- Words Darcy Culverhouse
NYC hip-hop talisman, AKTHESAVIOR and linchpin of the lo-fi scene, sagun, talk all things hip-hop collabs ahead of their upcoming joint album.
At its core hip-hop prospers on collaboration. Rising from the streets of the Bronx, it’s a genre that has taken root in numerous forms of expression, morphing rapidly into a culture that pulses the air we breathe. Blossoming from the collective efforts of artists, producers and lyricists melding styles, regions and experiences into a single shared canvas, we’ve experienced some of hip-hop’s biggest names jump onto a collaborative album together. From Jay Z and Kanye West to Drake and Future, not forgetting Czarface and MF DOOM, we now have two more burgeoning artists adding their unique take to the collaboration game: AKTHESAVIOR and sagun.
Despite residing on the opposite ends of the planet, AKTHESAVIOR and sagun complement each other like bread and butter. Whilst Brooklyn-hailing, AKTHESAVIOR, brings seamless bars and intellectual wordplay to the table, Nepal-born producer, sagun, bears some of the smoothest lo-fi beats in the field. What happens when these two worlds collide? Their collaborative album, u r not alone, a world-bridging project,unites downtempo drum loops and audible lo-fi imperfections, with AKTHESAVIOR’s unteachable rhythmic flow.
If the idea of AKTHESAVIOR and sagun teaming up gets you hyped, brace yourself for a frenzy when you learn about the line-up of artists featured on the 14-track album. From PinkSiifu, to Mick Jenkins and even Erick The Architect—whom AKTHESAVIOR toured with to a sold-out crowd in 2022—the album’s buzz is real and is only furthering with every teaser track the pair drops until its release.
Promising to meditate on self-actualisation, u r not alone uncovers the quest for belonging in a society that often feels disconnected. Offering a glimpse into the album’s thematic depth, the teaser track, ‘Humble’, featuring Pink Siifu, encapsulates the essence of staying grounded and acknowledging one’s roots through poignant lyricism. On the other hand, the second of the teaser tracks ‘Testuo’s Way’s’ featuring Mick Jenkins unfolds a narrative illustrating the corrosive influence of power in friendship. Meanwhile, the third track, ‘No Scars’ pulsates with feverish vigour, as AKTHESAVIOR delivers his signature seamless flow, narrating cynicism in the world.
As the anticipation builds for their hip-hop collaboration album set to shake up the scene, we catch up with the duo to talk all things hip-hop collab tapes, from being awestruck by Sampha and J. Cole to their proudest moments. Tap in below.
There have been so many legendary rapper and producer linkups over the years but what’s your favourite collaborative hip-hop album of all time?
AK: My favourite collaborative album has to be Distant Relatives By Damien Marley and Nas. This album had so many gems and knowledgeable anecdotes about life and Africa that inspired me deeply and made me want to learn more. But also, it was a perfect fusion of reggae and hip-hop, both of which raised me musically in my household.
sagun: Well I’ve never thought about it, but I think the Drake and Future collab album WHAT A TIME TO BE ALIVE must be my favourite collaborative album. I grew up listening to that.
And what was the first collaborative hip-hop record that had a profound impact on you and how you make music today?
AK: I truthfully can’t remember the very first one, but Distant Relatives changed my life when I heard it. One other great album in general that impacted my music has to be Lupe Fiasco’s, The Cool. He had a lot of interesting perspectives and rhyme schemes that he used on that project that influenced my approach to music to this day. Shoutouts to Lupe.
sagun: Well it’s not a collaborative album but Friday Night Lights by J. Cole really motivated me to make music and introduced me to sampling. And until this day, I try to sample things in different ways because of it.
Apart from each other, who would be your dream artists to collaborate with on a tape? Describe how those studio sessions would be to me…
AK: My dream artist that I want to collaborate on a tape with would probably be Sampha. He’s literally one of my favourite artists of all time and I think our vibes together would sound magical. My homie even made remixes of my verses on his beats so I have proof. But if that were to happen, I envision it being in a dope studio with fire aesthetics and clear energy. Just Sampha and his people, a bunch of instruments, and me and my spliff ready to record.
sagun: My dream artist would definitely be J. Cole and I would love to produce with him to see what we can make together.
Your joint album ‘u r not alone’, features PINK SIIFU, MICK JENKINS, ERICK THE ARCHITECT, A$AP TWELVYY, JAWS OF LOVE AND AZIZI GIBSON. That’s a crazy range of artists. What do you think the theme is that unites all these people on the same project?
AK: Shoutouts to all the amazing artists on our project, firstly! But I think friendship is one thing that unified everyone. I know and look up to every one of the features and their music! sagun’s beats hit different; they hit your soul and meaningful lyrics are the result of that, so I think everyone organically vibed to the production and were super down to collaborate off of that as well.
sagun: AK is good friends with all these people and with the album name being u r not alone, I think it shows that good friends will always be a part of the things you want to accomplish in life if you ask them to.
What was your proudest moment and the biggest lesson you learnt while making ‘u r not alone’?
AK: One of my proudest moments while making this album is completing all the features. It was the biggest lesson as well, as far as scheduling sessions and lining things up with everyone. It’s good to have a clear idea of who you want on your album and hope it matches up with the time you have to deliver your project as you roll things out.
sagun: My proudest moment was when the whole album finally came together. For me personally, I really wanted to produce a full hip-hop project. It’s something I’d been wanting for a long time now, growing up listening to the genre. What I learned through the process, is that everything will work in the end, no matter what.
Next month, Freddie Gibbs and Madlib will celebrate 10 years of their first joint project, Piñata. What impact do you think that record has had on hip-hop over the last decade?
AK: I haven’t really listened to much of the collab album between Freddie and Madlib, but I do enjoy both of their music separately. I’m sure they inspired and paved the way for many artists to be more open to collaborative albums.
sagun: I was never introduced to them as a kid, to be honest. But when I listen to the record now and their other album Bandana, I imagine it helped a lot of producers and artists to come together and work on a whole project together.
Who are two artists you’d love to hear make a joint album, but know would be unlikely to do so?
AK – I would love to hear SAULT and Solange do an album together. They have similar vibes to me and I think they could make something really dope. Hopefully, they read this interview and make it happen.
sagun: I would love to see a J. Cole and Kendrick album fully produced by themselves.
Put us onto some collaborative tapes that we and our readership might’ve missed in recent years. Why should they be on our radar?
AK: Hey, I’m truthfully a caveman when it comes to new music. With that being said – and I don’t even know if this is an official thing – there’s a mix of MF DOOM on Sade Beats that exists online and it’s something I really enjoy bumping from time to time. You guys should definitely check it out.
sagun: It’s not hip hop, but the collaborative EP Urban Flora by Galimatias and Alina Baraz is one of my favourites of all time.
What’s one bit of advice you’d give to someone just starting out as a rapper or producer in 2024?
AK: Never Give Up! Sounds cliché but it’s not. It’s just real. There’s going to be ups and downs. Some people are lucky and get recognised for their skills early, but it’s not about that; it’s about you loving what you do and doing it every day, regardless of the reward. That, itself, is the gift.
sagun: Whether you’re a producer or a rapper, the only thing you should be doing is putting in the constant work. Make a goal and try to reach it. When you reach that goal, make another one and just keep going.
What’s next for AKTHESAVIOR & sagun beyond this joint tape, do you have anything in your individual careers that you’d like to plug fans into this year?
AK: More life, more music, more art and more love. Look forward to growth and creativity from me.
sagun: I think personally, I want to do more genres of music. I’ll make anything and everything that sounds good to me, to be honest.