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We caught up with AF THE NAYSAYER at BUKU Music + Arts Festival 2017.

AF THE NAYSAYER (Amahl Abdul-Khaliq) is a prolific New Orleans-based electronic and hip-hop beatmaker/producer hailing from Los Angeles. He has toured with a myriad of artists like Durazzo, Prism House, and Sports Coach, and has opened for Glitch Mob, Om Unit, Quantic, and more. His latest EP, Armed Wing Battle Unit is an incredible and succinct six-track journey of sifting through layers of deftly crafted instrumental electronic music.

He is the current ambassador for Red Bull Music Academy, founder of the beatmaker showcase, Dolo Jazz Suite, and an instructor at Upbeat Academy, a non-profit providing NOLA kids with an opportunity to learn how to produce and perform EDM and hip-hop music.

Before his electrifying performance at the 2017 BUKU Music + Arts Festival Back Alley Stage, I sat down and had a conversation with the talented and ever-intimidating AF THE NAYSAYER. Check out what he had to say about his new album, his love of boxing, and his work in New Orleans:

MH: I know that you do work at Upbeat Academy, right?

AF: Yes, yes.


MH: I know some people that were involved in it a couple of years ago, but could you tell me a little more about it, because I’ve heard that it has had an enormous influence.

AF: Upbeat Music Academy, it’s be going for three years strong. I believe the term is 5013c Non-Profit. We share office space with Winter Circle Productions. And we’re kinda like the sister company, we take at-risk youth and we provide them with professional equipment and we teach them beat making, song writing, sound engineering. Just like the ins and outs of working in the studio, but we also have Masterclasses- Graphic design work, and we’re eventually going to do video work. Pretty much to be an independent artist in this day and age. I’m currently the lead instructor of Upbeat Academy.


MH: Ok, so you definitely have a lot of different titles.

AF: I guess you could say so.


MH: You’re an instructor, and a producer? What title do you go by?

AF: Yea, I’m a beatmaker/producer. I do that, and I’m the lead instructor of Upbeat, and I’m honored to even say that.


MH: That’s amazing, that’s a really admirable project.

AF: Thank you, it gives me purpose in life.


MH: Yeah, that’s nice, that’s beautiful. I’ve heard a couple of people refer to you as like a DJ, but do you formally identify as a producer?

AF: So I mean if it’s, you know… like a booking agent? Or A sound guy? I’m a DJ. But I don’t consider myself a DJ. I’m a beatmaker/producer. I very rarely do DJ sets. I play my music, I perform my music live. If you see my set up, I have a sampler/drum machine, and I have an FX processor. You know so I’m no turntables, no cassette tapes, no CDs, no jump drives, just the hardware I own. You know, I make the stuff on my computer, and put it into my rig. So it’s a gray area.


MH: Alright, so could you tell me a little bit more about your creative process? Just because I’ve noticed, that your music is a really unique layering of different things, and you sample, I would guess, a lot of eclectic or unique things—and to be honest, some sounds remind me of video-game based songs.

AF: Technically, in a lot of the music that I’ve released, there’s very few songs that actually have any samples in them. It’s a lot of my sound design. So it’s just me designing sounds, and there’s one or two songs that have a little samples in it. I really want to be a composer. I’m a big fan of minimalism, like Terry Riley, Steve Reich, Philip Glass, and that’s the kind of stuff I want to make, but I kind of got caught up in making beats, because of the access of technology at the time. But nowadays it’s a lot easier, with plug-ins that actually recreate symphonic sounds. A lot of that music influences electronic music currently, now. Also like a lot of things from my youth that I like. A lot of 80’s R&B, and soundtracks from video games that were influenced from actual dance music of the early 90’s. This is a weird way to say it, but eating it all up, and vomiting it all out. It turns into something else.


MH: That’s really interesting, I like that. I was listening to your latest album, the EP, right?

AF: Armed Wing Battle Unit.


MH: It reminded me a little bit of Ghostly Swim, remember that album? It was released by Adult Swim a few years ago, maybe in like 2008?

AF: I’m not necessarily familiar with the album, but I’m very familiar with the adult swim bumps and the artists they mess with.


MH: Like Ghostly International?

AF: All the Ghostly International stuff, big fan. Dabrye—that guy is amazing.


MH: I was just wondering if it was an influencer at all?

AF: I think, while those artists… we all have similar influences. A lot of us are kind of around the same age. Or we were influenced by certain things, like media. Video Games are a big influence for a lot of beatmakers. A lot of us are influenced by J Dilla, or Madlib, or DJ Premier. Hip Hop and Jazz. That’s kind of like the undertone of all of the music that I do. Hip Hop and Jazz, drums.


MH: That’s really intriguing and leads into my next question—I was also really interested in hearing a little bit about the Dolo Jazz Suite.

AF: Dolo Jazz Suite. It started in Lake Charles first, and it’s like a traveling music showcase. But nowadays, we keep it exclusively in New Orleans. It started as an outlet, just because a lot of promoters that I knew at the time, were interested in having producers play DJ sets, instead of playing their own music. So there wasn’t  a safe space for producers to play their tunes. I was trying to create a space, for that. So basically, I have my friends that make beats, and produce, showcase their music. And it doesn’t just have to be Hip Hop beats. It doesn’t have to be Future bass or anything. It’s like whoever’s in the scene and doing stuff, let’s just share music and all get inspired by each other. That’s the way it started.


MH: So really it’s just a platform.

AF: It’s a platform for original content.


MH: I think that’s also a very commendable project. Especially in New Orleans, where there are so many musicians.

AF: It’s overwhelming.


MH: There’s so many people who want to be out there. I was going ask if you dabble in any other type of art project. I did a little research on your Instagram, and I saw that you were doing yoga, and I saw a post about being a boxer?

AF: People think it’s a joke that I want to become a professional wrestler. I lost a bunch of weight, changed my eating habits. I work out all the time. To set myself toward that. I do a lot of yoga-based things, but a lot of stretches are based from yoga, but its just martial arts/wrestling training stuff, it’s real similar.


MH: That’s really cool that you want to become a professional wrestler.

AF: I just want to do all of the things I wanted to do as a child but wasn’t able to do due to age restriction, time, or money. And now I have the resources to try to make that a reality. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a wrestler. What’s stopping me from doing that now? Myself. Just Myself. So why not? I could at least try and if it’s not for me, well hey I tried.


MH: Yeah, so you can really say you tried, that makes sense. I was wondering, also, if you have any current projects or upcoming releases?

AF: Yes, I have an EP coming out. It’s called Parts, Act 1. We have a pre-order going on right now. It’s probably going to be released in May, April. It’s really depending on a couple of things behind the scenes. I’m real excited about it. It’s going to have a lot of vocals. My discography doesn’t have a lot of songs with vocals on them. I think I only technically have one song that I have officially released that has a vocal on it. That’s R-96, featuring my friend, Shizuku Kawahara from Japan.


MH: That’s a very interesting take coming up. I’m excited to see that.

AF: I think more in the future it will be more feature vocals, in general. I’m kind of moving away from the instrumentals.


You can hear Armed Wing Battle Unit and more on AF’s Bandcamp.

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