Austin Kassabian, or AK to his 1.5 million YouTube subscribers, needs no introduction – the numbers speak for themselves. Since his covers of Desiigner’s “Panda” and Lil Pump’s “Gucci Gang” garnered a collective 46 million views, the singer-songwriter has maintained momentum, spitting expressive bars and melodic vocals over his self-produced beats in a succession of original singles.
At just 20 years old, his lyrics talk through coming-of-age emotions with knowing confidence – ‘I always told her I wasn’t taking the college route/ and she was scared never knowing what I would do’. Now with a nationwide tour under his belt, the drop of the visuals of his latest single “Critics”, and his highly-anticipated EP “On Me” out now, it’s clear this millennial was right to trust his own process.
We caught up with the hip-hop newcomer on his beginnings on YouTube, song-writing on the toilet and his fearless plans for the future.
Hey AK! How did you start your journey into music?
My best friend Mike Ugarte encouraged me to put my music onto a platform other than SoundCloud. So, I decided to create a YouTube Channel. Mike suggested my Panda (REMIX) would be the best song to start my channel with. The rest is history.
At what point did you realise this could become a career?
I’ve always known it could be my career, if I matched my effort with how badly I wanted it. The moment I realised music was actually something I wanted to keep moving forward with, I was a senior in high school.
Growing up, who were the artists informing your style?
Hopsin, Akon, T-Pain, Lil Wayne, J Cole.
Where are you when you’re writing your lyrics?
Either the studio, my bed, couch, toilet or literally anywhere an idea comes to me. But I do my best when I’m in my bed or the studio.
What was the reaction like to your first fully self-produced single “Ignorance Is Bliss”?
It was dope to see how people reacted to the first song. I am always the man behind the mic, but being behind the computer also was incredible. I had a lot of fun making that song and realising that people clearly resonate with it. It was really cool.
You just finished your nationwide tour, how did it feel performing your music on stage?
Performing is without a doubt one of my favourite things about my career.
What’s your favourite song or album to listen to before a show?
I usually listen to my set or some of the songs to my set before I go on, just to catch a vibe. Usually, if I’m not listening to my own songs then I will definitely put on something on the hype side of the spectrum. Occasionally, I’ll throw on some mellow shit to calm my nerves though.
Your recent release “Now I’m Forever” hit #1 on the US iTunes Hip Hop charts. What inspired this song?
This is a song I wrote on the couch in my living room. The night I wrote it, my homie Goldmvn sent me a beat pack and this was the very last beat in it. After I heard the beat, this song basically wrote itself. I guess at the time I was really going through it internally and I hadn’t figured out how to put it into words. But when I heard this beat, it was like the lyrics just flew out of me, like it was waiting for that opportunity to set itself free.
Your new EP is set to drop in May – what can we expect to hear?
Some dope music that I hope a lot of people will enjoy.
What goals do you have for the rest of the year?
Make even better music than I have already, go on tour again and potentially release another project. I want to go even bigger and even better.