Transcribed by Sara Brown
Mustafa: We’re here with Akhil Sesh today. Wassup man?
Akhil Sesh: How you doin’ man? I’m good.
M: I’m good. I wanted to get into it because you’ve been creatively directing for the A$AP brand since 2013. You’ve got a slew of projects under your belt. The first thing for me is, whats your earliest memory of music?
AS: I come from a pretty musical family. So my Mom sang, my grandparents they sang and played instruments. My earliest memory is actually when I was 5 years old the onstage with the theatre singing and around that time I also started taking private lessons. Piano class, musical training, and even a tempo through my mom you know? Singing just hymns, so continued on all 3 up until high-school.
M: Your musical family, did that include your grandparents, uncles and aunts?
AS: Yeah, my Grandfather used to write songs all the time actually. My Grandmother was a violin virtuoso. By the time she was 8 years old, she was killing it on a violin. My Mom can actually sing really good. My Dad can’t keep a rhythm for s***. I got my business sense from him but, on my Mom’s side is where all the music sound comes from.
M: How did your thesis of “Live for Art, Die For Glory” come about?
AS: So, it came through like anything else. Through adversity, through struggle is when you realize your deepest things, whatever. So what happened was actually, I ended up getting really sick. I was in the hospital for like a long time. I had a ton of surgeries and stuff so it was like a down period for me. Being Indian, it was at that time. I was supposed to be a lawyer. When your parents are Indian, they want you to be a doctor, lawyer, or engineer basically. It was after that, and through that [adversity], I thought you know what? I’m gonna dedicate my entire life to what I really wanna do and what I believe in. And thats where it came from. Live for art, die for glory. I’m gonna do what I love doing until the day that I die.
M: How does someone come from an Indian family where certain pressure’s felt to pursue, certain conventional careers to do what you’re doing? What does it take?
AS: Its tough. Basically, it just takes utter belief in yourself. Once you start believing in yourself and start manifesting things around you because of that belief, it gives you that motivation to link up with the right people and execute certain campaigns or whatever visions that you have. Your parents or those around you have no choice but to hop on the train. It’s not just you talking. When you’re out there doing it yourself and they see success they have no choice but to support and get with the program per se – even though they still are not hip. In 2012, one of the first things I did with A$AP Illz is I pitched this whole thing to GQ. It was “Hood to High Fashion” and how he was in the hood but still transcends. I’m like “Yo, my stuff just got on GQ!” and they’re like “Oh great! Good job! What is GQ?” You know? So it’s like, they love it but there’s still gonna be a disconnect. A cultural disconnect always. And its just something that you gotta know as parents who are immigrants or whatever. But the fact that they’re still supportive is everything.
M: What was the first day creatively directing for the A$AP brand like for you? Like when you first linked with A$AP Illz?
AS: So yeah, it was kind of more informal. I was managing someone at the time who actually shot backstage for Illz when he was walking for DKNY and I had already known A$AP Relli at that point too through a friend of mine. They were childhood friends, so A$AP Relli actually accompanied Illz to the DKNY walkthrough and my friend who was shooting the behind the scenes was staying at my spot, so he told them all to pull up. So we were just smoking, chilling talking about fashion, hip hop, whatever and just hit it off since then. I had already known Relli and been like, “What up?” and been pickin’ up from him you know whatever. Not tryna dry snitch or whatever. From the next day on, Illz would just hit me up like “Yo you free? Let’s shoot” type shit. Like everyday we would just link up and eventually that reached other people. I started shooting for Nast, then eventually Rocky saw what was goin’ on and he wanted some of that. So it just basically grew from there.
M: Speaking of Rocky, can you tell me about this photo of A$AP that you took?
AS: Yeah, that was last year. It was a dope time. It was kind of legendary – [it was]for the Vlone pop-up. They actually had this Stussy NO VACANCY after party for the Vlone drop. It was dope. They had Virgil Abloh djing, & a ton of high profile type people. It was in Miami Beach. I was just shooting front row, it was lit. We were in the mansion, f*****g bitches everywhere and smoking weed, big blunts. I don’t know man. They had crabs everywhere and shit. It was dope.
M: Being from Detroit, what made you want to pivot from making music to taking photos?
AS: Thats the common perception from the mainstream because when everyone first starts doing music, you don’t pop off immediately right? So it was like in 2012, I don’t know if you know Mike Posner or Big Sean?
M: I do.
AS: So when they were first blowing up, I had just learned about Garageband and shit. So I was like singing and producing, doing my thing or whatever and Mike Posner had asked me to play some piano and I was gonna help them on the instrumental type tip. So I was just getting in the fold in music around them. But now you know, music is not just music anymore. Theres so much more facets involved with the image. So the visual aspect these days is maybe more important than the music. So getting into music pivoted into doing photos and videos and other creative ventures because I had to learn those aspects to make my vision come to fruition. So if I needed a music video to make my vision come to fruition, I would have to direct it and edit it and figure all that final cut out and all that stuff. So thats how it happened. The regression back into music is actually natural for me. Of course when I linked up with the A$AP guys, they have such a big platform that it’s gonna be known that I’m doing photography & the photos kinda went viral. Even the non A$AP ones when I went to Japan and Korea, a lot of my photos went viral so now I’m trying to figure out how to transition back and let people know like, “Hey I make f******g good music too guys! Check this out its not just this too.”
M: How did you link up with Graves for your two singles “Extravagance” and “Therapy”?
AS: Yes. We got more shit on the way too by the way. He just came over. But yeah thats just the homie honestly. Just know him through my buddy, shoutout Robo. He lives in Hawaii too. Graves lives in Hawaii. And so just knowing through him. I’ve known him for years now and just homies. Chillin’ partying whatever. Just making music whenever we link up. So whenever we link we love music, we end up talking about music so we end up just making music.
M: What was it like creating “Lifted and Gifted”?
AS: With Aaron Goure, yeah shout out Aaron Goure. Yeah thats the homie. That was dope. Because I’ve always wanted to make a skate video and come out with my brand in that way and so to actually have a vision and you know have it be real – it was amazing. And to have Lil’ Yachty model it and to have actual professional skateboarder do some crazy tricks in my hometown. That was a dope start-off. Got more things on the way with that brand soon.
M: How did “SeshedUp” come into existence?
AS: Before I even embark on certain things, I do a lot of research and plan it out before. Even before I started doing all these creative directing, all these projects and having a label and all this. I knew that I would need a brand so I thought long and hard and you know, “Sesh” is my family name. People think its just made up or whatever cause I smoke or something. No. This my family name. My grandparents have that in their name. My government name is Sesh, Akhil. That’s my real name. So “SeshedUp”. I created this movement or brand or whatever you wanna call it just for a place for people to be themselves, and explore their talents and their niches and to go after that to the full potential you know?
M: How did you and Yachty link up for “SeshedUp”? He modelled in one of these photos?
AS: Hell yeah. That was dope. Shoutout Yachty. Yachty actually records at the same recording studio that I go to. Shoutout Royal House Recording. If you’re in Michigan, thats the best studio in Michigan. And so he comes in there all the time. He fucked with the hoodies that we were reppin’. He was like “oh I fuck with that, I like that.” So I was like, “I got you one bro, right here” You know? Flipped it to him, we shot a little. I was like “Yo you wanna do a quick shoot?” and he was down. Yachty’s a dope guy by the way. He’s really nice.
M: Have you ever struggled with your racial and social identity while working in creative industries?
AS: I don’t think its an internal struggle. Actually…it is. First, it is an internal struggle. You gotta think about coming from eastern philosophies, which I was brought up in. Its a very moral high ground and all this shit right? Its called dharma – right action. So right off the bat, I was like, the way I’m gonna tackle the industry, I’m gonna keep my values at hand and I’m gonna stay true to who I am. Even if it takes me longer it doesn’t matter.
M: Do you feel as if you’ve faced the backlash within the industry for doing so?
AS: So I was coming to my next part. So then what happens is, you’re gonna run into situations where that’s not gonna align with the industry or people just don’t get what you’re about. Or lets say theres an opportunity that you can just jump on right away. Its short term vs long term. And also just people understanding right now having an Indian artist in hip-hop in America hasn’t really been seen before.
M: What are your thoughts on Nav? Do you think he’s made a breakthrough?
AS: I think Nav made a break-though, yeah thats cool. I’m really happy that Nav is there because that gives artists like me to come out and do my thing you know? And Nav had a great platform to come out and do his thing. He’s not really riding for Indians or whatever, but I think it just naturally happening, if they see a guy out there. But to be honest with you, I wanna be that guy, you know what I mean? I wanna be the face of hip-hop for Indians or whatever and make it look cool.
M: Looking at the industry as a whole today, what’s your favorite thing about the music industry today?
AS: I would say the progression. It’s like what we were talking about. Some people aren’t ready. They have certain stigmas about what hip-hop should even sound like or look like. But theres people out there when I put out content that got my back and argue for me and will make the arguments like “Yo hip-hop doesn’t have to look a certain way, it doesn’t have to sound a certain way”. We’ve progressed. This about to be 2018. And so, you see that with the newer artists coming up, I embrace it. I embrace the progression. And honestly, if you really study my music and if you knew it from the beginning, I was always looking ahead. The music I’ve been making sounds like the music thats popping off now.
M: If you could speak to your 21 year old self today, what would you tell him?
AS: Get working. Cause I don’t even think I was even hustling at 21. I was still like partying and shit. Get focused. Like I said before, I wasn’t really focused until I went through like adversity. Like really tough adversity. I was nonchalant about life. I didn’t give a fuck.
M: Whats the most adversity you’ve been through? Can you give us one specific example?
AS: Gucci Mane stole our song. Im not really tripping about that too much. it was like trending on Audiomack and like, Gucci Mane dropped a song that was same thing
M: What was the song?
AS: It was “Enterprise” with my homie Lokye. And Gucci Mane has a song with Rocko. Its like the same exact thing. Its funny. I didn’t care about that. But its not one thing. I don’t wanna specifically name out one thing wrong. But it kinda ties back to what we were talking about. Its just being judged before you even know who I am. That’s what I don’t like right? Just by how I look or whatever, certain people might have certain thoughts about meeting me and not knowing like, I’m a real artist. Like I really do this shit. I don’t need to pretend anything. And when you meet me is when you get it. I’m not hiding behind no profiles. I really do this shit. I live for art, die for glory. That’s real. I will die tomorrow and as long as my art is good, thats all I care about.
M: Whats next for you in 2018?
AS: So I’m gearing up to release an album. I just secured some major distribution for that. Then shooting more videos. I’m gonna be traveling the world and just shooting more content, more videos. Can’t give out too much but that’s the main thing at the top of the year.
M: And you’re doing all of this from Detroit?
AS: Yeah its the home-base. And definitely more skating videos with the homie Aaron for SeshedUp too. I’m trying to drop a full line, if any investors watch this, holla at me. Trying to get that full line popping off the right.
M: Where can we keep up with you online?
AS: Twitter,I used to be on social media like everyday. I just recently took a break so it feels kinda good. But Twitter, I do be checkin’ my Twitter like all the time. My email, I be on my email. Thats pretty much it. Instagram I’ll eventually see: @AkhilSesh.
M: Alright my dude.
AS: Good looks my guy. Appreciate you. Thanks for tuning in. Appreciate everyone.