Rappers and New York natives, known by their stage names as AKTHESAVIOR and Issa Gold, are longtime friends who combined talents to form The Underachievers. The two men have been in the game since 2011 when they formed the hip-hop duo and weaved cannabis throughout several of their songs together. CULTURE caught up with them to discuss their style, their themes and the current climate around cannabis in their home state.
How did you two come together to form The Underachievers?
Issa: We were born and raised in Flatbush, Brooklyn a few blocks away from each other and through similar interest we became close friends over the years. AK was perusing rap as a career, eventually rapping under the solo moniker “AK The Underachiever.”
AK: Issa originally became a manager for me, but I eventually influenced him to try rapping out, which led to our first songs being recorded in my basement in Flatbush. Eventually, after a few months, it was established that we would be “The Underachievers” and released our first song “So Devilish” and continued from there.
Which artists have you both looked to for inspiration?
Issa: For inspiration in developing our movement I’ve looked to A$AP Rocky, Tyler, the Creator, Mac Miller, Flatbush ZOMBiES, Joey Bada$$ and Wiz Khalifa and the way they were able to target their demographic and use the internet to their advantage. Musically I draw influence from my life, experiences, ideas and philosophies.
AK: Growing up I used to listen to a lot of Lil Wayne, Tupac, Jay-Z, Nas and Lupe Fiasco. That’s where I found my love for lyricism and real rap in a sense, but also new age rappers like Tyler, the Creator, A$AP Rocky and TDE inspired me with their music and the way they came into the game.
“I believe it’s just something that guides the music because [cannabis is] a part of who I am. It influences the music, but in ways that I can’t put my finger on, because it’s such a regular everyday thing for me.”
How would you describe your sound and style?
Issa: Our sound is versatile. We like to do all types of sounds and don’t like boxing ourselves into one type of approach. We make a lot of golden era hip-hop, we make a lot of experimental progressive hip-hop, we make a lot of psychedelic hip-hop, and we make a lot of trap hip-hop. But across all sounds used we try to always come with something to make people think externally and about the world around them or feel good about themselves as a whole.
Cannabis has been incorporated into your themes, and inspired songs such as “Herb Shuttles” and “Super Potent.” Why is it important for you guys to include cannabis in your music?
Issa: I don’t think it’s something that’s important to the music, more so something that is a part of my life, so it comes out in the music. If I stopped smoking weed tomorrow there wouldn’t be any more weed in my raps. It’s a part of me so I rap about it, for now.
AK: It’s within our music, because it’s definitely a part of our lives (in general), and we write and record music about that lifestyle because it’s only right. I wouldn’t say it inspired all those songs, maybe just “Super Potent” but we normally write and record all of our music while smoking. It’s like second nature.
Does consuming cannabis help when writing and producing music?
Issa: I don’t think cannabis helps with writing or producing. I believe [cannabis is] just something that guides the music, because it’s a part of who I am. It influences the music, but in ways that I can’t put my finger on, because it’s such a regular everyday thing for me. I more so think alcohol helps with writing and producing music because it gets me more loose and free to say what I want.
AK: For me it helps with zoning in and focusing on the vibe and concept of the track.
What are your favorite strains?
Issa: My favorite strains are any really dank dark heavy indica-dominant OG strand. Kush Co. OG is one of my favorite companies to smoke from—Always grade A.
AK: My favorite stains are Cookies and OGs, so strains like Biscotti, Gushers, Zkittlez, Famous Genetics and Kush Co. are always good.
Recreational cannabis legalization is a big discussion in New York right now. What would you like to see happen in your home state in regards to that issue?
Issa: Legalize it. It’s time. I live in California now, so I’ve been enjoying the wealth of a legal state, but it would be dope to see New York take steps forward. Bring some relaxing vibes to such a hectic city.
AK: New York is more chaotic, so I think folks would become more chill, and it would definitely be great to not worry about breaking any laws or being harassed in public if it becomes legal. It should affect the rate of cannabis-related arrests made in New York in a positive way, too.
What projects are you two focusing on at the moment?
Issa: We’re trying to make as much quality music that we can. Right now we have After The Rain coming, which is an album with a sound different from what we’ve been doing. It was produced by Brasstracks, a two-man band, so it’s full of great instrumentals filled with jazz and gospel influences. The lyrics are extremely transparent and touch on our lives now and the world we currently see around us.
AK: We also have Lords of Flatbush 3 coming, which is a fun upbeat trap project filled with raps on raps and 808s on 808s. It’s the third installment in this series we’ve been doing since the year we released (2013). Going into next year, we would love to drop as many projects as possible.