Ayanis has some of the biggest cosigns in the game, and she’s just getting started. The R&B songstress arrives as a breath of fresh air in the music industry, reeling in that nostalgic 90’s R&B vibe and combining it with her today’s modern-day sound.
Calling herself the R&Bop princess because her songs are bops, she states, “I choose a lot of productions that’ll make you dance, that feels really good, and that’s fun. I have songs that are sensual and sultry.”
Having grown up in both Texas and Atlanta, her musical palette is directly inspired by her Southern roots going from a small town to a big city. Putting an emphasis on topics such as growth, learning, feminine energy, having fun, bossing up, confidence, being sexy, and vulnerability, Ayanis creates relatable music for the masses to enjoy.
Following 2018’s DIRECTION, her newest project YANI is about Ayanis coming into her womanhood. Spearheaded by singles “One Night” featuring Wiz Khalifa, “Ecstasy,” and “Lil Boi (Big Talk) [Remix] alongside Jack Harlow, the project gives new fans a taste of who Ayanis is—while the old fans come back for more.
Flaunt caught up with the Island Prolific/Atlantic Records recording artist via Zoom to discuss her Southern roots, inspiration behind YANI, working with Wiz Khalifa, Mulatto, and Jack Harlow, her fashion sense, her Christmas single, and more!
You’re from Texas but raised in Atlanta, how was that growing up?
I was born in Texas, my dad was in the military. We moved to Atlanta, Georgia when I was young. The South plays a big role in my music. That’s why I have songs like “Gumbo” and “Good Music.” All of my family’s from the South. A lot of them are from New Orleans, some live in Texas, some live in Atlanta. That plays a huge influence on the type of music I like to create. Down here, the culture likes dance, hip-hop, bounce. I try to incorporate that into my R&B. It plays a huge role in the lingo, the way I carry myself. Being from the South is definitely different than being from up North. The lingo, the way we dress, the way we carry ourselves is very country.
At 9, you told your family you wanted to be a singer. What was Ayanis like then?
When I was younger, I was the kid that really couldn’t sit down. My mom had this VHS camera she’d carry around and record me and my siblings. She noticed every time she put the camera on me, I’d want to sing or dance. I’d say “look at me! I’m gonna perform, I’m gonna give you guys a show.” It’s very natural for me. I told my parents I wanted to sing and be an artist, they said “oh that’s cute. That’s nice.” When I got older at 14 and started really pursuing it, they’re like, “oh, you’re serious! You’re forreal.” Uh, yeah! Been wanting to do it. It was a matter of time before I really pursued and went for it full steam.
Congrats on the release of YANI, you say you put your all into this. What was the creative process like?
With a project, you really have to take your time. You can’t rush it. For me, I wanted to outdo my first project. My first EP is called DIRECTION, it’s my baby. My first one, me trying to figure out who I am as an artist. With YANI, I really defined my sound. I defined my look, where I’m from. People can get a sense of who I am and connect with me. That’s why I packed so much personality into certain songs like “Flex” or “Drip.”
YANI’s the alter ego—the most confident, most fun, bold, sexy. If you watch my last two videos “Ecstacy” and “Lil Boi (Big Talk) [Remix]” (and the original), I wanted to show more fashion too. A part of me expressing myself in my music is looks. Visually, I stepped it up. It shows the overall growth and elevation from me going from Ayanis DIRECTION to YANI. An elevation of me as a human and as a woman.
“One Night” with Wiz Khalifa is at 3.3 million views on Youtube, did you foresee it blowing up like this?
Honestly, I knew this song was great. I knew people would gravitate towards it because the melodies are so catchy, the sample’s super dope, the production’s amazing. Shout out to J. White. I knew it’s a big song and adding Wiz would elevate it even more, bring more attention to the record. How he even got on the record, shout out to Wiz Khalifa, I literally asked him and he sent it back. [laughs] I really appreciate him for that. I had a feeling the record was going to do well, the visual brought it to life even more. You never know when you put out a song, but I had a great feeling about it from the beginning.
How did you know Wiz?
I met him at Atlantic Records’ annual Christmas party. We exchanged information. I said “I’d love to work with you one day,” he gave me his info. I texted him checking in: “Hey, how are you? I have this song that’s perfect, I”d love for you to get on it.” He said, “Alright, send it to me.” He came to Atlanta to perform on tour, I saw him again. We hung out before we shot the video. Whenever he’d come in town, I’d go to the concert and show support. Wiz is really cool.
Talk about getting Mulatto on “Drip.”
“Drip” was the last record added to the project, between that and “Flex.” The production was so big! I’m talking all this shit about how fly I am, manifesting me having all of this glorious jewelry and this lifestyle. Who else is so fly, can talk some shit and it be amazing? I had to get Mulatto on the record. She’s killing it right now. She’s been in the game for a while, I thought it’s the perfect song for her to hop on. My A&R at the label set it up. Mulatto’s from Atlanta so that’s dope: 2 females from Atlanta coming together to do a record.
How was it getting Jack Harlow on board for “Lil Boi” remix?
Jack Harlow and I have the same engineer, his name’s Nicky. We record in the same studio. I’ve seen him before, we met before. It was a matter of timing. When I did “Lil Boi (Big Talk),” I always had the idea that a remix with a male’s perspective would be super dope. “You know what, Jack Harlow would be perfect!” The remix is a skating rink vibe, the tempo’s faster than the original. Jack Harlow would kill this beat. When we sent it to him, he said himself “this is a beat I’d get on.” It was perfect, just timing.
Best memory from the video shoot?
Such a fun night. That’s my first overnight shoot from 7pm to 7am. My favorite memory, the car scene with me and him was so dope. They had a crane shot where I’m laying on the car. That whole video shoot was fun. It was cold, we all pushed through. The director Azzie was really fun to work with, he has high energy. The whole time, he’s hyping me up. “Let’s go!” I had a really good time. If you watch the behind-the-scenes on my Youtube, Jack went through the drive thru at a diner. He served somebody in the drive thru and definitely made somebody’s night. Pretty cool.
How is it having the Thugger cosign?
Thug’s my friend. I’ve known him for some years now. I’m on one of his earlier songs from his mixtape days called “Guarantee”. London on da Track produced it. Shout out to Thug, he’s amazing. One of my favorite rappers, he’s always been supportive. He’s always believed in me. It’s great, him showing that love. It was nice he put it on his Insta Story with a Swipe Up, that meant a lot to me.
3 things you need in the studio?
I need tea and honey, that goes together. My phone because I’m usually looking at the lyrics on it. And I need my engineer with the lights off in the booth. That way I can make the craziest faces and jump up and down or do whatever I want to do.
What would you be doing if you weren’t doing music?
This is really all I know. [laughs] Fashion is something else I love, so maybe something in that realm, and/or acting, I’d like to get into that one day.
How would you describe your fashion sense?
My fashion sense is classic. With this project and this era, I want it to be more feminine. Stuff more fitting to my body. I like furs, I like patterns. I like thigh high boots. My fashion style is effortlessly fly. Sometimes it can be dramatic, it depends how I feel that day. [laughs] It’s classic, femine, and fly.
What do you want fans to get from your story?
I want to inspire people to go for their dreams. It’s a journey. No matter what you want to do, you have to work hard for it. You have to believe in yourself, that’s what I want to leave with people. Believe in whatever it is, go for your wildest dreams. Especially women and girls, we have to work really hard. Nothing’s too hard, nothing’s out of reach. I want my fans to be inspired. If I can do it, they can do it too.
Anything you want to let us know?
I have a Christmas song called “Santa Baby.” It’s on Atlantic’s Still Home for The Holidays Album (their first R&B Christmas album). The record’s really dope, everyone should check it out. It’s a bop, you’ll play it over and over. It’s very catchy, very fun. The production is something you would play in your car if it wasn’t a Christmas song. But it is, so it’s festive and fun at the same time.