How Queens Rapper Anik Khan Lives Between Two Cultures Through Hip-Hop Article

Home is where the heart is, where the world is introduced and identity is molded. Who we grow to become is largely influenced by what happens in the place where we eat, sleep and love. The same can be said for what happens once the front door is open and the outside world begins to play a role in shaping our minds, tastes, and further crafting our character. There’s a duality to the human experience, the two sides life that impact every single one us.

Born in Dhaka, Bangladesh but raised in Astoria, Queens, Anik Khan has been on Earth for 27 years, straddling the line between two worlds, two cultures, and searching for solace in the middle.

“Inside the house, there was a lot Bengali music but outside there would be Nas, 50, Jay and X. All I did was engulf myself in hip-hop because I loved it so much—that was my two worlds,” Anik explained over the phone, breaking down why his music is soaked in elements that expand beyond hip-hop’s traditional template. There’s a worldliness to his production, sonically exploring corners the map that aren’t ordinarily represented in rap.

Being Bengali descent didn’t always come with a sense pride, though. For years, Anik ran away from paying homage to his South Asian heritage and the culture his people. It wasn’t until he returned to Bangladesh at 21 that he discovered the beauty the homeland he left at the age four. It was an awakening, an acceptance, and the beginning Anik Khan becoming the artist he is today.

Three years after the glass shattered, Anik Khan released Kites, the newly-released EP he considers the true beginning his artistic journey. This isn’t his first release, a few smaller projects can be found in his back catalog, but Kites is the story he has been hoping to articulate through his music since falling in love with the microphone. It's the story a man in his late 20s from Queens, New York who is going through the ups and downs being an immigrant, being Bengali, being from lower income housing, being in all these different cultures and fusing everything together.

He sees Kites as the album that encompasses the diversity Queens, how so many different people from various parts the world can gather in one place. “I tell people all the time if you’re too broke to travel the world come to Queens, it’s the closest you’ll get," he said. "I wanted to show people what that is. The soundtrack to New York that most people don’t talk about, the unheard voices New York City. I love Brownsville, I love Queensbridge, I love Harlem, I love Southside Jamaica. I came from those places too. But that’s a small part New York. New York is filled with immigrants and I wanted to voice that side the city.”

Think Kites as a train ride, an album that takes you from Queens Plaza to Jamaica Ave if you were traveling locally. The EP is split into three different intervals represented by three the most beloved people in Anik's life: His sister, who begins the project with a poem on “Cleopatra,” his longtime friend Brent who appears on “Brent’s Interlude” and has been a huge influence on Anik, and finally, Anik’s father, who recites a poem at the end “Columbus."

10 songs take listeners through Astoria, LeFrak City and Jamaica Ave―all places that are significant to Anik’s path as an artist and a man. Blending the New York backdrop with West African, Bengali, Brazilian, West Indian and Indian influences, Anik creates a full-circle experience an immigrant son embracing his various sides, all which have directly influenced his growth.

Kites took two weeks to create but post-production took over six months. Anik is an artist who is observant every little detail. He creates like a producer and is a credited as a co-producer for all 10 songs. Each record is layered with intricacies, every transition is one that was planned, plotted, and a dare to experiment rather than play safely. It’s incredible that a song recorded over Facebook messenger would make the final cut, but improvising for the sake his vision is what makes the little details noteworthy.

An early favorite is the title track, a metaphor for his relationship with music and the people in his life. The tug--war he refers to is the internal struggle that comes with being an artist, a desire to let go this dream he had spent years holding onto. “I was on the brink quitting. I didn’t want to do this shit anymore. I’m 28, I’m not going to be out here chasing SoundCloud views. I’m never going back to the one-bedroom apartment with them rats and roaches. I want more for my mother and father who gave me everything, I want more for my family,” he candidly confessed.

When you have a mortgage to pay, a family to support, and the reality what it cost to make it in music, the thought  calling it quits becomes more and more enthralling. Five years ago, Anik was more focused on being the biggest kite in the sky—accomplishing all the big dreams being a huge star in music―but time has allowed him to grow and mature. Anik now sees what’s important is the people steering the kite down below; the people watching from the ground, the people who will catch him if he falls, and pick him back up when it’s time to soar again.

Similarily, “Tides” is another metaphorical record that sees the music industry in the same light as high and low tides:  

Sonically, most the album is light—warm like May weather—and doesn’t dive too deep. It’s a fun, melodic album that will inspire days dancing and nights singing. Anik wanted to make this a pleasant listening experience, but he also understands the gravity our current state in America. The release “Columbus” wasn’t a scheduled single, but rather a result Donald Trump and his toxic views on immigration. Anik was sitting on “Columbus” for over a year before the song came to light. A week before the song was released, Anik was visiting St. Thomas for his birthday―celebrating another year life in a beautiful paradise. The very next week Trump signed Executive Order 13769, famously criticized for being a ban against Muslims due to the impact it had on travelers and visa holders. If his trip happened a week later, Anik’s circumstances could have been far more strenuous. Understanding the value his voice, he wanted to release the dark and cold “Columbus” as an anthem for the people who built this country, and not the man who claimed to have discovered it.

Speaking with Anik, I was reminded about the importance representation. The beauty having a person that resembles your color, who embodies your culture, and reflects who you see in the mirror―a figure who makes you feel comfortable in your skin. Hip-hop has always been a culture that gives a voice to the voiceless, a home for many who feel outcasted and misrepresented. He didn’t have anyone to be that figurehead growing up, but now being such an embracive purveyor culture allows him to be an inspiration to fellow Bengali-Americans, South Asians and fellow immigrants who want to blend their homeland heritage with their American present. This message won't end on Kites, though. Anik plans to continue using music as a melting pot for all his discoveries while learning, studying and sharing.

The Queens rapper is indeed making music inspired by people who are unheard, unseen and misrepresented. Finding himself, finding his voice and embracing the duality his human experience is beautiful to witness and beautiful to hear.

Allow Kites to take you across Queens and into a world vibrant culture.

By Yoh, aka Yohulture, aka @Yoh31

Like this article? DJBooth is committed to quality music journalism, never clickbait. You can join us by downloading our app or following us on Facebook or Twitter.