Musician Amahl Abdul-Khaliq – known professionally as AF THE NAYSAYER – is an up-and-coming voice in the electronic and instrumental hip-hop scene. AF, who’s New Orleans-based and Los Angeles-bred, cites g-funk producer DJ Battlecat and legendary video game composer Yuji Takenouchi as his biggest influences. His sounds – which weave together 80’s R&B and 90’s West Coast hip-hop – have been used in many popular BMX videos! AF is the New Orleans ambassador for Red Bull Music Academy and lead instructor at The Upbeat Academy Foundation. It’ a 501(c)3 providing underprivileged children an opportunity to learn music production and performance focused on the types of music they listen to and dream of creating; electronic dance music and hip-hop!

We met him through an amazing music showcase in which he performed; Channel: Three at Nublu in the East Village. We went to hear our friends’ band, Bodega Dream, and ended up loving all the sets and really digging the evening’s vibe. We heard AF and immediately had to check him out on Instagram! We got even more excited when we saw that he proudly identifies as vegan in his bio! The gears started turning and we decided to reach out. Well, he wrote back and we’ve been friends since. It’s such a delight these days, in a world of “I’M SO BUSY!!!”, to meet someone who genuinely wants to take time to build relationships and alliances. He sees the future in much the same way we do – full of possibility because we recognize we’re all connected. Not only is connecting a joy, but we get another dose of pleasure when we help each other out in any way we can. Our emails are a never-ending back-and-forth of this goodness! [Insider tip: keep an ear out for AF THE NAYSAYER on a future VOAA project!! ;)]

Thank you for all you do, Amahl!! Here’s to you getting more involved in the veg community; a better place now that you’re here, too.

What’s been the easiest and most challenging things about being vegan?

It’s not hard to make a decision like becoming vegan when the reason behind the transition is something like food poisoning [laughter]. So the easiest part, definitely, was starting on my journey toward veganism. I’ve always been inclined to take care of myself, and since adopting a fruit-focus in my diet, my life has simply become easier. A major factor in my ease is the fact that I no longer have to prepare and cook food. The only preparation that I have is cleaning and pitting fruit, which is much more time friendly and allows me to be on the move a lot more freely.

As for the most challenging aspect of being a vegan, it’s been finding a decent pair of shoes to BMX in. BMX is not very friendly to shoes in the first place, and I have been known to tear up vegan-friendly shoes in a couple of days or weeks. Thankfully, I recently remedied that situation, so all is currently well. The only other real problem I have encountered is trying to find food late at night. Unless I find a 24-hour supermarket or something like that, I’m pretty much in trouble.

Did you know vegetarians or vegans prior to making the shift and, if so, what influence did they have on you?

Of course I do. In fact, the person who influenced me to start and continue down a vegan path the most is my buddy, Ahmed Johnson, who I lived with for 6 weeks. We spent a lot of time training which gave me an opportunity to refocus my energies and give myself a little vacation to reset my mind. I had no idea that he had adopted a vegan diet, so without even knowing, I started to do the same. After a bad case of food poisoning from dairy, I haven’t looked back.

Your social circle just-so-happens to be mostly comprised of non-vegans. What’s some advice you’d give other vegans about having healthy relationships with non-vegans or veg allies*? *At VOAA, we like the term “veg allies” because it implies the person, though not of personal “purity” is someone supportive, open-minded, kind, and eager-to-learn.

Everyone has to follow their own path. Whether a person is a vegetarian, a vegan, or non-vegan, the most important thing is not to chastise friends or acquaintances for their diet. If you know anyone interested in becoming vegetarian or vegan, help them get educated by sharing the experiences, struggles, and successes that you’ve had. Life is a journey, and no one takes the same route, so be supportive and help your friends make up their own minds.

Having the support of a community is vital to any success, so like anything else, it’s always best to surround yourself with people who support the lifestyle you lead. Just because someone makes different dietary, religious, or socio-economic decision than you do doesn’t mean that they’re wrong, or that you’re right. It’s about support and understanding at the end of the day. And, through my journey, I’ve found that people from all walks of life require that same community of support.

I honestly don’t know that many vegans, but I’m hoping that will all change in the near future!

In addition to veganism, you’re really passionate about creating music and being straight-edge. Do you have advice for others who worry that if they get into veganism, they might have to “give up on” their other passions or causes?

My advice is to ignore the hate and do what you think is right. If something bothers you, it’s your obligation to voice your opinion -simple as that. If you hold aversion for something and don’t say anything, you might miss an opportunity to touch someone’s life and show them a new perspective. At the same time, one should pick and choose their battles. It’s not about winning or losing, but rather about being ok with the person you are and not being afraid to let your opinions be known, especially if they are different. Really, balance is the key. Keep yourself educated and network with like-minded peers. It becomes much easier to advocate for yourself when you can find others to show support, ask for support, and move alongside.

Listen to & spread the word about AF THE NAYSAYER. He’s on Soundcloud & Bandcamp!

Photo credits: Jneiro Jarel on outdoor/sunglasses image. Vashni Balleste on indoor/yin yang image.