As a freshman, you had your own act at TDS, and everyone has been raving about it. What was that like and how’d it happen?
It was definitely a mission. I started off at the beginning of the year with a slam poetry piece called Child of America about the pros and cons of being a Muslim in america and how that’s shaped who I am. Henry Bristol heard it and really liked it. We grabbed Grinz, and he told me about the Diwali Showcase and that it was a crazy big thing and he asked me if I wanted to perform. And, of course, I said I’d love to. So, I set up a meeting with Priya and Adithya, and we grabbed lunch, and they asked me to perform it for them. I was in the middle of Rand with this super dramatic piece so it was kind of weird. But, I did it, and they were like cool that was really dope, and I was like dope cool. They said I could do whatever I wanted with my piece at the showcase. I had a bunch of ideas in the back of my mind, and they came out all together into this song called Connection. Within 5 minutes after the meeting, in the middle of Rand, I’m scribbling in my notebook like a crazy man.
Without Henry, none of this would have happened. He is God’s grace on this campus. He never says look at how great I am. He approaches it like “let me do this for you because you’re dope.” Every time I see him I’m like bro thank you, like freshmen don’t get to have their own act with their own band. It was such a crazy experience, and I’m so grateful. There were seniors that were backing me up in that performance. I don’t say that to brag. I say that because thank god that I got to do that. To be here in the first place, and then get to do that, its just such a privilege. The awe of it is not lost on me. Its wild to me.
When did you become serious about your music, and what does it mean to you?
I love the process of putting art out there and the growth that comes out of that. I started making music and taking it seriously in November when I got deferred from my ED school. It was my entire world, so I felt the need to express myself. It felt like a big failure to me because my high school was all about getting to college. Nobody knew what to do once you got there, but you had to get there. So when I didn’t get into my ED school, I had inspiration, and I needed to make something to express my pain. I borrowed this super cheap mike from my friend and recorded it in my closet off a Kendrick Lamar beat. It was complete garbage, complete trash. . But, it was a cool process, and I realized this is something I’d want to do.
Ever since then, it’s this thing I can put infinite amounts of time into and skip meals for and only do this and have it fuel my soul and give me all the sustenance in my mind to keep going. I’m not a natural at this. People see that I plan everything meticulously and think it just happens. It does not just happen.To get to the point where I can put words together and see where music fits together has been amazing. And there’s still so much to learn, I’m still a baby. I always want to get to the next level and push more.
You performed a spoken word piece about being Muslim in America. Can you speak a little about the meaning of that piece and how it relates to your song Connection?
For those who don’t know the piece, its a two parter. The first part is meant to shock people and bring them in. The second part is meant to deliver this message. It starts out saying:
I’d hate a Muslim if I wasn’t one
If I didn’t know I’d say I’m punked
If I believed when they tell me
It’s a religion of peace
So its this idea of hating Muslims, all of these things we hear. They’re terrorists, a very us vs them separate mentality. It’s all this, if I didn’t know, if I wasn’t Muslim, and it builds up to this dramatic thing:
Satan stands tall in every mosque
They beat their women they
stone their dogs
They kill and kill and kill and kill
And my country is here to foot the bill
And its a very epic thing, and you let it simmer for a second.
But I am a Muslim so I do know.
I know the fear after the bodies
Victims interviewed and clearly
They identify the killer, its a Muslim
The idea behind that part was that yes its easy for people who aren’t involved in the community and who aren’t exposed to it to repeat the things we hear everyday. At the end of the day, its us in the community that has to deal with the consequences of being Muslim in America. There’s a lot to being Muslim in America that people don’t talk about it. I realized both Connection and the piece about Muslims were about the same thing, just in a broader sense. People forget how powerful we are when we come together. People forget how powerful love is. Its easy to be divided. People have a dirt road to happiness and a high way to pissed off. Its so easy to say this day is bad because of this this and this that really aren’t a big deal, like my sock has a hole in it. And then they’ll be like yeah, I got an A on this test, but its an eh sort of day. Its easy to give in. Its popular to be negative. I think its important going forward that people remember how good it feels to love versus belonging to a group that hates. I like to end on a higher note, if possible.