In the turbulent ocean of today's hip-hop scene, Awesome Ahsem emerges as a tempest, unapologetic and in-your-face. Hailing from the heartland of Dayton, Ohio, this multimedia artist brings a refreshing blend of raw lyricism and a digital aesthetic that's as DIY as possible.
Formerly known as GAWN and navigating away from potential gonorrhea references, Awesome Ahsem stands tall, delivering a message that is as much about substance as it is about style. The transition from self-producing to collaborating with Tyren Hines of Near an Open Flame marked a new era for Ahsem, infusing his sound with a sonic landscape that echoes the diversity of the blog era.
His latest single, "HUMANITY IS AN INVASIVE SPECIES," is a bold declaration. The accompanying music video takes us on a journey where Ahsem bears it all, lyrically and visually. With entrancing shots on a sunny beach, he dives into the roots of the human species, unraveling the stark reality of our impact on the environment and the choices we put in front of one another.
The lyrics hit like a punch to the gut, showcasing Ahsem's signature blend of existential contemplation, social commentary, and self-deprecating humor. Lines like "I'm so tired of this nonsense, I swear I would've opted out of it had I been given the option" lay bare his unfiltered perspective on life. The regrettable text to his mother echoes a sentiment many might have felt but rarely voiced.
Here, Awesome Ahsem doesn't pull punches when addressing sensitive topics. He navigates through the abortion debate, expressing a pro-choice and anti-life stance with a biting edge. The lyrics, sharp and provocative, challenge societal norms with lines like "I'm sorry, I don't mean to be, so bleak, I prob'ly need to see, a shrink so I can keep, doing my, bidding but why, fucking bother, when it's all, a blink?"
In an industry saturated with clichés and conformity, Awesome Ahsem stands out as a bold voice, unafraid to delve into the uncomfortable, the unconventional, and the unfiltered. His unapologetic demeanor challenges listeners to question the status quo, leaving an indelible mark on the sonic landscape of modern hip-hop.
Congratulations on the release of your latest single. With your work blending intricate lyricism with a diverse sonic landscape, how do you create a cohesive narrative in a song like "HUMANITY IS AN INVASIVE SPECIES"? Thank you! It’s just kind of the way my brain works. I’m a big-picture person. I take a holistic approach to making music. I start with the whole project. Then I figure out the specifics. Whenever I just sit down like, “Okay, I’m gonna write something!”, usually it’s trash. I like to have some kind of structure or idea of what I’m doing, a point I’m trying to get across. The instrumentals and lyrics that help me accomplish that follow from there. For example, I came up with the title for this project, MISANTHROPIC PHILANTHROPIST, back in 2019, before I even had any music out. Sometimes I feel mad at the world. I have a love-hate relationship with humanity, as most of you probably do. We can really suck sometimes. But we can also really rock. Hence the oxymoronic title. Quick etymology lesson: if you don’t know, the word “misanthropic” comes from mīsos- which, yes, is a Japanese soup that became the subject of a viral TikTok sound- but it’s also Greek for hatred (e.g., misogyny, the hatred of women).
The second root word, ǎnthropos, is Greek for human (e.g,: anthropology, the study of humanity). The word “philanthropist” comes from phīlos, Greek for love (e.g.: philosophy, the love of wisdom), and also ǎnthropos. Ergo, MISANTHROPIC PHILANTHROPIST: someone who hates humanity but also loves it deep down and does their best to improve it. On this album, I’m trying to find the love. This search informs both the structure of the tracks and the sequencing between them. I’d like to make it clear that this isn’t the correct way to make music. There’s no such thing. Art is subjective. There’s nothing wrong with freestyling your lyrics, making music off of the vibes, or being more single-driven. I’m just saying that’s not really me. Which is okay. Everyone’s different. That’s exactly what makes this fun. This song touches on heavy themes like existential contemplation and societal critique. Can you share more about the inspiration behind the lyrics and the overarching message you intended to convey? So the lyric about me texting my parents. I wished they had used protection so I’d never been conceived is a true story. I really did say that. You could chalk it up to teenage angst, but this was actually two weeks after my twentieth birthday, so I guess I can’t use that as an excuse. I’ll admit it was a mean thing to say. Especially after all they’ve done for me. Life is a privilege, and for me to not appreciate it as such is ungrateful. It is biting the hand that feeds. But I also think it’s kind of a valid response. I take issue with the notion that this song (or the album it’s on) was made purely for the sake of shock value. While edgy in its presentation, it’s also an expression of a sentiment I’ve genuinely held. In fact, “HUMANITY IS AN INVASIVE SPECIES” isn’t really a diss against my parents. If anything, it’s a diss against myself and life itself. Life involves suffering for everyone, forever. The fact that none of us consented to it, yet we’re all forced to endure it anyway, is fundamentally unfair. If life is truly a gift, why didn’t it come with a gift receipt? We didn’t sign up for this. We have no control over the circumstances we were born into or much of what follows. I think that’s an understandable thing to be angry about. I know I’m far from the only one who has felt this anger. So with this song, I just wanted to 1) let that anger out, and 2) let anyone else feeling it know they’re not alone. While life has suffering, that does not mean life is suffering. We can get through it together. The music video for your single is visually captivating, especially in its portrayal of environmental issues. How does the imagery in the video complement the song's theme, and what impact do you hope it will have on your audience? Like I said, I’m a big-picture person and an album artist. With every project, I try to make a statement, complete with its own iconography and aesthetic. I love it when artists do that. (Think The Weeknd’s After Hours or Childish Gambino’s Because the Internet.) That’s something I incorporate into my own work. The first image that came to mind for MISANTHROPIC PHILANTHROPIST was an island. After all, an island is a symbol of isolation. It is by definition, solitary, cut off from the rest of the world. I’m an island boy. So, I wanted the visuals to reflect that. That’s why on the album art, I’m on an island, just me and my tortoise Slow and Steady (the official AwesomeAhsem mascot). That’s why on the single art, he’s looking out from the island at the destruction on the mainland. The music video is basically an illustration adapted into film. (I had a whole short film for the album planned, but I had to scrap much of it due to budget issues.) Climate change is one of the hottest (pun intended) debates of our time. Is it real? Is it a hoax invented by the Chinese? Are we causing it? Is there anything we can do to stop it? Or is it already too late? Much like Sway, “I ain’t got the answers”. I’m not an environmental scientist or activist. So, without getting too Greta Thunberg on you, I’ll say this. While I do happen to think climate change is real and caused by human activity, it doesn’t have to be our legacy. I think in “HUMANITY IS AN INVASIVE SPECIES”, I’m kind of hiding behind the environment to justify my own misanthropy. Given everything going on, it’s easy to be cynical. Hey, I’m cynical too. But ultimately, I acknowledge we shouldn’t just resign to that cynicism. We should fight against it, to improve our situation, even when it’s tough, even though it’s not guaranteed to work, even if it feels like there’s no point. This is also true in my personal life, as I’m sure it is in yours as well. Sometimes I feel like trash. Sometimes I feel like I am trash. In “HUMANITY” I even said I wish I’d been tossed in the garbage and that I stink. When you feel that way, it starts to bleed over into your outlook on life and the world at large. Why even bother fixing it up? It’s all trash, anyway. That’s the doomer mindset. But I’m not really trash. I can pick up trash, both literal and figurative. While I may be addicted to trashing myself, at least I’m trying to get clean. Let’s get the Earth clean too. Like that song they had us sing in kindergarten: “clean up, clean up, everybody do your share!” And I will do my share. But first, let me mope for ninety-four measly seconds. I need it. Your transition from GAWN to AwesomeAhsem involved both a rebranding and a change in music production responsibilities. How has this evolution influenced your artistic approach, and what led to the decision to have Tyren Hines take over production? So it was April 2022. I had just released my second LP, to no reception. I was more or less playing to an empty house. I had reached an impasse creatively. While I do what I do for myself, I also wasn’t sure I wanted to keep doing it if this was the fate I could expect, if no one would ever take notice. Like many, during the pandemic, I sank into isolation. “Especially in these trying times.” as all the companies would say when trying to sell you something. I didn’t really know anyone. I wasn’t part of the music scene. So, my work as GAWN was mostly self-produced. And while it was okay, in hindsight, there were also things I could have done better. Namely, the technical aspect. I learned how to produce through trial and error (and YouTube University), which was frustrating at times. DAWs can be intimidating at first. There are so many buttons to push and knobs to turn, and levers to pull, it’s like a spaceship: a spaceship I don’t want to crash. And while now I know my way around one (I use Logic), I still wouldn’t say it’s my area of expertise. I figured maybe that’s what was holding me back. I figured maybe I should enlist someone more well-versed in that, so I could place more of my focus on the writing. Coincidentally, at the time, I was a host at a restaurant. One of my coworkers, who is a singer (shout-out Sayaka, she’s on the album too. Check out her stuff!), put me in touch with Tyren Hines of Near an Open Flame, whom she went to music school with. And as they say, the rest is history. Funny enough, this ties into the theme of MISANTHROPIC PHILANTHROPIST. That’s why Tyren is on the album cover, sailing in a lifeboat to the island I’m stranded on. That’s why the guest vocalists (including Sayaka) are on the album cover, looking out from the shore into the ocean: because they all helped me execute my vision, and in turn rescued me from my self-imposed exile. I suggest collaboration to any creative reading this. While it can be tough, while it’s not always the move- you have your idea, it’s important to you, you don’t want it diluted or corrupted, I get it- others may actually enhance it. They may know things you don’t. They can bring a level of expertise to your work that you simply may not have. That’s why right now on Threads everyone’s asking the algorithm to put them in touch with fellow creatives. As I progress in my artistic journey and career, I hope to expand my team so they can help me deliver a better product to my audience. (By the way, hit me up y’all.) In an era defined by digital DIY sensibilities, you're recognized for being a self-sufficient artist. How does this independence contribute to your distinct aesthetic and sound, and what challenges or advantages do you find in maintaining autonomy in today's music landscape? Oh my gosh, it’s so hard (pause). I struggle to reconcile my artistry with the industry. By extension, I struggle to reconcile with the world, which is what this album is about.