Favorite Track: "Slumber Party (feat. Princess Nokia)" Least Favorite Track: "Toxic"
For many artists, a brash and brazen nature can become a beneficial asset. Take XXXTentacion in his early days, for example. His smash hit “Look At Me!” was incredibly blunt, in-your-face, and starkly sexual and explicit. This was quite off-putting for many, but it also garnered a new kind of rap fan addicted to aggression and animated sexual lyrics. Another prime example is the widely known “Deepthroat” by CupcakKe, a remarkably venereal track about oral sex that has managed to amass over forty-seven million plays on Spotify alone. When Ashnikko dropped her hit single “STUPID (feat. Yung Baby Tate)”, it became clear that she was a new face in this style of bold trap looking to make a name for herself.
Although best known for her explicitly sexual lyricism and smash TikTok hits “Daisy” and “STUPID (feat. Yung Baby Tate)”, rapper/singer Ashnikko has a case to be made for her broader artistry on her debut mixtape DEMIDEVIL. Her first few EPs follow many of the same sexually explicit formulas that worked well for artists such as CupcaKke, while throwing in plenty of themes of female empowerment and pop sensibility to boot. The tracks on these EPs were fun, but failed to bring anything particularly new to the table. This is still mostly the case on DEMIDEVIL, but what sets it apart is the sheer level of authority and empowerment of Ashnikko on this particular project.
The record starts off strong with the aforementioned hit “Daisy”, a track that may seem simple on the surface, but provides a deeper level of lore when examined further. In an interview for Genius, Ashnikko talks about the idea that before writing a song, she enjoys getting into the headspace of a character she created. “Here I have Daisy, who is a vigilante and who wears latex, blue diamonds and massive, clear, icy platforms. She smashes the patriarchy and kills horrible men—think the Trump dudes of America. She looks amazing, and she leaves behind a daisy as a calling card.” Ash says, alluding to the chorus lyric “Daisies on your nightstand, never forget it”. The instrumental is catchy, sleek, and engaging with Ash throwing in some fantastic vocal melodies on the chorus as well to make this track a total earworm.
Within the grander scheme of DEMIDEVIL, there are a plethora of tracks utilizing themes of female empowerment and lesbian relationships to flesh out Ashnikko’s badass persona as a whole. The track “Slumber Party (feat. Princess Nokia)” is a lesbian anthem through and through. The chorus is remarkably blunt, with Ashnikko singing the lyrics “Me and your girlfriend playing dress-up at my house/I gave your girlfriend cunnilingus on my couch”. Although a bit off-putting at first, the confrontational nature of the song becomes more lovable and funny with repeated listens. The beat is lax, sleepy, and wobbly, almost sounding like a drunken walk through a psychedelic orgy lit by bright neon lights. “Clitoris! The Musical” is a call-to-arms for Ashnikko’s less than ideal past lovers, letting them know that she is “Bored of your fumbling hands, it’s not hard/This isn’t uncharted land/From my clitoris, you are so damn far”. The song is absolutely hysterical in tone, with even the bare basics of the track making a comedic statement with cheap piano and a mocking musical-esque instrumental, while still managing to retain a somewhat empowering message nonetheless.
On a few tracks, Ashnikko also manages to make solidly enjoyable strides in the arenas of simple pop music. Both “Deal With It (feat. Kelis)” and “L8r Boy” are impressive pop tracks, both songs being about breakups but dealing with them in vastly different ways. The latter of the two is a re-imagination of the Avril Lavigne song “Sk8r Boy”, taking a more feminist leaning approach to the original. The instrumental is a fun pop retool of the original pop-punk style and Ashnikko pulls off the vibe of the song quite well. “Deal With It (feat. Kelis)” is a much more clear-cut pop song with no pomp or frills. The chorus deals in funny coping mechanisms of a breakup such as throwing an ex’s teddy bear into a blender or drawing genitalia on old clothing items. The chorus then breaks into a great pop/EDM style beat with Ash delivering one of her best vocal performances ever in the process.
If there are any complaints to be had with DEMIDEVIL, it is that sometimes it can trend a tad gimmicky in the lyrical department. Ashnikko makes it clear on these songs that she has a lot of sexual female partners and that her distaste for the majority of men is glaringly strong. While these aren’t bad things to write or sing about, hearing about the same topic for ten tracks can wear on the listener. There are also a few points on the record where Ash could have been more adventurous sonically, especially after hearing what she is capable of on the genuinely heartbreaking “Cry (feat. Grimes)”. Some vocal performances run a little dry, a bit too lax or plain from time to time.
Nonetheless, DEMIDEVIL is an incredible effort from Ashnikko for her first major project. The tracklist is tight, the beats are good, and her vocal style is clear, concise, and fully realized. Her personality, although explicit and brash at times, is incredibly endearing in a field of pop and trap that rewards artists for tired conformity. Whether you enjoy the music of Ashnikko or not, it is more than clear that she isn’t just an artist, but a fully developed personality; a character that draws from the personal life of one Ashton Nicole Casey and flips those details on their head, making for an exciting addition to the misadventures of Ashnikko.