AK continues to prove over and over exactly why he’s a mainstay in the rap game. The South Brunswick, New Jersey native gives hopes to the masses that you don’t have to be a certain color or race to make it in the music industry — with an ability to spit probably up to par with your favorite rappers.
It was his viral cover to Desiigner’s “Panda” in 2018 that catapulted him into the mainstream light, with the music video showcasing a 16-year-old AK going HAM into the microphone. The visual currently hails over 40 million views and counting. Fast forward to 2020, he’s accumulated over 1.65 million subscribers on Youtube alone, consistently blessing fans with nothing short of quality bars, punchlines, and storytelling in his lyrics.
Most recently, he released his most cinematic video to date for “Family Tree,” which sees AK paying tribute to all the OGs in the rap world. Not only is he shouting them out in the record, but the black-and-white visual sees him digitally morphing into the GOATs, including Lil Wayne, Eminem, Missy Elliot, and Snoop Dogg.
At the end of the day, he’s just a music-lover living out his dreams on the daily. Flaunt caught up with AK via Instagram Live, who was rocking bleached hair under his bucket hat. Read below as we discuss the “Family Tree” visual, seeing himself in Times Square, love for both new and old artists, best fan encounter, and more!
You picked up producing and mixing during quarantine, how does it feel?
When I know I’m mixing it, now I know how much time will go into it. No one’s going to work harder than the CEO. Even if my mix engineer is one of my best homies, he’s got other shit to mix as well. I know I can spend days working on a mix rather than a few hours at a time. If I want certain things to be happening a certain way, I’m doing it. I’m not stopping until it’s done the way I see it. With “Family Tree,” I didn’t mix it but I produced it.
“Family Tree” out now! How we feeling now that it’s out?
I’m feeling so good, I can’t lie. It’s a weight off my shoulders. We shot that video in December last year, with the idea of doing the DeepFake technology. It took a while to find out which faces we’re going to choose, who’s going to be able to make it, who wasn’t going to be able to make it. Even the idea of it was nerve-wracking at first, but we did a job of pulling everything together.
Who’s idea was it to digitally morph into these legendary music artists? (Lil Wayne, Eminem, Drake, Missy Elliot, Snoop Dogg)
It started with me, my manager, his assistant at the time. It was an SNL skit where somebody was impersonating Trump, he was able to do Trump’s voice but he dubbed Trump’s face on him. It looked and sounded like Trump. He’s saying reckless, scary things like “we’re attacking this place at this time.” We realized the whole idea of DeepFaking something could be super scary, so we wanted to figure out a way to make it more positive. The song had already been done, we’re brainstorming ideas for the song. We thought “what if we put the artists who inspire you over your face while you’re rapping? Even though you’re not sounding or impersonating them, put them over you and cycle through different artists that inspired you directly.” I loved that idea.
Wow, what visual could captivate the idea of all being connected more than that? It was a matter of finding who’s going to do it. We found a guy on Youtube, Shamook! He does impressions himself, doing DeepFakes on his channel of him impersonating people but putting their face on his. His channel is all DeepFaking. so we reached out. He seemed really excited. He jumped on board, we gave him the list of artists that we chose. He sent us back the final product and we were blown away. We couldn’t even believe it, it looked exactly like we wanted it to.
Why did you keep the visual black-and-white?
Simplicity. The song is about unity and how everybody’s a product of each other, more so acknowledging that. Whether you live by it or not, understand we all should be shown love and respect to one another. The black and white was keeping it as simple as possible, while also getting the message across.
Do you listen to your music and think about how you could have said things differently?
Sometimes. Usually when I put a song out, I’m confident that’s it. I know there’s always going to be the next song, so there’s always room for improvement on the next one. The way I view my catalog, it’s literally a time capsule. When I listen to my first song, I remember exactly where I was when I wrote it. I remember who the producer was. It’s cool to listen back and appreciate it for what it is. Of course there’s always room and ways to improve but hearing those little mistakes, it’s cool because it makes you appreciate.
Talk about a portion of proceeds going to Save The Music Foundation, that’s incredible.
They’re a foundation who help people in areas that don’t provide learning music,music theory, putting together choirs, anything that has to do with music. They help areas who don’t have that, get more involved in it. That’s something every school should have, every school should be able to provide especially for younger students who may not even know how good they are in music because they haven’t been given the opportunity to try. A portion of the video proceeds are definitely going over to that because that’s super important for younger people.
How’s it feel to see you blown up on Times Square?
That’s crazy, hell yeah. It’s an hour, if I took the train, it’d be 45 but yeah we drove.
It was cool. I actually have a video on my channel of the whole day going there, it was crazy. I didn’t even realize it was going to be in the actual Times Square. I thought it’d be on one of the off roads. When I got there, it was one of the biggest screens in Times Square right next to the Lion King and 6ix9ine’s Tattletales promotion. [laughs] It was crazy, seeing that, I was speechless. I didn’t even know what to say. I had my whole family with me: my mom, my dad, my brother, my sister. It was cool.
Bring us back to when you recorded “NOW I’M FOREVER.”
I wrote that song in Jersey, my homie Goldman sent me a beat pack. I listened through all of them.I wasn’t really feeling any of the beats I was listening to in the moment, that’s usually how it is. That very last beat in the pack, I’m like “oh shit, this is the one.” I wrote it at 3 in the morning, I was on my couch in my living room. I finished it and left to go to LA a few days later, that’s when I recorded it. That was a minute ago. It’s almost at 10 million streams on Spotify, which is nuts.
You say “music changed my life right before I tried to end it,” can you expand on this?
Everybody goes through things that not a lot of people see. Music’s one of those things I always was brought back to, no matter what. Even if I was trying to take a second and stay away from it, I always find myself back behind the computer working on something. I need to make music because that’s why I’m here to begin with. Once I wrapped my head around and accepted that, it’s just head down tunnel vision this is what i’m doing you know.
You’re technically a new artist with an old school soul, which artists are you listening to?
A lot of people tell me I have an old soul, I love the new stuff that’s out. In the song, I love Roddy Ricch. Roddy Ricch is insane, he has a very new sound. He’s the face of the new sound. At one point in time a few years ago, the mumble rap was actually mumble rap. Now, the stuff that’s considered mumble rap by a lot of the older heads are artists like Roddy Ricch, Lil Baby, Gunna. If you really listen to them, they’re speaking. Talking real shit, they deliver in a different way. I’m very in between. I like the bars, the old school tear apart a verse type rap. But I find myself listening to a lot of Roddy Ricch, Post Malone, J.Cole. I have a very big catalog of music I listen to.
How would you describe your fashion sense?
I like to clean up a little bit. I wear whatever I fucking like. Sometimes my outfits are different. I’m a big shoe guy. If I have to choose any Jordan, it would either be 3’s or 4’s. If I have to pick a designer shoe, I love Alexander McQueens. I have 2 pairs, they’re my favorite. I wouldn’t wear them with basketball shorts obviously. If I’m going out to a dinner, simple jeans and t-shirt, you could pull them off. That’s what I like about them, they’re not a shoe you have to wear with a suit or a specific outfit.
Best encounter you had with a fan?
I was shooting the video for “BAGS TO BAGS” in LA. I was in with Thad and Jacob Clark of Swift Productions. We’re in a parking deck outside of Target, the spot was super dope. I was high up in the air. 100 feet away from us, we see 2 people get out of the car. One is holding a laptop, he has headphones sitting on top of the laptop. They both start walking over to us. The kid’s like “yo AK, I’m a big fan.” I do my shot, we get it done. He brings over his laptop, he has an interface and a microphone. He pulls up with his whole setup like “can I get a verse from you?” [laughs]
Did you do it?! That’s so funny.
I didn’t give him a verse but I did drums for his beat. He had the beat opened up in the session, but nothing over the beat yet. I said “let me hook you up with drums, I’ll give you a solid drum beat.” It was pretty out of the box, me and the guys were like “what the fuck just happened?” I fuck with him for that.
What was it like seeing “Top of the World” on ESPN’s First Take?
That was trippy, I didn’t even get to see it live. I recorded a bunch of episodes and rewatched them, went through the commercials. Eventually I found it, it was cool as shit. When you actually hear it, it’s like “oh fuck, I know I’m not the only person who heard that. There’s a lot of people watching ESPN.
What’s your favorite remix of yours?
Personally, I have to say “Panda.” I remember everything about it. I remember writing that in lunch in high school over the course of 3 days. The first day was the first verse, the day after in lunch I wrote the second verse, the third day I wrote the other verse. I went home and recorded it. Obviously that song started everything for me so definitely my top favorite. That or “Lights Out,” or “Outside.” I really like those 3.
Goals for yourself at this point of your career?
Right now, be the best version of myself as much as possible. I’ve been working on mixing and getting better at production, really tightening up all the loose ends of the newer things I’m dipping my fingers into. Bmore efficient too. I could make a beat, you have to give me time to get it arranged. Practicing nonstop over and over again, it’s been much easier to lock in. I could do a lot more work in a lot less time than in the beginning of quarantine. The ultimate goal for anybody is to always get better at whatever they love doing.