- Words Darcy Culverhouse
West Coast rap talisman, Asha Imuno, unravels his musical firsts, as he releases his punchy new single, ‘PHONICS’.
Asha Imuno is multifaceted personified. A triple-threat rapper, singer and producer, he reaps the fruits of his efforts, producing easy-breezy beats imbued with groove, as he examines personal truth with introspective lyricism. His soundscapes ooze a neoteric swagger with R&B and jazz instrumentation that soothes your soul. Encompassing a knack for crafting sticky melodies with punchy 808s, Asha’s latest single, ‘PHONICS’, demonstrates that whisking up such unrivalled swagger is merely second nature to him.
Unleashing sonic worlds where the perfect equilibrium between innovation and nostalgia is struck, Asha’s ability to curate bouncy beats stems from his Soundcloud rapper beginnings. Incorporating his wordplay over carefully curated beats, he soon found his feet after releasing a slew of mixtapes and singles that brought him to the apotheosis of the R&B and hip-hop game.
Prolific and bold, ‘PHONICS’ marries Asha’s nonchalant West Coast vigour with an unteachable rhythmic flow pattern. Pressing mute on relationship drama, the single features two of the rap game’s hottest artists, WESTSIDE BOOGIE and Tempest, who add their unique penmanship to the fold. The punchy 808s act as a backdrop to the tender harp melody, as introspective lyricism unfurls truths about relationship troubles.
In celebration of the release, Asha unveils the forthcoming date for his debut album, PINS AND NEEDLES, which is set to see him plunge deeper into the hidden corners of human nature. Until then, we immerse ourselves in the infectious nature of ‘PHONICS’ and acquaint ourselves with the polymath shaping the West Coast vibes through his musical firsts.
First song you ever made?
When I was 15 my pops had this old-school iMac and he would let me mess around in GarageBand in the summertime. The first thing I made was this R&B song I wrote about a perfect day from the perspective of a blade of grass called, ’75 Degrees’. All my early stuff sounded like The Internet.
First time you fell in love with music?
I remember hearing Earth Wind & Fire’s, ‘That’s the Way of the World’, in the back seat of my mum’s car, running errands in the ’00s. Feeling the chords under Philip Bailey’s voice for the first time made me listen closer to everything I ever heard after that.
First CD or record you owned?
I got Toro y Moi Anything in Return at a record shop in Riverside when I was 14, my first vinyl ever too. The double LP has these cold designs on each sleeve and there’s an open frame on the front cover, so you can swap out the main artwork, which I thought was so cool. Track 5, ‘Touch’, is one of my favourite songs ever, I listen to it almost every day.
First time you realized you wanted to be an artist?
Seeing people do it inspired me the most. I get a lot of my style from my big brother, he was a rapper before me, making noise in the San Diego scene, opening for Curren$y, & Rob $tone and shit in the ‘10s when I was still in middle school and figuring out my raps. Around that same time, Steve Lacy’s Demo dropped and he was showing the world that you don’t need a complicated setup to make the best music. I started recording in my closet that same summer and just never stopped.
First gig you went to?
When I was 14 I saw Kendrick and ScHoolboy Q at this festival in Milwaukee right after To Pimp A Butterfly came out. All I wanted to see was ‘Sing About Me, I’m Dying Of Thirst’ and he played it. That was the first time I saw people so moved by a performance like that. It was an overwhelmingly white crowd so Q played ‘2 On’ and got up out of there.
First time you faced an obstacle in your career?
In 2019 I got into this crazy car accident near my high school a week before I planned to move to LA with my collective at the time. I had packed everything I owned into my little Honda, including all my recording equipment and that same computer I used to make my first song, pops let me keep doing my thing with it which changed my life. Long story short, I was moving crazy, and got into an altercation that went left and led to me spinning out and totaling my car, repositioning my plans to leave the IE. Thankfully my computer was straight and nobody got seriously injured. I took the summer to rebuild and ended up starting work on my album GOOD NEWS before I made the move to Echo Park. I like to think about it as divine intervention.
First instrument you owned?
My Maschine Mikro MK2 held me down when I first started taking producing seriously. I had a homie with an MPC2000XL who put me onto Dilla, DJ Premier, and Knxwledge this one summer. We watched all the Rhythm Roulette videos and took every gem to heart. Maschine was like the lighter, modern version of MPC and it came with a lot of the sounds I needed so I made it my own.
First time you felt like giving up?
Man, when I first started making music I was hella depressed. I damn near felt like giving up on being me. Finding joy in my art, sharing it, and becoming a part of my first online community helped me find a voice and kept me from just living in my mind. That time period is a big part of why I make things.
First time you felt starstruck?
I’m not gonna lie, I was at a Jazz is Dead show in LA and I was too nervous to say, ‘What’s up?’ to Ali Shaheed Muhammad. A lot of people won’t tell you this type of thing but hopefully, it gives somebody who reads this the confidence to just do that shit. GOATs deserve the flowers.
First time you ticked off a bucket list goal?
In 2022, a team of my closest friends and I launched the WAITINGROOM live event series in LA in partnership with KOGO. We had sculptures, paintings and interactive art on one side, Zero Below Grillz doing impressions on the other side, vendors, good music, and performances by my favourite upcoming artists and DJs. From the jump, I always wanted to create a place for different mediums of art and walks of life to collide, so when we did it the second time and sold out all 750 tickets, we were so fucking proud. We’re planning to do it again sometime really soon.