BRICKS editor Tori West sat down with Ashnikko to discuss heartbreak, falling in love with your career, the importance of being sex-positive and unapologetically speaking your mind through music.
Yet to release an album, chances are, you’ve still already heard of in-your-face energy, alt-rap musician Ashnikko. The blue-haired cyborg, fiercely feminist artist gained viral popularity last year with her song, ‘STUPID’ ft Yung Baby Tate. Since its release, the track has appeared in more than 2 million TikToks, with even Miley Cyrus and her boyfriend Cody Simpson dancing along to it on the social platform.
“That track changed my life,” she tells me at her London-based apartment over a cup of oat-milk tea. She’s not wrong. The accompanying video now sits at 25 million views on YouTube and has 47 million streams on Spotify alone. Late last year, Complex dubbed her as the next “viral star of music’, comparing her to Lil Nas X. Her almost instant success led her to support the likes of Danny Brown on tour and she’s written songs for Brooke Candy and Doja Cat.
Viral popularity of ‘STUPID’ aside, it’s actually her empowering 2019 EP title track, Hi, It’s Me, that she has the most connection to. “Hi, It’s Me was my break up EP, it was a massive part of my post-breakup healing process; it’s me pep talking myself in the mirror.”
The entire body of work started off as her alter-ego, an archetype telling her to get her shit together. The track reiterates the all too familiar, hindering post-breakup story of being frustrated with yourself for loving someone you don’t actually want to be in love with because you’ve already recognised they’re not good for you. “The character I was building for Hi, It’s Me is this big sister, shaking me on the shoulder and was like, bitch please, just shut up about him already and get over it.”
She tells me experiencing such intense heartbreak left her feeling like a “weak” person. However, listening to her empowering, boss bitch, tracks such as ‘Special’ and ‘Working Bitch’, some may be surprised by that statement — but that was the point. Being a firm believer of “faking it until you make it”, Ashnikko decided to write the opposite of how she was feeling to try to encourage herself to be stronger. “I was writing I was over him, but my brain just wasn’t. I was talking about being a working bitch when all I wanted to do was cry and text my ex and tell him how much I hated him but still wanted him back.”
Post-release, the entire body of work is a reminder that you can be in love with yourself and your job, instead of the people who hurt you. “Now, I’m in love with my career so I’m putting all of my energy into that instead to help it grow and blossom.”
Another thing you may have noticed about Ashnikko is that she’s well, quite frankly, hilarious. Her social media is plastered with an abundance of witty posts and clips reminiscent of the golden Vine-era of internet comedy. However, like creating music, she’s often used humour as a coping mechanism for trauma.
Explaining the importance of why we need to stop laughing about our negative experiences, she explains, “If you make light of your problems all the time you don’t address how serious they’ve affected you. It’s like you’re almost saying to yourself it’s not important, when in fact it’s your whole life and it is important to you. I think it’s really helped me to stop laughing about my trauma and think, oh wait, this thing that’s happened is actually a really big thing. It has affected a lot of aspects of my life, so stop fucking making a joke about yourself you stupid bitch, it’s real.”
As well as being frank and open about her experiences, Ashnikko is unapologetically sex-postive, not only through her lyrics but throughout her entire output. At her London Christmas show, she gave out free sex toys to the audience whilst on stage. Last summer, she opened up about her sex life on Venus Libido’s IGTV sex show, Private Parts, there’s a YouTube video of her discussing ‘5 Songs to Masturbate to’ and one of her earliest singles was ‘Invitation’, a musical lesson on consent.
I think it’s really helped me to stop laughing about my trauma and think, oh wait, this thing that’s happened is actually a really big thing. It has affected a lot of aspects of my life, so stop fucking making a joke about yourself you stupid bitch, it’s real.
“Sex and sex-positivity is something I really focus on, simply because there are so many people who aren’t taught to find or prioritise their own pleasure. The only people who get taught that are the cis-het men. Do you know how many people that don’t know where their clitoris is? Or don’t even know where and how to pleasure themselves? It’s ridiculous how many people feel the need to fake an orgasm.”
While interviewing Ashnikko, with her approachable demeanor, hate for small talk and blunt over-sharing, it’s almost difficult to not feel like she’s your best friend after 5 minutes, but she admits she’s found making long-term friendships difficult due to work and moving around so much. “I’m a workaholic, so I have a hard time making friends sometimes because I’m always working. I have found a community here [in London], but it is difficult. I find I have a hard time juggling friendships. I’m lucky to live with my best friends otherwise I literally would never see them.”
Busy as she is, she makes sure she has time for her fans. “I love my fans a lot, I know all musicians say that, but I do, they’re just super intelligent and hilarious people.” Back in December, I attended her sold-out free Christmas show, so many people turned up she begged the venue to let her play two shows in one night. “If people go out of their way for me, I should also go out of my way for them.” She explains how she’s also previously used fan art for promo artwork and just before I met her, she announced her own art-show in Berlin where her fans could submit their artwork. “Yeah, it’s cool. I’m curating and performing at an art gallery and exhibiting my favourite fan art.” She even showed me some of her favourites that she keeps around her house.
Curious as to whether her almost instant viral fame was difficult to transition to, or perhaps to whether her relationship with her fans and social media can be overwhelming at times, I began to discuss a video I watched earlier that morning of a fan who ate a photo of her face every day for breakfast, which would probably freak the majority of people out if it happened to them. “I think the culture I’ve built around my songs has bred a lot of strange things but I find it very exciting and flattering. So the world in which I’ve built around myself is very outlandish so to me it makes sense that someone would eat a picture of me every day instead of something normal like getting my autograph tattooed or something.”
Possessing an extremely positive relationship with her fans, it’s more internet censorship and the trolls that she finds sometimes overbearing. “Censorship on social media just teaches us it’s all taboo and things we shouldn’t see, that then filters into your subconscious and makes you feel shame on your own body these platforms are governing our bodies instead of protecting them, we feel ashamed of our bodies. It’s awful and it’s just ridiculous.”
In all, social media for her is now a love-hate relationship. “Some days I’m like, what a great tool I’m so good at this, then other days I’m like this is such a hell hole, cesspit garbage pail full of trolls. I get trolled a lot. I know when a video comes out or a big interview online now, I’m not going to look at social media or the comment sections for a few days, but I do still get sucked in sometimes.” So what’s there to love I ask? “It allows me to talk to my fans.”