“I’m a walking identity crisis,” London-based rapper Ashnikko laughs. “It’s cool though, it helps me write music.” Born in Oak Ridge, North Carolina, surrounded by farmland and “loads of rednecks,” her family uprooted to Estonia, then Latvia, when she was thirteen. Where, unsurprisingly, she stuck out like a sore thumb as the foreign kid with weird speech patterns.
Discovering rap as an outlet for her “pubescent angst,” she achieved an impressive level of success in Riga, but it was tough to pursue in the “very patriarchal” Baltics, where she received weekly death threats for daring to be a woman making music. Since relocating to London aged 18, the sound Ashnikko has cultivated is cartoonish, stomping beats with hi-hats poached from the Dirty South and zeitgeisty sung-rap lines like “I’m a Tesla, fuck a new Ferrari”.
But her songs aren’t all themed around vehicle brands. ‘Invitation’, her next single, is about sexual assault; an effort to normalise the conversation around something that’s happened to “everyone and their mom,” she sighs. “I’ve tried to make it something that girls could scream - scream and dance to. Not to make light of the subject, but give it banger appeal. And fuck the patriarchy, am I right? Might as well put it in my songs.”
Which is exactly what she’s done - 2016 anti-Trump tune, ‘Please Don’t Grab My Pussy’, saw her yelling: "l will bite your dick in half and feed it to my cat!” while ‘Blow’ is her very own pep talk, taking aim at the ex-managers and ex-boyfriends who didn’t think she could get to this level.
It’s one thing to be a woman online, but if you’re vocal about misogyny you’re going to enter a whole new circle of Internet troll hell. “I posted a picture of my long armpit hair a few months ago and had a full-on, heated debate in my comments,” she says. “I didn’t even take part, I just let it unfold with a diabolical smile on my face.”
“I think that’s pretty much the goal of my music; to piss off people and make other people feel empowered,” she concludes. “I would rather people love me or hate me, but nowhere in-between. One of the two, you have to pick!”
WHERE: London (via Latvia, Estonia and North Carolina)
WHAT: Cosmically charged rap with a sting in its tail
GET 3 SONGS: ‘Blow’, ‘Bubblegum (ft. Avelino)’, ‘Sass Pancakes’
FACT: She was suspended from school aged 11 for "writing a very explicit story about my teacher."
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Words: Felicity Martin
Photography: Sophie Mayanne
Fashion: Josh Tuckley
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