AF the Naysayer Opens Up At BUKU Music + Art Project
Amahl Abdul-Khaliq AKA AF the Naysayer is a versatile and talented artist with many facets. His music is diverse, eclectic, and experimental. We caught up with him after his set at BUKU Music + Art Project. He played the VIP stage, where the energy was high, but his sound demanded a bigger stage. We had a quick chat about the festival’s security access and who “deserves” to be backstage or in VIP, but Amahl just shrugged things off with an “it’s neither here nor there.” Then, we got into the good stuff. From his musical background to the New Orleans food scene, his outgoing nature and honesty made the conversation smooth as butter.
Sensible Reason: You had an intimate set, but I liked what I heard! You’re pretty popular in New Orleans, would you have rather played a GA stage rather than in VIP?
AF the Naysayer: Personally, yeah, I would have rather played a GA stage because I don’t really like the idea of VIP. I don’t like bougie, just because you have more money you get better access. I believe that should be fair for everyone. I believe everyone should have all access to all places and see all of the artists. There are people who wanted to see me but couldn’t because they couldn’t get into the space. I don’t really care for VIP culture, it’s not my thing.
SR: In a lot of places, it’s more fun to be in GA rather than VIP. Enough about that, let’s talk about you. Your sound is very eclectic, how would you describe yourself as an artist?
AF: My music is an extension of my personality. So all of my experiences that I’ve had in life, things I’ve been influenced by. My environment, I’m originally from Los Angeles, I’m a big fan of West Coast G Funk, but also being here in the South for so long chop and screw music and bounce music has also played a big part of my sound, too. I’m also a big fan of a lot of experimental music so that also gets in there. So it’s a weird concoction of different things. All of the places I’ve been and yeah that’s really it.
SR: Tell me a little bit about your background. Have you always been into music? You said you came from LA and now you’re in New Orleans. A lot of artists tend to head back to LA for a music career.
AF: I actually moved with my family. I went to high school in Louisianna, and I’ve been here for a hot minute. I feel like I’m tied to those places. How I got into music…I never knew how to go about how to make it. When I was growing up there wasn’t YouTube, so I never really knew. I think at that time I had to know somewhere to get it. I played trumpet in middle school, and when I came to school here, they wanted me to play in the marching band and I was like, “I’m not with that, I just want to play jazz. I want to be like Miles Davis, I don’t want to march in the band.”
SR: So that took you away from wanting to continue playing trumpet?
AF: Definitely took me away because out here they force you to play in the marching band.
SR: As opposed to a jazz band.
AF: Yeah, I didn’t have that option. But later on in college, I got into beat-making. I had to quit the football team, so I had a lot more time on my hands.
SR: Did you ever go back to playing trumpet?
AF: The spaces I live in, it would be really hard to practice, but I transfer all of that to the piano or keyboard, so I’m very big on playing the keys.
SR: Great! So you just came out with a new EP.
AF: Yeah, it’s called PARTS: Act 1
SR: Describe the themes of each act, because it’s coming out in several parts, correct?
AF: Right, well a lot of that is marketing. I could put out the whole album, but I decided to put it out in 3 different acts. But the overall sound of the whole project is similar. It’s literally called PARTS because I’m piecing together all these songs I made from 2014 to 2017 to be released as a whole. So, it’s basically a whole compilation.
SR: You have 3 collaborations on your EP so far. Who are these artists, how did you find them? Tell me more.
AF: Yes. Darby Capital is from Texas originally, but he’s based in Baton Rouge. For the instrumental I made, he was perfect. I wanted someone that was aggressive and just ignorant. Raw, ignorant rhymes and raps, but at the same time not taking himself too seriously, he was perfect. I got him and on top of that there’s this rapper named ILL Mo whose based out of Taiwan, I believe Taipei. I also worked with another guy who is based out of Los Angeles and also Taiwan, his name is Formor Sir. So I’ve got 2 Mandarin rappers and an English speaking rapper.
SR: I was about to say, there are some raps in there that definitely are not in English.
AF: Yeah, I collaborate more with people overseas than I do in the states. I’ve collaborated with a Korean rapper and I also have a lot of things cooking up from overseas.
SR: Do you prefer the sound of particular languages in rap? Why do you tend to gear towards those artists?
AF: I think sometimes ego is weird and people don’t want to reach out locally. I think it’s a lot easier for artists from overseas to reach out and maybe vice versa. It’s not like I’m not trying to work with people in the states. I think schedules get in the way and there’s the mysticism of something foreign.
SR: Almost like the grass is greener on the other side, but creatively.
AF: I’m part of a collective and I’ve been trying to work with some good names and things happen. It is what it is.
SR: Who do you want to see this weekend?
AF: I kinda I already did. Toro [Y Moi], Chaz! I wanted to see Chaz play. Festivals aren’t really my scene, too many people, I get anxious. But I did get to see some of Chaz. My friends want me to check out Death Grips, so I’ll definitely check that out. I honestly don’t really know the lineup, I know that sounds bad.
SR: So what are you listening to right now?
AF: A lot of movie soundtracks and video game soundtracks. I’m a music nerd, I’m a fan of scores, I love scores. There are no limits to scores, things can be very dramatic and melancholy. Evoking emotions through instrumental music like that is very much what I’m into. I know that might not be the answer you’re looking for but that’s the truth.
The truth is exactly what we wanted to hear. After getting a few awesome recommendations for food, we got some intel on a local showcase after the festival that turned out to be an eclectic and sexy side of the New Orleans music scene we hadn’t seen before. Amahl’s honesty and genuine nature make him a name to check out as he continues his career.