For Ashnikko, the title of her debut mixtape, DEMIDEVIL, represents what she calls a “duality.” “There’s a side that’s a little bit more vulnerable and human,” the singer and rapper tells Apple Music. “And then there’s a devil side that's very tough and doesn't give a shit. It’s just confidence and sadness—I can’t do anything else.” It’s a neat summation of what you can expect from the 10 tracks here. There’s all the indestructibility seen on the viral hits that set Ashnikko up as a provocative new pop force—from 2019’s ex-eviscerating TikTok smash “STUPID” to 2020’s just-as-inescapable “Daisy.” But, set against her dizzyingly genre-evasive mash-up of pop, punk, and rap, the North Carolina-born artist also embraces that sadness, as she allows herself to be vulnerable in her music for the first time. “The character I’ve placed at the forefront of my music is very confident and strong, and I’m more confident now because of those songs,” says Ashnikko, real name Ashton Nicole Casey. “But it’s impossible to sustain without lying to yourself. Like all humans, I am flawed and I like to cry.” But if any of that sounds like Ashnikko’s empowering, unfiltered, and sex-positive energy has diminished, think again. On DEMIDEVIL, she continues to admonish toxic men and those yet to learn their way around a woman’s body (see the hilarious “Clitoris! The Musical”), all while championing female pleasure in her mission, as she puts it, to create “the opposite of the male gaze.” Buckle up as Ashnikko talks us through DEMIDEVIL, track by track. Daisy “When [British producer] Thomas Slinger and I wrote this, we were like, ‘This is a fucking banger. This is a hit.’ I rarely feel that way about my music. I like to have something visual to go along with the lyrics, like a character that I'm tapping into. 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.” Toxic “As a woman in music, I have definitely encountered a lot of toxic men. I always find it really difficult when people, especially men, are like, ‘I made you who you are.’ It's like, ‘No, actually, I worked extremely hard and you helped me with a lot of things, but I made this music.’ The unnamed man this song is about knows who he is—and he should feel bad. There are some songs that are very cathartic, and this is definitely one of them. It’s my power anthem, which is why the bass is extremely heavy. I wanted it to feel like a smack in the face.” Deal With It (feat. Kelis) “Kelis’ ‘Caught Out There’ is one of my favorite songs in the entire world, and I’m blown away that we got this cleared, let alone her wanting her name next to it. This is my breakup song—it wouldn’t be an Ashnikko project without one. It’s about choosing yourself, because that’s the best way to get through a breakup. Get some new sex toys, invest in yourself, learn something new, cut all your hair off if you want. Manifest your dreams, baby. This song is quite poppy. I'm a pop girlie at the end of the day, and that's a side to me that I felt was very important to put on this mixtape.” Slumber Party (feat. Princess Nokia) “I love Princess Nokia and I've been listening to her since she first started putting out music as Wavy Spice. She's just very unapologetically herself, and I really fuck with that. There’s an element of this song that plays on some sapphic tropes in pop music, like the ‘I Kissed a Girl’ tropes. I was kind of poking fun at it a little bit in the chorus, and then completely flipping it on its head in the verses. It’s about a girl who hurt my feelings. I always get in very messy relationship situations with taken women. The lyric is ‘She looks like the type to break it.’ Because I'm very confident, but also I always get my heart broken.” Drunk With My Friends “I had a really wild few months of raving a lot, going to a lot of techno parties, and three-way kissing loads of people. And I remember spending my rent money on pills… I was in Berlin, so can you blame me? I'm not really into it anymore because I truly can't do drugs—I have a mind that already sits on the precipice of disaster on any given day—so I have to sober rave. I wrote this song with [London-based producer] Oscar Scheller, who’s one of my best pals. We had a lot of fun writing this song.” Little Boy “I was dealing with some very toxic men in the music industry and toxic boys in my life and was just like, ‘I'm over it. Don't treat me like shit anymore. I literally will not tolerate it.’ I was understanding what boundaries were. There’s sadness here, for sure, and I think a real disappointment with men. It's less ‘Go fuck yourself’ and more like ‘Please stop placing your emotional trauma onto me and just pay for therapy.’ I think the people who listen to my music will appreciate the vulnerability. It's very important to me that people understand that it's not all confidence.” Cry (feat. Grimes) “The context of this song is that I had a really heartbreaking moment when I was 19, when my best friend and boyfriend got together behind my back. I had just moved to London and they were my two family members. I was so sad—more with her because she was my best friend, and there's a certain code in friendship that shouldn’t be breached. With my boyfriend, it was like, ‘You’re a shithead, but that’s to be expected, I guess.’ I recognize that was a very problematic way of dealing with it. But I was so mad at her, to a point where I was just like, ‘We could have fought.’ I was broken. Grimes is a huge inspiration to me. I saw she followed me on Instagram and I just immediately was like, ‘Please feature on this song, I love you so much.’ And she said yes! It all happens over Instagram.” L8r Boi “When I was younger, I thought Avril Lavigne was a bad bitch. I knew I wanted to flip an Avril song, and when we looked at the lyrics of ‘Sk8er Boi,’ I was like, ‘Love Avril, love everything about her, but the lyrics are a bit problematic!’ Because it's mainly about ‘Fuck this girl. She doesn't appreciate my man. Fuck this girl for being into ballet.’ I wanted to update it a little bit and make it about not wanting skater boy. He's not the prized object in this song, whereas in the original he is.” Good While It Lasted “My serious song. It's reflecting on a relationship and being like, ‘I see now that maybe we both acted immature, and maybe I'm not quite as blameless as I make out.’ I think it's a more mature approach. My favorite part is the first verse. It was a day when I was feeling really sad and very broken and it came from a really real place. It’s extremely raw and I just felt like it needed to be included because it meant a lot to me. All of my stuff is a therapy session. I'm just bringing everyone along for a very public therapy session.” Clitoris! The Musical” “Putting this song next to ‘Good While It Lasted’ was a little joke of mine. Because I can’t be serious. It’s like, ‘I'm serious, I'm vulnerable, but also JK, I'm not!’ This song was a skit that I wrote for my YouTube channel where I dressed up as a vagina and my face was the clitoris. I thought it was hilarious. I've written a lot of songs about the cis-het man's journey to find the clitoris, because for some reason it’s some elusive mystery land. This song is really my little sex-education tidbit. I’m just trying to pay forward what I’ve learned.”

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