Photo by Jaxon Buzzell
After listening to music by recording artist Anja we wanted to ask:
CR: First of all - minor detail - you have a “Nirvana” t-shirt on in the “Got a Lot” music video. Is there any story or message to this?
Ajna: The shirt is actually my dad’s that he wore in the 80s/90s! I grew up listening to a bunch of different bands around the house from Nirvana, to Van Halen, to the Red Hot Chili Peppers, so over time that’s something I’ve grown proud of. I’d be lying if I said I was the biggest rock fan on the planet, but it was a huge part of my childhood and it’s always made me feel connected to my dad.
CR: Well that kind of makes it actually a sweet story. I seriously stan all those bands VH is sometimes on so much my family asks me to stop.
CR: Now that we are talking about bands, can you name 3 artists who influenced you?
Ajna: The Chili Peppers are my favorite band, but the three artists I’d say influenced me the most are J. Cole, Dave & Drake. I think they’re all incredible rappers that can put their feelings into words like no one else can, but they’re all able to make great, for lack of a better word, “commercial” songs as well.
CR: We love RHCP. “Under the Bridge” was a song I would sing (very poorly) to my wife-to-be in 1996! Those are some awesome artists and we must agree with the commercial aspect but aside from “In My Feelings” (Sorry Drake we are just being real!) we think they all pull off this technique without being cheesy. FYI I absolutely love Drake.
CR: Now can you name another 3 artists that influenced you, but ones that we would go - “I never would have thought that Ajna even listened to that”?
Ajna: Dominic Fike, Joe Budden, and Capital Steez/Joey Bada$$. The Don’t Forget About Me Demos are some of my favorite songs ever, and the whole story behind them makes them even better. Dropping some rock/alt/pop demos from jail on Soundcloud and signing a multi-million deal from them to hire lawyers for your parents is the hardest s**t ever.
Most people don’t even look at Joe Budden as an artist anymore, but antics aside, he’s able to convey emotion on a beat better than arguably anyone ever. Joe has some incredible album cuts that shaped the way I look at rap and songwriting.
Listening to Joey and Capital STEEZ is where I really learned how to write punchlines and double entendres. They’re a huge reason why I rap how I do. Shoutout Joey and RIP to STEEZ.
CR: Holy shit you just gave me a mission to listen to all that music! I am absolutely in love with your influences but more so your clear-cut knowledge of what shapes you as an artist. Elvis and MJ’s moves were all James Brown’s but they added touches to make them unique and this can and should always be seen as something as powerful as culture being taught to the next generation. It literally defines who we are.
CR: What has attracted you to want to be an artist? (fame, love of performing, etc)
Ajna: Well it’s definitely not the fame ‘cuz I hate being the center of attention, so it’d definitely have to be the love of the music. Rap/writing will always be therapy to me because it’s the easiest way for me to express myself and whatever I’m feeling. Funnily enough, people always tell me I seem really comfortable on camera, but the only reason I do it is because I love the music. I’m not a huge fan of being on camera, especially in public.
CR: “Got a Lot”, is to us a deep song lyrically and is very well written. I am going to reference specific segments that we really enjoyed and maybe you can comment on the inspiration for them; could you also give us an overall of what emotions or overall message we should, “take-home” after listening to this song? Do you have any co-writers? What was your experience like in the making of this track?
Anja: Well firstly thank you, and let’s do it. I think the main message behind the song is that it’s normal to feel like you want more, but it’s also important to look at what you’ve done and how far you’ve come. That’s personally something I’m still working on to this day. I don’t have any co-writers; anything I’ve ever made was completely written by me. Shoutout to my boy godlee for making the beat though. I asked him if he had anything laying around, and this was the 2nd beat he sent me. The writing process was pretty straightforward and only took a couple hours.
CR: I couldn’t agree more, wanting more is a part of growing as a person.
CR: These lyrical portions were standouts and really impressive:
imma do it on my own they could hate me for it
they talkin masters i ain’t doin slavery for it
my rap name is my government
pressure weighs a lot and i always lift a ton of it
if karma is a bitch well then death is the son of it
my brother been sick if he dies then i’m done with it
i might go n jump off the pier
the westside raised me i don't really have fear
i’m the captain of a boat that i can’t even steer
man i wanna jump ship but my hearts still here
CR: Listening and reading this gives us a lot of insight into you as an artist and we love this kind of stimulation - if you have any comments or information you could provide that inspired these (or other lyrics) within the song please tell us.
Anja: Thank you. I’m really glad y’all liked these. The masters line is referring to all these different labels and situations where they’ll potentially be able to take you to the next level, but it always comes (from my experience) with giving up ownership. Masters is obviously referring to the master recording of a song, but also to masters from back during slavery. Many people such as Prince have likened record deals to modern day slavery, which I personally think is a bit extreme, but that’s what I mean when I say “I ain’t doin slavery for it.” I refuse to put myself into a situation where me and my team are doing the bulk of the work but seeing little to none of the rewards.
The next 4 bars is just me using some wordplay to say what I wanted to say. My rap name is Ajna because that’s my real (given) name. I think music from artists that go by their government name tends to be more honest and vulnerable, so I didn’t want to stray away from that. In the next line I talk about the weight of pressure and how I lift a ton of it, which refers to a ton like the unit of measurement for weight, but also just meaning a lot of something. I feel like I have a lot of people depending on me to make something happen with my music, so that’s something I always carry with me. The next line is just a play on words with the saying “karma is a bi*ch.” The son of karma would be a son a bi*ch, and death is definitely a son of bi*ch. My first major encounter with death that affected me long term was when my girlfriend passed away in 2020, and now my closest friend is fighting leukemia. That’s what the next line is in reference to.
The next four bars y’all picked out is just showing love to my city with some of my personal feelings. A lot of times I feel like I’m in total control of my life, but at the same time it’s impossible to control everything life will bring. So in other words I’m the captain of a boat that I can’t even steer. I liked the image that painted with reference to the westside and the pier in the bars before.
CR: Two times you mention the death (or loss) of Lenah, can you explain this event in your life?
Ajna: Yea. Alenah changed my life. There’s no other way I can say that. She made me feel comfortable enough to be myself no matter who I was around, and I owe so much to her. She passed away on September 1st, 2020, and that memory is forever a part of me.
CR: We are so sorry for your loss. I am much older than you and I have never had to experience an event like this, but I will say that you must be a stronger person as a result of it… but mostly I want to say that you should consider yourself a role model for others. What I mean is that you and the traumatic experience you endured have chosen a life of positivity and growth, and to honor Lenah, and that's not how everyone reacts. Listeners, especially younger fans, can benefit from seeing your choices in life because you chose a good path and have shared it. Thank you for that. Also, we hope your friend has a speedy recovery.
CR: Where are you from (or what cities have shaped you) and what about your surroundings inspired your music?
Ajna: I’m from the Westside of LA. I’ve moved around LA a lot, but the majority of my time has been in Venice and Mar Vista. I’ve lived in LA ever since I could walk, so that’s definitely the city that shaped me. I feel like we get a bad rep from all the people that move here, but there’s a ton of incredible genuine people in this city. Growing up around the beach definitely shaped my music a lot, but I’ve been all over LA and picked up little stuff along the way.
CR: Where do you record your music? (studio/ home etc)
Ajna: Almost every song I’ve ever made has been recorded in a small storage closet of mine.
CR: We saw that you recently played a great set at the modrNation Jam Fest at The Moroccan Lounge in Downtown LA.
Give us a verbal picture of what it felt like to perform at this show.
Ajna: Thank you. It was amazing. It felt like everything I’d ever worked for was finally starting to come true. At the beginning of my set I looked out into a crowd that had no idea who I was, and by the end of the night it felt like I only saw familiar faces. That was definitely a forever moment. That was my first show ever, and I won’t forget it any time soon.
CR: What is on the horizon for you - can you leak us any info on performances, music releases or tell us anything about what we can expect next?
Ajna: This year is just all about being as consistent as possible while staying true to myself as an artist and human being. I want to continue to make music that excites me, and whether or not it’s well-received can be dealt with later. I will one hundred percent be putting out a project sometime this year, I’m dropping another song on February 2nd, and my next show may come as early as February too!
CR: We want to say we are already big fans of your work and we are going to really keep an eye out for your future releases.
Ajna: Thank you. I’m really glad y’all enjoyed the song, and I can’t thank you enough for taking the time to write all these questions.
CR: Check out Ajna and his music on Spotify and other major platforms, you will love it.
FYI - after this interview, we were given an advance listen to Ajna’s new song!!!!! It’s more positive creativity and we recommend you pre-save as soon as it's available.