Childhood wasn’t easy for London-based singer Ashnikko. Growing up in North Carolina, she never felt at ease or in step with her family or the locals. Then, as a teenager, her father took the family to live in the even less familiar setting of Eastern Europe. The nomadic lifestyle took its toll on the young artist, but simultaneously nurtured her creative talents. Today, Ashnikko’s putting them to use in the U.K. metropolis of London⎯the first big city she’s lived in, and a place that finally feels like home.
With songs that focus on sexual liberation, female empowerment and self-discovery, Ashnikko gives a voice to all the women just starting to discover themselves in the modern age while avoiding pitfalls like self-doubt and fuckboys. She’s currently enjoying viral success with “Stupid” (feat. Yung Baby Tate), while her country/R&B track “Working Bitch” marks the singer’s shift of attention from boys to content creation. Another key track on her Hi, It’s Me EP is “Special” (with a joint-packed music video), which she wrote “after a particularly gross experience with a fuckboy. A lot of my songs are just pep talks to myself to regain my power after bad dating experiences.”
With a Danny Brown tour starting this week, Ashnikko will be uprooting herself yet again, this time for more productive and fulfilling reasons. PRØHBTD got in touch with Ashnikko before she got back on the road to chat about her influences, upbringing and having an awful muse.
Your song “Stupid” recently topped Spotify’s U.S. Viral 50 chart, and it became the No. 2 most-used track on TikTok. Can you tell me about the song?
It’s mad how many people have caught onto this song. I wrote it messy drunk on red wine feeling like a goddess incarnate. TikTok fucking loves it. I was definitely not expecting it to pick up like this! I love it, though I don’t love all the e-boys changing the lyrics to “stupid girl think that I need her.” They’ve missed the point entirely.”
After living so nomadically in your formative years, do you ever have any trouble planting roots or feeling “at home” in London?
One hundred percent! That’s a huge part of my life—a massive identity crisis and feeling not at home. It’s taken me a while. I moved to London about five and a half years ago, and I think just in the past two years I’ve started to actually find a community for myself. I’m highly envious of my friends who’ve been here their whole lives and have a really stable emotional support system with their family and friends they went to school with, but I’m finding my people!
Have you found yourself adopting any local mannerisms or anything? Not in a Madonna accent kind of way, but maybe something subtler?
Ah, no, I’m Madonna. My formative years were spent in other countries [than the U.S.], so I’m having a weird identity crisis now that I’ll probably have for the rest of my life, where I am American but don’t ever feel very American.
When you were living in Estonia and Latvia, did you find anything there that was culturally or aesthetically in line with your own sensibilities?
I liked living there, but I didn’t want to be living there. I just made do. That’s where my dad wanted to be. Being from a small town in North Carolina, I’ve always wanted to live in a big city. London finally feels like that city for me. It hurts my soul to go back to North Carolina.
As you’ve grown older, have you found yourself coming to appreciate certain aspects of that more pastoral upbringing that you used to find stifling or oppressive?
Absolutely. There’s one song on my EP called “Working Bitch” that’s inspired by Dolly Parton’s “9 to 5,” which you probably wouldn’t be able to tell. In the music video, it’s like an alien cowgirl line dancing. So, I think some of the southern and country music influences from my childhood are now incorporated into my music.
I do like where I’m from, but I just don’t like a lot of the mentalities from there.
What advice would you give to kids who are currently going through the sort of big fish/small pond struggle you experienced as a child?
It’s really frustrating when you live in a small town that isn’t so accepting of your individuality and your true self. I think the best advice is it gets better just knowing that. Being an adult is cool sometimes. You get to choose your own family and you can buy ice cream from the store every day if you want to. That’s what I would tell people who are feeling helpless or trapped in that situation.
What do your parents think about your success being the result of a sort of rejection of their values?
Well, I guess it’s not really their values, more my extended family’s. They’re the super religious Christian conservatives. My parents love my music. My dad’s an anarchist, and he thinks it’s the best thing in the world. They’re very supportive. At first, I think they were scared that I was so outspoken and so unapologetically me. They thought people would hate me. People do hate me, and that’s ok because I think, at this point, more people like me than hate me.
Much of your music touches on the concept of fuckboys. To some extent, do you consider them your muse?
Oh my God! That’s horrible! I don’t want to think of fuckboys as my muse, but I guess they are. [Groans]
No. They’re not! Powerful women are my muse.
Sometimes I’m a bit of a masochistic lover, since I do occasionally intentionally sabotage myself because I know it’ll make a good song. That’s horrible, but I do it sometimes. Maybe one day I’ll be able to have a healthy relationship, but that day is not now. For now, I’m just going to write songs about it.
What does the title track say about your life right now?
At the end of the day, we gotta be our own best friends. I speak to myself like an older sister all the time, and this song is a prime example of that. “Hi, It’s Me” is basically just me saying, “Bitchhhhh, please get over this loser. I’m begging you to stop being so weak.”
“Working Bitch” is sort of a meditation on focusing on career over men. So, what do you consider the perfect work/life balance when it comes to romance?
Well, I don’t have one. I haven’t been on a date in six months, and that’s fine. I’m just a workaholic and I think it’s sometimes ok to choose your career over romance. It’s less a taboo to be a career woman now than it was in the past. I just love my career. I love it more than love. So, I’d prefer to just do that for the time being.
Back when you were still in the game, what were some of the stealthier, pernicious tactics or practices you noticed fuckboys engaging in as they evolved over the years?
I think they’ve always been horrible. I’ve just gotten smarter. When it comes to dating, I definitely am a lot more aware of what I will and will not tolerate for myself, even more than six months ago. I just won’t tolerate any bullshit.
Which other artists, shows, movies have been inspiring you lately?
Neil Gaiman is my favorite author in the entire world. He wrote Coraline and Sandman and American Gods. Absolute favorite. I’m a crazy fan. If I met him, I would cry and sob. I’d be a mess. The way he writes is so beautiful. He has such a way with words that inspires my lyrics.
What role does cannabis play in your creative process?
I couldn’t smoke weed for a while because it made me crazy, but I recently got back on it with my pals. It plays a small role, but I prefer to use it recreationally than to have it coincide with work. I like to be hyper alert and sober before shows and sessions. I know artists who always smoke before sessions, but I can’t do that. I’m already on the precipice of insanity. I don’t need to be pushed off.
Photo credit: Melanie Lehmann.