10Trax: Anik Khan takeover

This week Queens newcomer Anik Khan takes over 10Trax and breaks down the influences behind his genre-warping sound.

2 years agoText by

Anik Khan

Anik Khan is a Queens MC with a difference. Born in Bangladesh but raised in the Big Apple, Khan absorbed the sounds of New York’s streets through the lens of the immigrant experience, studying hip-hop throughout his teens before creating his unique take on his borough’s sound. Now he’s ready to take the scene for himself, hoping to represent rap’s often under-represented South Asian fan base. His latest single ‘Cleopatra’ is co-produced by Melo-X, the man behind Beyonce’s ‘Sorry’ so we’d say he’s well on the way to reaching the level of his hometown idols. In his playlist takeover, he breaks down the influences behind his genre-warping sound.

Bob Marley – ‘Is This Love’

Anik Khan: “Bob Marley was a big influence on me because he wrote what he felt. You can experience that in every song of his. Also, his documentary changed my life. He was super proud to be who he was: Jamaican, Rastafarian, and making reggae music. He was a pioneer. That commitment to his identity convinced me to get rid of an artist name and to release music as Anik Khan.”

Coldplay – ‘Yellow’

Anik Khan: “Chris Martin is one of my favourite songwriters ever. My friend introduced me to Coldplay’s music in high school and made me read the lyrics of ‘Viva La Vida’; then I went back and listened to more. I heard ‘Yellow’, and it made me feel a certain way and I can’t stop listening to it. It started teaching me how to write in a more metaphorical sense. He [Chris Martin] taught me how to listen to a song and hear the subtle layers underneath the direct meaning, based on your own perspective.”

LRB – ‘Shei Tumi’

Anik Khan: “This was a song we played around the house growing up; it’s the song I cleaned to the most. In the 90’s, Bangladesh went through a big alternative rock phase. Maybe that’s why I like Coldplay so much. Even in that song, there’s still hints of Bangladeshi melodies but also a heavy alternative rock influence.”

Bill Withers – ‘Can We Pretend’

Anik Khan: “That might be my favorite song ever. The first four bars are special, because if you take any one word out, the line no longer works. It’s a perfect line. I’ve always strived to write at that level. Bill Withers just wrote what he wrote and he liked what he wrote and never tried to be anything more than that.”

Lata Mangeshkar & Kumar Sanu – ‘Tujhe Dekha To Yeh Jaana Sanam’

Anik Khan: “Bollywood movies are pretty popular in Bangladeshi culture, and Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge was a movie we watched very often (“Tujhe Dekho To” is on that soundtrack). My older sister put me onto this song.”

Gyptian – ‘You Never Know’

Anik Khan: “This song is the song that’s going to be played at my wedding. It sounds like love and feels like love.”

Amy Winehouse – ‘You Sent Me Flying/Cherry’

Anik Khan: “Amy Winehouse grew up on jazz and made it her own. This song has hip-hop elements in the drums, while her voice has different twangs of jazz. She defied the rules. And that’s why she’s important to me because that’s how I approach my music: making music that just feels right, regardless of genre. I went to an open mic; I saw a girl sing a cover to “Your Love is Blind,” and I was like ‘Whose song was this.’ That made me go to Frank, and I put it in my car, and never took it out of my CD player for the next three months. If I’m just by myself, in the car, and I don’t want to listen to what’s out right now, she’s one of my first go-tos.”

50 Cent – ’21 Questions’

Anik Khan: “It’s the best hip-hop love song of all time. Or it’s at least up there for me. That song is the epitome of the NYC I grew up in. My hairs stand up every single time I hear him say “New York City” in the intro. Half the reason why I have melodies in my music is because of 50’s melodies.”

Ella Fitzgerald – ‘Cry Me A River’

Anik Khan: “This was my introduction into real jazz, and made me appreciate every aspect, not just the vocals. It opened doors to Frank Sinatra, Duke Ellington, and that entire genre. That’s a big part of who I am now as an artist.”

Nas – ‘The World Is Yours’

Anik Khan: “That might be my favorite hip-hop song of all time. I know word-for-word every verse. When he says “writing in my book rhymes all the words past the margin,” it is one of the most important lines for any artist, because he’s saying that creating is limitless. Coming from Queens, Nas gave me hope that I had the same opportunity to do what he did.”

Stevie Wonder – ‘Don’t You Worry ‘Bout A Thing’

Anik Khan: “Even in Bangladesh, people knew who Stevie Wonder was. I remember my sister singing Stevie Wonder songs when I was 4. The reason why I picked this song is that it defines the innovation Stevie was known for. It has all these Latin influences in it, and it’s mixed with forms of salsa with him singing R&B. He was always about taking things one step further, something I learned to appreciate when I was in high school. He did it so cleanly, without people second guessing his intention.”

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