At a Paint and Sip class on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, the musician Asiahn is seated in front of a miniature canvas, holding a frosty drink in a plastic cup. An enthusiastic and upbeat art teacher coaxes her to draw a harvest moon—Asiahn takes up her brush and creates a perfectly circular orange sphere. This clearly isn’t Asiahn's first rodeo when it comes to painting. In fact, the singer and songwriter spent most of the pandemic, as she puts it, “getting my life together,” by re-establishing what was important to her: painting, learning how to give herself a complete gel manicure, watching anime. “I gave a few of those paintings away,” she explains, of the canvases she shared on social media. “Some of my fans were like, ‘I’ll take it!’ And I sent it to them.”
Many of Asiahn’s fans have been dedicated since she was signed to a major label at 15 years old. Since then, she has written hit songs for Drake, Lil Wayne, Dr. Dre, and many more, and has garnered praise from both Halle Berry and Rihanna. Now, Asiahn is focused on releasing her own music. Earlier this year, she debuted The Interlude EP, a series of strings-focused orchestral songs, and she’s gearing up to put out her next self-titled full-length album. And not only does she sing, she’s also the main character on Chris “Ludacris” Bridges’s new educational childrens’ cartoon Karma’s World. She had traveled to New York City from her home in Los Angeles to attend the Karma premiere—and that’s how we ended up in an arts-studio-cum-bar, painting the same Halloween-themed image and discussing her musical beginnings.
Asiahn started singing at two years old, after her mother heard her belting out Mariah Carey and thought it was the television. (“She yelled, ‘Turn that TV down!’ and my sister’s like, ‘That’s not the TV, that’s Asiahn!,’” she recalls, letting out a cackle.) Asiahn spent her pre-teen years performing at NBA games in her hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina (her family also lived in New Jersey, South Carolina, and Atlanta when she was a kid), and participating in local singing contests. “I used to win all the Coca-Cola Culture Jams,” she says with a smirk. That competitive nature, coupled with her intense work ethic, led to a record deal and a meet-up with Ludacris, who opened up his home to give her access to his recording studio. The two became close, and eventually Ludacris invited her to open for his concert with Kanye West in Tennessee. At 18 years old, Asiahn decided to forgo walking across her graduation stage to perform at the show.
Asiahn is currently finishing up a self-titled album that will drop next year—she’s in mixing mode, she says, after marathon-writing the whole record in the span of just a few weeks while in Atlanta late last year. “My sessions for that camp were, like, 2 p.m. to 2 a.m.” she says. Instead of ending an album session with 50 or 60 tracks to choose from, she focused on only writing the ones she knew wanted to release. “I know the story that I’m trying to tell. And now, I’m going to tell it.”
The story she tells in Asiahn is one of self-discovery—following a codependent relationship and subsequent breakup, the musician started to heal herself, which entailed making music about that process. “It’s about me knowing what I want, and right now, I don’t want a relationship,” she says. “I grew into knowing this after being in a relationship for the majority of my 20s, and then it going to complete shit. I’m a natural nurturer, and I have been the breadwinner in all my relationships. I had to learn that not everyone deserves that from me.”
While she healed internally, Asiahn also spent the pandemic healing physically, after a fairly major surgery. She passed the time by doing what she loved most: watching cartoons and picking back up her paintbrush. Once she began feeling better, it was right back to work: today, she released a music video for her latest single, “We Can,” a track with a message of independence and an Eartha Kitt sample weaved throughout.
As she’s finishing up her painting, putting the finishing touches on moonlight radiating onto a Tim Burton-esque mountaintop, she brings up the song “Better” off her new album—a tune that mirrors a conversation Asiahn has had with herself many times. She recites the lyrics to me: “I’ve been thinking that maybe it’s not time to fall in love. Maybe I need to go deep into myself and how I need a little help to get back to who I’m being.”
“I was talking about myself negatively before someone else could, throughout this whole relationship,” she says. “Women do that to themselves all the time! That’s how I would put the wall up to protect myself, because if I was saying something mean first, other people couldn’t. I’m focusing on being nicer to myself, to bring myself back to peace. And to do that, I had to return to the drawing board.”