Uhm…raise your hand if you’ve devoured Felukah, fawned over Wegz and completely succumbed to the lyrical genius of Marwan Moussa and Marwan Pablo? Well uhm, if any of those names strike your fancy, this next soft rock/pop rock artist will surely deliver. Abdelrahman Yasser (aka AIKK) is a 22 year old hidden gem. Born in Alexandria, partially raised in Cairo and now residing in Florida, the man is a cultural enigma. As you will soon learn, there’s nothing this dude loves more than surrendering to art in all its forms whilst laying on a beach somewhere in the South of France. I’ve had the best time picking his brain and in all honesty he did not hold back. We talked all things mental health, music, philosophy and Love. I’ll let the living legend speak for himself now…eekkkk! Fun fact: his music video for ‘The View From Another Room’ is out if you’re looking for fun tings to binge-watch.
Alrighty, what first got you into music? I want to know the whole story, take me back as far as your memory takes you.
“I don’t really remember a time before it. No one in my family enjoys music, let alone musically inclined. So I can only assume it’s a “calling”. I bought my first guitar at around 7 years old and started jamming with much older friends from about the age of 12. I could always find what I wanted to say but lacked to express in it you know? Made me feel dignified in some sorts if that makes sense. To be absolutely frank, I love art in all its mediums. I have this pompous idea of becoming a modern renaissance man. I act, write and paint but music was the only thing I could put out to the public without the need of any other interference. Lone man island kinda thing. I remember when putting out the album, I didn’t care much about the audience’s reaction towards the music as much as I wanted them to resonate with the words. I pride myself on being a writer more than anything else.”
How would you describe your music to those unfamiliar with it?
“That was one of the difficulties I had when working on my first EP and then this last album. I had always lamented not having a specific sound. You can tell a Lana Del Rey tune just from the intro, or a Cigarettes After Sex record just from ambience it exudes, but I never found mine. It was a concoction of everything I find inspiring enough for me to steal. So I thought I’d use it to my advantage and be genre-less. You want sad existential melodies, I got you, feeling more poppy on your way to the beach, I think I got you. So I can’t eloquently describe my music, but I can introduce my latest album on its own as it may be perhaps cathartic to someone going through an existential episode or post heartbreak blues. I promise happy tunes next time tho hahaha.”
What do you find yourself most inclined to write about? Do you find that you write about different stages in your life or do you hone in on specific incidents?
“I think I write mostly in phases, I assume I’ll forever be inclined to write about romance and philosophy. ‘From both sides of the Atlantic’ is an ode to a woman I’ve loved. So there was nothing else to write about but her. You have a few hiccups in there such as ‘Zarathustra’s Descent’ or ‘Abdelrahman’ that are about me but for the most part in making of the album, I only had one subject to write about. Love lost. Yet in ‘Midsommar Walks’ I say “no more sad songs” as it stands, I don’t want my next project to have a similar theme. And to be honest, i’m going back to egypt next week, after not visiting for over 6 years and my hope is to come out of that trip with a decent story, with enough substance to fuel my next endeavor. If it turns out to be another love lost record, blame summer, not me.”
Is there anything in particular you’re looking forward to?
“Besides hugging the ones closest to my heart, I finally booked a TV show that films in Egypt this summer, so I was very much looking forward to that. Not to mention Sahel, Gouna, Dahab and all those gems I never got the chance to visit.” To which I then amply responded with “SPILL” (in reference to the TV show which we could not just gloss over) and of course Abdelrahman delivered. “Yeah so it’s this TV show and the plan is to get it produced by netflix. Sort of like euphoria in theme (but much better let me tell you) uni students, sex, drugs, rumors you know the drill. ” uhmmm, I for one am PUMPED. “My potential plan after this summer was to go to the South of France for a year to study philosophy. I love Le Sud.” And of course this would not be a Farida interview if I hadn’t chimed in halfway through an answer with another question. “Apply? Like actual plans and steps? It wouldn’t be AIKK-esque law mafish tasweeha. Imma trust the course of life typa guy recently. I’m going back to egypt with no place to stay. Tip toeing between courageous and lights out stupid as you can see.” admirable nonetheless.
We’ve established how your music is deeply personal does being vulnerable and writing from a personal place come easy or hard to you?
“Pretty easy. I don’t really have any shame in it. I suppose I acquired enough knowledge to be aware that my feelings are universal. You read any decent literature book and you realize that however you felt, be it good or bad has been documented endless times since the dawn of man and it will remain documented until our last sunset. The “artist” doesn’t really introduce anything new, just makes you aware of what you’ve already felt but lacks the courage or outlet to express. The same people who call something cheesy are the ones bawling their eyes out at rom coms (i’m a bitch for a good rom com). So yeah, easy, nothing shameful stripping myself in my work. I mean don’t get me wrong, my legs still shake every time i’m on stage, but we still get it done.” Are you fawning yet?
Who inspires your music/ who do you look up to in the industry? can definitely be many peeps of course.
“I’ve been listening to sort of the same albums for the past 4 years. So mainly Paolo Nutini, Alex Turner’s ‘The Last Shadow Puppets’, Duffy and Julian Casablancas of ‘The Strokes’, and for some divine classical influences, it’s between Leonard Cohen and Charles Aznavour. Which is a complete diversion from my death metal childhood hahaha.”
Walk me through your creative process.
“For this album it was quite simple. I have a loop pedal, so I’d come up with a guitar riff and loop it. Then I’d start humming a melody for the vocals. Once I’ve got that covered, I start coming up with the other instruments, whether I want it groovy, melancholic or everything in between, just gotta catch my ear. I’m big on melodies. Then lyrics come last (although I usually have a few starting points in my notes). Wish I’d tell you a story about me taking acid and seeing fairies but nothing that exciting, all in my bedroom hahaha.” This is WAY more exciting and just organic, we like.
Also, it totally slipped my mind earlier but uhm, favorite philosophers? and why philosophy? spill all the juicy deets on that side of you.
I’m not going to lie to you, the answer to this question was far from what I had expected. The complete candor and openness took me aback in a good way. “Oh I find a consolation like no other. So we’re gonna drift a bit but it will all make sense I promise hahaha. I wrote this album in a very dark time in my life. I remember july 18th 2019 my to do list for 12:00 am was to take my own life. But I figured I had a decent album I’m sitting under, so let’s share it first and then we can debate our demise. So in a way my ego saved my life. And i felt a sigh of solace after the album was out and my last words on the last song on it are “if anyone bothers and asks about me, just tell them abdelrahman ra7 le mawla el 3aly (abdelrahman went back to his maker)” to me it was the best ending, because it was written down and in so i’m immortal. Anyway, through the duration of recording the album I stumbled upon the stoics such as Seneca and the existentialist such as my personal favorite, Camus. And they saved me. Camus specifically cuz despite the absurd, he remained hopeful and romantic. And my only skill is hope. Nihilistic seduction at its best, even though there is nothing, the love of whichever woman I’m gonna end up with will make it bearable. So we decided to give life another shot. I came here without my consent and i’ll be taken out without my consent, so my only form of rebellion against a cruel world is to enjoy it.” I speak on behalf of all of us here, we are truly proud of you.
How has being an arab artist living outside the region and writing predominantly western music impacted your journey, your work and just you as a whole? you found ways of intertwining your heritage but has it been difficult especially when it came to labeling your work?
“Not really as I’ve never had to do that. I’ve never labeled myself as anything. I just take it as a chance to have double the fun by writing in more than one language. From both sides of the Atlantic has lyrics in English, French, Arabic and Spanish. So it plays out in my favor. As well as a more diverse audience. I grew up with a western ideal for the future to be fair. Not because of my parents or anything relating to my environment. At a very early age I would sit and watch the VS show and was convinced, if I’m gonna be a “rockstar” then I’m gonna end up with a supermodel, that was the rule hahaha. My existential episode was only birthed out of a heavy breakup. When someone you share everything with, no longer occupies a part of your life, most of the hurt is bred inside your head, it’s the love lost, what am I gonna do with all the love I have in me now? It’s the imagination betrayed (wait a minute now, what about that future I’ve envisioned, you were in it, I gotta come up with a whole new reality now?). You don’t know your purpose anymore. It was never a product of my dual identity, cause I failed to label myself
So yeah to sum it, no never had troubles with that, cause I never labeled myself as anything.”
Do you sing in the shower? If so, what songs?
“Dude I bust out a fully choreographed line-up. I mean my taste is immaculate as you mentioned, so ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’ from the lion king, or any song from Tarzan, endless possibilities.”
Who is someone you currently want to collaborate with and who is your dream collaboration?
“Okay this is absolute honesty, since I’m going back to Egypt, I’d love to work with Wegz, no joke. Another Alexandrian king hahaha. Dream collab, I never really thought about it, but it would probably be with one of the og’s, Stevie Nicks would be lovely, any big 80’s rock n roll band would do and of course my own influences that i’ve mentioned before.” dude’s got immaculate taste.
If you had the opportunity to open up for a musician/ band who would it be and why?
“The rolling stones. Yeah, keith richards is king”
I kinda wanna know more about your album, particularly the story behind it. You’ve already discussed some bits now it’s time to give me a full thesis to consume.
“Hmmm okay let’s see. I constantly need something to look forward to, always. So, for a year that was the purpose of the album. It documents the past two years of my life which have been absolute agony to say the least. We start light in the album (music wise, not necessarily lyrics) with The View From Another Room which I’m dropping the music video for this week. That song sorta resembles the only two good weeks within my past couple of years. The music is light, seaside vibes. As we dive deeper in the album it gets slightly darker until we reach what I consider my goodbye note “Abdelrahman”. The album was just an audible journal. I wrote about the woman I’ve loved because although the story didn’t last or had what one would consider a happy ending, I immortalized that chapter of my life. It’ll never die now. And I find great solace in that idea. I suppose that’s the idea of closure, I don’t believe in that. It’s erasing a part of your life and with it you kill a part of you. I am completely content with the idea of things ending and with hurt. C’est la vie.”
Have you lived in Florida the majority of your life?
“Just for the past 5-6 years. I was born and raised in Alexandria and I moved to Cairo when I was about 12. Then to America when I was 16. Although I dropped out after my first year and drove to LA where I lived for a year in my beat up dodge for that cliché hollywood dream.”
How was the move? That sounds kind of liberating but also mortifying.
“I was 18 (again, post a declining relationship) with nothing to lose. Best year of my life to be honest. The emancipation of driving across as a stranger across a strange country and then meeting the western frontier was soul fulfilling. It came with its hurdles, showering at the beach and waking up in the early am cuz the car is barbecuing because of the sun, but it was all worth it. Never had a better tan.”
What would you be doing if you weren’t pursuing music?
“I’d still be doing art. So after this tv show, perhaps another album or if another acting gig comes my way. If not, i’d like to have a novel out before I’m 25.”
The Violét duology! What inspired it?
“The first Violét was the first song I ever wrote with the purpose of release. Violét is the middle name of the woman the album is about. So first violet came out in 2017 when the relationship was quite solid actually. One can blame the cynical lyrics for manifesting the reality of my later years lol. And Violet ii, i always had this lyric “Violet im coming home” that never fit in the first song. Wicked games was one of her favorite songs so for Violet ii i used the same chords of wicked games to create it. I just like the idea of lyrics connecting. To the listener it creates this moment of pleasure. That “ahhh i get it” moment.”
Are you lookin for love?
“I desire it. But actively looking for it. No. Ruins the happy accident that it’s all about. Besides my life has this pattern of when I stop looking for something, it finds me.”
What was the jump from EPs to an album like? How different was the experience? What are some things that surprised you n what are some difficulties you’ve experienced?
“Honestly just more expensive to get an album done lol. It was a 2 year break between EP to album. The only other challenge would be, i write all my music, from lyrics to music, all me. I don’t have recording equipment. So when i go and rely on a producer who has a studio, i’m kind of in his zoo. All I can do is record my bits and he mixes it and masters it on his own. Which drove me mad. Cause something as minuscule as an instrument not being loud enough or being too loud would piss me off. But it’s his kingdom, so next time i gotta be in the studio for everything, (The studio i used was about 2 hours away from my place). Eventually it came out as I envisioned for the most part, maybe not the quality I wanted but nonetheless. I was running low on arguing energy and really wanted to release.”
Where have you performed so far? What have been some of ur fav/least fav venues? Did you have any shows planned (pre-pandemic)?
“I haven’t done much live performances yet, only two in America in small cafés. A venue in Egypt did contact me a few years ago to perform, so I’ll reach out when I’m back since they have a massive following. But one of my goals this summer is live gigs.”
How has the pandemic impacted your music production? Has the quarantine amplified or slumped your work?
“It definitely helped, my day job moved online so I was working from home which gave me much more leisure to work on the album. The streets were empty which made the drive easier.
The quarantine came at a good time. I work at a university (I know, ironic, I work at the same institution I dropped out of). But hey man, it pays the bills.”
What are some of your favorite songs you’ve written?
“My arabic one, despite receiving the least attention remains one of my favorites cuz the lyrics just poured out in a couple of minutes and the song was done. So it felt very organic. I love ‘Mon Amour’ as well, a lot.”
If you could change anything about the music industry, what would it be and why?
“Not really, I wouldn’t change much. Perhaps because I’m not very much so infatuated with the business side of it. Money was never a motivator, so producing art was pleasure inducing enough. Of course if i can make money out of it, that would be great, but i kinda already am. Every stream I make something out of it, not enough to maintain life but enough to keep going.
Put it this way, if all my endeavors fail, i’m very content with getting a sailboat and a typewriter and fishing my way through the Mediterranean (italy/spain/france).”
What’s a song ur currently listening to and can’t get enough of?
“For the past two days I’ve been listening to 21 by Wegz. But also the Amelie soundtrack.”
What’s next for you?
“As it stands, the TV show is my next project. But after that, I have no idea where in the world I’m gonna be. As I said, France for a year of self exploration is what I desire. But we’ll see where life takes me.”
Do you have any messages for your fans and people who want to follow a similar path to yours?
“Honestly, to anyone who listened to the album, I’m forever grateful for the feedback I got. You’ve made me a very happy man and till next time, lots of love. To anyone who wishes to go down any path really, if you have an itch under your skin to do something, then you oughta do it, regardless of the outcome. Don’t betray your destiny, we’ll all benefit from it. That’s all.”
There are no better words to end on, as I’ve already mentioned this man speaks for himself so just sit back, give his music a listen, and watch him grow.