own experiences and if her words make you laugh sometimes, it’s funny cause it’s true.

Channeling empowerment

It’s impossible to talk about Ashnikko’s music without mentioning the one word that stands out the most: empowerment. Ashnikko is done with all the bullsh*t and she knows her boundaries. Now she wants her listeners to do the same even though it’s easier said than done. 

“I’ve grown as a woman and as a person into someone who doesn’t take any shit. I have very clear boundaries in my business in music and I think it’s taken me up until like this year to really establish these boundaries. And if somebody crosses them, then we don’t work… it doesn’t happen… It’s over,” she says and laughs.

Ashnikko’s personal strength shines through more than just her unapologetic music. It informs her way to be an artist too and she’s using her voice and influence to advocate for better mental care in a world that’s pretty f*cked up at times to say the least. 

“I feel like in my position, I’m definitely in a very privileged position to have access to mental health services. But I think it should be accessible to everyone and every work place. I think that all bosses should be providing mental health services to their employees. I think that record labels have an obligation to provide mental health services for their artists. Because ultimately this job is very stressful,” she laughs. It’s [the music industry] a shady place sometimes and you need to take care of your brain.”

I applaud her agenda and ask if her knowledge of the music industry in all it’s shadiness ever made her stop and wonder if it was worth it.

“No, no. I’ve always wanted to do it and I’ve always had my eyes on the prize,” she says. “I know that that’s kind of just what happens, but I’m not gonna tolerate it, and i stand up for myself when shit happens to me. I’m not gonna let assholes take my dream away from me. It’s hard standing up for yourself sometimes. You pick your battles, but like. I don’t really let any shit slide. If I’m uncomfortable and someone is being a dick or stepping over my boundaries, I’m gonna say it. But I think it’s a very real situation that standing up for yourself can put your job at risk and can put your position at risk. So yeah, I feel like I’m in a very privileged position that I can stand up for myself and be the boss of my situation.”

Ashnikko

Follow Ashnikko on Instagram.

We’ve previously featured Ashnikko on our Best New Music playlist – Get your weekly fix of new music here.

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