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Keep your eyes on Queens rapper Anik Khan, the Bengali immigrant who is making a name for himself in the music industry

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Queens’ Finest

Anik Khan and his loved ones admire his new billboard in Times Square, promoting his new song.

Anik Khan and his loved ones admire his new billboard in Times Square, promoting his new song.

Afif Hamim

Anik Khan and his loved ones admire his new billboard in Times Square, promoting his new song.

Afif Hamim

Afif Hamim

Anik Khan and his loved ones admire his new billboard in Times Square, promoting his new song.

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A couple of years ago, my sister showed me a video from Complex News that she had seen on Facebook. It was titled Meet Hip Hop’s Freshest Bengali Rapper, Anik Khan. I was immediately curious. How could someone with the same name as my brother be featured on Complex? The concept of seeing someone of the same skin color and ethnicity as me in mainstream media was very new to me. I didn’t expect much from Khan – a bunch of artists rise and fall off, losing their drive and determination.  However, ever since that fond memory, Khan has made great strides in the music industry.

What’s most interesting about Khan’s production is that his lyricism is deeply influenced by his Bengali heritage and upbringing. “Our family background is really important to him and his music. He samples a bunch of Bengali songs that we’ve grown up with in his music,” said Afif Hamim ‘20, a relative of Khan. Kites, Khan’s first studio album (released in 2017) demonstrated that he was not just an artist, but someone who prides himself on his Queens upbringing. “I’m that whole entire borough through and through,” said Khan.

Growing up in Astoria, Khan was exposed to the numerous cultures that embody Queens and each has a great effect on his style. Several tracks on Kites display this dedication to Khan’s hometown. The album opener Cleopatra, an affirmation to Astoria’s South Asian community, samples the Bollywood song Jiya Jale, produced by renowned Indian composer A.R Rahman. The track blends these Bollywood vibes with a dancehall bassline, a staple of Queens’ rich Caribbean culture. As the tracks progress, Khan continues to embody his hometown culture. Habibi represents the Arab community of Queens, with references to Little Egypt and Little Morocco. On this track, Khan’s select usage of Middle Eastern and African drum styles create a unique and foreign type of hip-hop. The album closes with Columbus, a more contemporary perspective on immigrants in today’s society. “It was supposed to be the last thing you hear, and it’s kind of an exception. Everything else is colorful and fun, but Columbus is the deepest and most aggressive song,” said Khan. The track is filled with raw emotion, demonstrating Khan’s passion for the subject. “America was made from black backs and brown shoulders / Yellow and beige arms, we brought culture / We brought order, we did all that but you still force us to foreclosure,” raps Khan. Khan’s ending to Kites makes fans think about America’s past and future as a whole.

“America was made from black backs and brown shoulders / Yellow and beige arms, we brought culture / We brought order, we did all that but you still force us to foreclosure,” raps Anik Khan.

Khan’s emphasis on his heritage and culture in his work is in large part due to his family and upbringing. “Our familial background and culture is really important to him, and most of his music builds on his experience with mixing his Bengali family and culture into life within America. He fully embraces Bengali culture and is very proud of his heritage,” said Arona Islam ‘20, Khan’s cousin. This keen sense of lyricism and dedication to his culture can largely be attributed to the role his father played in his life. In 1993, Khan and his family moved from Bangladesh to New York City. His father had left behind a lot in this move across the world. He traded his business investments, large house, and degree in literature for a smaller apartment in Astoria and a job as a taxi driver just so that his children would have the opportunity to pursue something greater. “I think that is the definition of unconditional love,” said Khan about his father’s selflessness. The influence that Khan’s father had in his life is noticeable in many of his works. “He dedicates most of his songs to his dad who was a freedom fighter during the Bangladesh liberation war,” said Hamim. In fact, at the end of the track Cleopatra, Khan includes his father’s recitation of  Priyotomashu, a poem by Bengali author Sukanta Bhattacharya.

To no surprise, Khan has even bigger plans for his future as a musician. His work ethic coupled with his willingness to learn from and discuss his work with other artists such as French Montana and Akon has lead to a large rise in Khan’s following and standing in the music industry. His latest song, Big Fax, earned over a million views on YouTube. I think this song really demonstrates his growth as an artist. Khan went from filming music videos on his neighborhood streets to making high-quality and well produced videos. The song also displays Khan’s exuberance and confidence, with lines referring to his growth and standing as an artist as he poses on an Audi R8.

Interestingly, Khan’s growth as an artist is in part due to his respect for the new generation of aspiring musicians. “If you listen to a nineteen–year–old kid now and you listen to my music from when I was nineteen, you’d tell me to stop making music… when I see kids that are seventeen, eighteen, with these beats, I’m like, ‘How did this happen? How are you so awesome, so fast?’” said Khan. Likewise, Khan’s story and hard work have inspired the next generation to chase their dreams.  “Anik’s inspired me to be more creative and to do something different with my life instead of becoming a doctor or an engineer. I can respect his dedication to his craft and how he’s always stayed optimistic about making it big in the music industry and living the American dream,” said Hamim. “Personally, Khan has shown me how important it is to recognize your passions and make them a reflection of who you truly are.

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