“Young Thug on the come-up,” spits 21-year-old Brooklyn, New York rapper Ahsh Eff—Ah-sh, not Ash—on her Crystal Caines-produced single “@YoungThug.” The track is a cocky declaration of her promised rise from the New York underground, bringing with her a confrontational flow and deep, throaty vocals that recall the best of ’90s hip-hop.
Ahsh, who broke out earlier this year with the single “Storefront,” has since released a series of strong buzz cuts, from “PBP” to “Staain,” and with those an ambitious schedule of local live appearances, catering to members-only clubs and beer-stained Brooklyn bars alike.
The emcee’s new “@YoungThug” music video, directed by Anonymous Motion, highlights Ahsh’s star power by breaking down the third wall and featuring the green-haired artist at the center of a studio photo shoot. “I be spittin’ lethal shit,” she warns beneath an ominous blue glow, wearing cherry red leather pants and towering heels.
Learn more about the up-and-coming rapper, below, and watch the NYLON premiere of “@YoungThug.”
Where are you from originally?
I’m originally from New York; my mother is from Connecticut and my father is from Red Hook [in Brooklyn, New York]. I was born upstate in Saratoga Springs because, at the time, my dad was upstate locked up. My mom was a single parent and sent me to live with my grandparents in Seattle, Washington, for a while, just so she could set up a solid foundation for us—get everything in order, between the best schools and programs. She kept a job in Connecticut and family, as well, to help support her, and finally bought a house for us to move into a couple years before high school so I could be solid in Connecticut. Shortly after I graduated from high school, I moved to NYC on my own.
How was it growing up with your dad away?
I can’t pinpoint an exact age when he got out of jail because he hasn’t really been in my life like that. I would guess maybe six or seven, but from the time I was a baby, he was away. What I do appreciate is that my mom has been very honest with me from the beginning—never slandering him, just educating me about the situation. I respect her so much for that, and I didn’t judge my dad—I judged him more or less off of his own personal actions toward me. He had negative energy, but I think it’s because he didn’t know how to approach me. I know it wasn’t out of maliciousness; I know he loves me. But you can’t force a relationship with someone. Life doesn’t naturally train you to be a parent, so I can’t blame him for not knowing.
How was life in Connecticut?
Connecticut may seem all peachy keen because it’s rich and Yale is there, but New Haven, where my mother is from—that shit is rough. It was the fourth most dangerous city in America at one point. That shit is no joke because it is small and people are hungry—the same kind of hunger as in New York, except people are a little more grimy because people don’t make it out of Connecticut. They live in Connecticut, have kids in Connecticut, die in Connecticut, their kids die in Connecticut. Their kids grow up, have kids, and those kids die in Connecticut—it’s never-ending. I have “Loyalty” tatted on me because my friend got shot and died when he was 16. He would’ve been 21 this year. God rest his soul.
At what point did you start rapping?
When I was 15, I really started rapping, but I was always doing performance art and acting since I was six—getting my feet wet with talent showcases, playing drums and piano. I remember at one talent show, I ended up winning more money than the first place winner because I sold more tickets than him and had more votes. My family came through, rolling like 20 people deep. I still don’t know why he won—he didn’t really know why either. One of the songs I performed was called, “UFOs,” performed over a Juelz Santana beat, and I had three people dancing behind me. I’d just take beats off the internet—I did a song called “So Amazing” to Biggie’s “Warning,” and I performed Jay Electronica’s “Exhibit C” freestyle.
Has your family always known you’d become a rapper?
My mom was the only person that knew I was serious about it. She told me, “If you’re going to rap, you better practice. Don’t be like those people onstage running out of breath.” So I was out there killing it. Even my grandmother didn’t know. She’s a certified nursing assistant—65 years old and works five days a week. I just had to share that. But about four weeks ago, she finally acknowledged that I rap. She actually listens to my music now. I know my grandmother—if I wasn’t good, she’d text my mom and say, “Lisa, I think [AHSH] should go back to doing science.” Science was actually my first love
How did you hone your rap skills?
My Uncle Justice—people called him Justice Allah because he’s righteous—he was one of the greatest DJs I’ve ever known in my life, period. He was like, “You can’t say that you rap if you can’t rap to any beat. You’ve got to have at least 30 raps memorized, and if not, you’ve gotta be able to rap to any beat that I throw on and fix it up.” So I can do that—I’m amazing at disasters. When shit falls apart, I come together. When I first started doing shows, people used to do hating ass-shit, like fuck with my music and scratch my CDs. Back in the day, that shit used to eat me up. My uncle would say, “If people are fucking with you, you have to be so talented that you’re literally untouchable.”
When you moved back to New York, how’d you get involved in the scene?
When I was 18, I met a mentor who introduced me to some producers—he’s super low-key, so I prefer to keep him unnamed. Around that time, I met Crystal Caines and we did ”@YoungThug” together. But when I first came out, I didn’t know about websites or social media. I was never that kind of kid. I was always into books and listening to music or watching movies with my mom. I’ve always naturally been a ghetto princess, so my mom tried to shield me from a lot. I went to my first 21+ club when I was 12, but I only liked it because of the music. On my iPod at the time, I had mad explicit Jay Z, Biggie, Big Pun, and M.I.A. I also had some Björk, Justin Timberlake, Ashlee Simpson, Hilary Duff—you know, the essentials. I even had some Cheetah Girls up in there.