We had the pleasure of speaking with Canadian songwriter AHI about his new album Prospect, out today. In Prospect, AHI reflects on his own identity and that of his community, fully embracing himself for the first time by putting his face on the album cover. AHI is known for his storytelling, with a unique voice full of influences from his travels, community and his West Indian upbringing.
[Editor] What can you tell us about your new album Prospect and the meaning and inspiration behind it?
Prospect is the title track of this album, and it’s also the opener. As the hook says, “I just want to live like someone before my time is counting on me…and walk beneath the wings like someone from another life is looking out for me.” For me, Prospect is a reflection on our shared humanity and what it means to be a link in a chain that stretches both forwards and backwards through time for eternity.
It’s a heavy concept, but I truly believe that our lives are part of something bigger and more meaningful than we understand. You and I are the prospect, and the gravity of our impact on one another is far greater than we can ever imagine.
Can you tell us about your songwriting process? Has anything in particular shaped or influenced it?
For me, songwriting is all about conveying a message that will reach people in a meaningful way. Sometimes it starts with a melody, and sometimes it’s a word that will spark inspiration, and other times songs will simply come to me in my dreams. But no matter how the inspiration may come, my first step is almost always to grab my guitar and record it while it’s fresh. From there, I usually let the feeling of the melody inform its lyrics.
My songwriting has definitely been influenced by the greats – Bob Marley, Tupac Shakur, Tracy Chapman, Michael Jackson, Lauryn Hill, Bill Withers – artists who found ways to express the most complex human emotions in the simplest of ways that we can all relate to. It might sound simple, but as a songwriter, that’s often the hardest thing to do.
You wrote Coldest Fire during the pandemic, can you tell us what it means to you and what you hoped it would bring to your audience?
I wrote this song at the height of the summer 2020 protests. While I’m often advised to stay safe and neutral with the hope of bringing people together, the world was more divided than I had seen in my lifetime and at times trying to find a balance felt like warfare inside. For me and countless other Black people, it can often feel like we are constantly living in a duality, where we have to silence a part of ourselves just to exist peacefully.
Coldest Fire represents the vulnerability that comes with that duality, but it also reminds us that we can find solace in our relationships with one another. I hope that anyone listening to that song can hear it with empathy and find comfort in knowing they’re not alone.
We understand that Danger came to you in a dream, can you tell us what story this song tells?
Music comes to me in my dreams all the time. Danger was one of those songs where I dreamt I was singing the chorus to a huge crowd as they sang along to every word, and I immediately woke up and recorded it with a sense of urgency. This particular dream song was about a young man who falls victim to a stray bullet and his mother Evelyn who immediately senses trouble.
Little did I know, my song told the story of a real mother whom I would later meet for the first time, a woman named Evelyn Fox from my hometown of Toronto, whose son had been lost to gun violence in a manner eerily similar to the lyrics of the song I had dreamt. As I later learned, Evelyn now works tirelessly as an activist for community safety alongside other mothers who have lost their children and loved ones to senseless gun violence.
We finally met face-to-face for the first time on the set of my music video for Danger, and hearing her story affirmed for me that the solution and healing we are looking for is rooted in the realization that every life is fragile and precious.
We understand you’ve done extensive travel through the Ethiopian Highlands and jungles of Trinidad. Can you tell us how your travels have influenced your music?
Throughout my travels, I often relied on the kindness of strangers who helped me on my journeys, let me into their homes, and just plain cared about me a lot. When we’re not thinking about it, at the core of humanity we all just want to see the best for each other and see the good in all people.
As corny as this might sound, traveling the world has shown me that we are really more alike than we are different. We’re all looking for purpose, connection, community and human connection, and I think these have become underlying themes in my music, which makes it almost universally relatable.
Roon is all about enjoying your music listening experience at home. Can you tell us whether you have a specific home set up for music playback, how do you listen to music as a fan?
My family and I love to blast anything out of our living room speakers, and as a father of four, one of the best feelings in the world is watching your children fall in love with great music from before their time.
The other day I awoke to hear my 11-year-old daughter playing Stevie Wonder’s Songs in the Key of Life on the record player, completely of her own choosing, and it’s now one of her favourite albums. Some days it’s Mavis Staples or BB King, some days it’s Mos Def & Talib Kweli, and other days it’s Carole King & Fleetwood Mac. But whatever the mood, I think the best way to listen to music is always to enjoy it with the family.
Listen to our playlist AHI on TIDAL.