True to his name, 23-year-old Abhi The Nomad has wandered around a plethora of places around the world. Born in India but a frequent mover between there, China, and the Fiji Islands, Abhi offers great perspectives from every place he's called home. As of now, he's based in Thousand Oaks, California, after studying Music Production at Cal Lutheran University. I wholeheartedly believe that he champions the spirit of Hasan Minhaj's "New Brown America," a generation of thriving Indian-Americans breaking ground in the US.
When my friend introduced me to Abhi back in February 2016, he jokingly told me that he found my mixtape. Besides sharing a similar likeness in our names, once I got to listen to Abhi's songs, I felt an immediate connection to his indie & hip hop style. When I first watched his "Adderall" music video, it gave me chills and reminded me of the moment I stumbled upon Childish Gambino dropping bars in an unassuming hoodie for his "Freaks and Geeks" visual. Don't get me wrong, though. Abhi's talent is one-of-a-kind and the themes that he touches upon in his songs are incredibly relatable. Abhi was dope enough to answer this Q&A and share insight into how he goes about making his music. I'm excited to share it with all of you!
How would you describe your sound to someone who’s never listened to your music before?
Eh this one’s difficult, probably a hard mix of indie rock, pop and hip-hop? There’s something in there for most people. If you’re really into the Arctic Monkeys but also happen to love Kanye and Chance then you’ll end up liking what I make.
Tell me about your experience growing up and your heritage. How would you describe your family and your upbringing as a whole?
To quote Phil Collins and the greatest OST ever, “two worlds, one family”. My parents are straight up Indian but me and my sister have been culture washed a little bit. We moved around a lot as children, so we always had the best and worst of two different perspectives in the household.
What was your parents’ reaction when you told them that you wanted to pursue music?
My parents are superhumans and have always supported my ambitions to the best of their abilities. They bought me a microphone and Logic Pro (which I use to produce) once they heard my first few Garageband demos, and you can probably assume how horrible those were.
What types of challenges have you encountered because of your ethnicity? Have you experienced any struggles to combat any Asian stereotypes in your career?
Well, I guess it’s hard to be taken seriously at face value. I don’t necessarily think it’s my race, but more my aesthetic in general. I definitely like to blame my color when it’s convenient, but I think the borders for people of color are expanding with the internet age.
Are there any other PoC musicians, bands, producers, etc. who you’re a fan of and how do they inspire you?
Yes tons! I mean people of color literally invented hip hop. My main influences are Chance the Rapper, Kanye West, Jay-Z, J Cole and Kendrick Lamar. I think Jay-Z is like my Jesus or Yahweh. He grew up in the projects and now he literally owns a basketball team and is STILL rapping the dude is just nuts. Also one of the craziest flows, rhyme schemes and patterns of all time.
What was your creative process while writing “The Last Supper”?
I was thinking about my last moments with my uncle, the song is about how he inadvertently taught me to stay grounded and not take things for granted.
You were also recently signed to Tommy Boy Entertainment. Working as an indie artist, has it changed anything in the way you make music?
Oh it's been a joy. They help out so much and sometimes a label backing is just what you need to get that extra push. It’s actually better for my creative process as well, running songs by the label allows me to understand what’s really good and what’s not - I do need a third ear every now and then.
Just this past May, you released the “Sex n' Drugs” music video. What are your other plans in the coming year?
Well I think we have one or two more singles coming out, and those will most probably get their own videos as well! Soon after that we’ll be releasing the full album (which is technically my debut album) and I’m beyond excited to share it with everyone.
Do you have any advice for aspiring creatives of color?
I’d probably say try to kind of just accept who you are and where you’re from. Let it be known in your music and use those influences and experiences to tell YOUR story. Don’t be out here tryna copy or ride a wave, people will find it cool for a week and then throw you to the side.
Last, but not least, what is your favorite Drake song?
I would probably say Know Yourself or Tuscan Leather.
Follow Abhi The Nomad:
"2017 has been the year for me to finally get in touch with my Chinese heritage, so I feel like I have to say that my Song of the Summer this year is the Chinese pop classic by Teresa Teng, "The Moon Represents My Heart." Written in 1973, The Moon Represents My Heart is not just a gorgeous ballad of tender longing, but it's also this incredible cultural artifact that's become a symbol for the unfathomable complexities of what it means to be Chinese.