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A.N.I. Works Toward What He Wants, And Who He Wants To Be

Written by on January 10, 2022

“If I know what I want my future to look like, then I should be working toward being that person or obtaining that thing. What I want can change, but then that’s just something else to work toward.”

– A.N.I.

With roots in Beaumont, Texas, Chicago-based rapper and saxophonist A.N.I. puts in the work to tell his story through music.

From learning saxophone in middle school band to free-styling in his Case Western Reserve University dorm room, A.N.I. credits much of his identity as a musician to his experiences growing up. After moving to Chicago for a job offer in 2021, A.N.I. released six-track EP Channel OnePointFive in December — delving into his triumphs, aspirations and fears with complex bars over smooth, funky beats.

Though he admits he works better alone, A.N.I. collaborated remotely with artists all over the country to flesh out the EP — from Texas to D.C. to Chicago. “Solstice,” Channel OnePointFive‘s final track featuring Chicago’s Ausar, centers on themes of pursuing goals and was featured on Vocalo’s “In Rotation” playlist for December 2021.

We heard form A.N.I. about growing up in Texas, moving to Chicago, Channel OnePointFive and what he’s looking forward to in 2022.

All photos courtesy of the artist.

Why did you move to Chicago? What’s something that’s kept you here?

Couple reasons. Mainly for work. I’d visited in May [2021] and, once I saw the city, I thought it might be a good place to settle for a bit. I ended up getting a job offer out here that I didn’t want to pass up.
Another is the music scene. I knew that Chicago is a place with a lot of artists and talent, so when I got the job offer I felt like the city would be a perfect fit. That’s part of what’s keeping me here, along with the city life. Being from Beaumont, [Texas,] a much smaller city, it’s kinda wild being in such an active city with so many things to do.

How has growing up in Texas affected your identity, both as a person and a musician?

Texas is great but I will say I didn’t love growing up in the 409. But, I don’t think I would change it for the world because it made me who I am today. There’s a lot of culture there for a city with around 100,000 people, and there’s some things you can’t replace — like the food, people I met, etc. Like, y’all don’t really know about Cajun food out here and I have yet to meet one person that knows what boudain or boudin is, haha.

“Not everyone is gonna rock with you and you won’t rock with everyone, so just try to be the best person you can be and do you.”

– A.N.I.

You told us you’ve been playing the saxophone since middle school. Why did you start playing it? Do you remember the moment you first realized you enjoyed playing music?

I don’t actually remember why I ended up joining band. Probably because I liked my music class in fifth grade. Funny enough, when I joined I was actually pretty bad at it. I started out near the bottom chair of my class. I really only got better because my middle school band teacher was such a real one — shoutout Mr. Goodlow. By the time I went to high school, I’d loved playing saxophone and had actually gotten pretty good.

When did you become interested in rap?

I didn’t listen to much rap until I got to high school. When I was in middle school, my brother had a few albums like Illmatic [by Nas] and [The] Blueprint 3 [by JAY-Z] downloaded on his PS3, but high school is when I started being fans of artists on my own. Kendrick, Chance the Rapper, Childish Gambino, etc. When I got to college, rap and neo-soul became almost all I listened to — Smino, Duckwrth, Aminé, Kanye.

After freestyling in your dorm room and releasing SoundCloud mixes throughout college, what motivated you to pursue rapping more seriously?

Junior year of college is when I realized I had enough talent, that becoming an artist was actually possible. I was still making music in Audacity at the time and decided if I was going to upgrade to using a real DAW, buy my own mic, etc., I might as well actually try to be an artist. I also realized my goal with this music. Not only is it a way for me to tell my story, but I eventually just want to get to the point that I can work with the artists that inspire me.

What’s a major lesson you took away from your college experience?

Biggest thing I learned is: focus on yourself and what you want. If I know what I want my future to look like, then I should be working toward being that person or obtaining that thing. What I want can change, but then that’s just something else to work toward. I was surrounded by a lot of ambitious people, and even though most of them focused on college, it was inspiring, nonetheless, to see. Also, not everyone is gonna rock with you and you won’t rock with everyone, so just try to be the best person you can be and do you.

What were your early demos like? When you look back on them in comparison to your recent releases, what aspects of growth do you see in yourself?

Rough, to say the least. I was more focused on making music that was popular and sounding cool than making what I actually listened to, so it was a lot of cap. I enjoyed making the music, but I think I got better because my music became more real.

Album cover for “Channel OnePointFive” by A.N.I.

Tell us about your EP, Channel OnePointFive. What’s something you want listeners to take away from its six songs?

I just hope people can relate, whether it’s a song about how far I’ve come like “Long Way,” a song about aiming high and shooting for success like “Solstice” or something darker like “Caged Bird,” which is about thanatophobia [— the fear of death or dying —] and being stressed out. I’m just telling my stories and am trying to make good music. That’s why my project is titled Channel OnePointFive, because it’s just me telling different stories… kinda like TV.

Your song “Solstice,” featuring Ausar, was featured on Vocalo’s “In Rotation” playlist for December 2021. Could you tell us a bit about your creative process when working on a song like that? How did you and Ausar decide to collaborate on this track?

I’d emailed Ausar back in November saying I wanted to work and finally sent him something — my song, “Old Days” — in February. That song wasn’t exactly his pocket and I didn’t have much else in the vault at the time, so I went through some beats I had saved, thought of the chorus to “Solstice” and just sent that, the beat and a quick eight-bar verse. Surprisingly, he agreed to be on it and later on sent his verse back. Funny enough, I was listening with my friends to his verse, and the verse was so good I went back and rewrote mine two or three times! I didn’t actually get to meet him in person until May when I’d visited Chicago. Definitely cool people.

How does your creative process differ when working with another artist versus working alone?

I definitely work better alone. Most of my music is still made in my “home studio” setup and I started doing collaborations during the pandemic, so it was more sending files back and forth than working in a studio together. I’ve only written in the studio in a session with people a couple times. When someone else is in a studio with me, I think the songs definitely are more creative but not as fully fleshed-out ideas as when I’m alone.

What’s something you’re looking forward to in 2022?

More collaborations and tapping into the Chicago scene, as well as just going out of my way to meet artists. I’m here and want to get involved. Now that the project is out, I also just want to focus on just making content and having fun for a bit instead of a whole roll-out. I also want to do a show in Chicago, hopefully sometime in the second half of 2022.

Anything else you want to share with listeners?

For everyone discovering me, hope you rock with the music. And shoutout to all my OG’s in Texas, Ohio, or wherever y’all at right now.

Follow A.N.I. on Twitter and Instagram, and stream his music on Spotify below.

Interview edited for length and clarity by Morgan Ciocca

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