TheMXXNLIGHT recently graduated from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, a small-but-prestigious institution in New York, with degrees in Industrial Systems Engineering from this past May. At this time last year, Krish and Akash were in their dorm room recording on their $150 microphone and making songs on GarageBand. Eventually, they caught the attention of Slegdren, Wiz Khalifa’s right-hand man and Taylor Gang’s in-house producer. The twins impressed Sledgren and Wiz so much that they were included on three different tracks for Wiz’s album: “Homework,” “All of a Sudden” and “Mr. Williams,” which also includes a verse from Curren$y.
Sledgren, Wiz and 24hrs aren’t the only ones to notice the undeniable potential oozing from the fresh new duo. After their first mainstream break, as expected, Krish and Akash had labels knocking on their door from every direction, but a wisdom beyond their years was brought to the surface as they made the decision to take a step back from this newfound spotlight. The duo stayed put in their Bay Area home for the next few months to do their homework about how the music industry moves and, most importantly, take time to hone their craft. After a long summer of foundation-building, TheMXXNLIGHT finally have an EP on the way.
TheMXXNLIGHT recently spoke to Billboard about the new single “Signs,” Indian influence in their music, life after Rolling Papers 2 and their upcoming EP, XX. Check out the full conversation below.
How did this “Signs” collab with 24hrs come about? He’s working on his own album right now, so I assume he’s a busy man.
Krish: After Wiz’s Rolling Papers 2 came out, 24hrs reached out to us on Twitter and told us, “Congrats, boys! Let’s put in some work.” We got his number from him and just talked for a couple months until eventually we were able to get him on a verse. In between that, we were updating Sledgren, and he told us that 24 had heard the album months before it came out and heard us on it. 24 is good friend’s with Wiz. Apparently, he was telling everyone around LA like, “Yo, there are these twins on Wiz’s album and they’re super talented and they’re about to blow up. Watch out for them.” We had no idea. We met one of 24’s producers and he confirmed that he had been saying our name even before the project came out.
Akash: We have a bunch of songs done with open verses, and this collab was just one of them where we knew he would float so well on it. We sent it to him to see what he thought and he was like, “This is fire. I’ll do this.”
The last time I spoke to you guys was back in July when Rolling Papers 2 came out, and it’s safe to say that was your first big break. How has your career taken off since then?
Akash: We’re doing what we’ve always wanted to do. In between, we’ve been talking to some labels and getting a sense of how they feel about our music. We’re trying to decide between labels, and honestly, if we even want to sign with a label. We’re keeping our options open. Right now, were working on finishing up our XX EP and it’s pretty much done. We have an album coming out next year which we’re trying to get more features for.
Krish: In the last few months since the Wiz album dropped, we’ve been taking some time and took a step back. We couldn’t move to LA right away, and we’ve been just trying to learn the market and the music industry. Someone else most likely they might have signed to someone right away. We’re trying to get knowledge from everyone and we’re trying to learn this market, the international market, and just how this whole world works. We’re currently grinding in our home studio and making new songs every day.
You’ve built a really loyal following steadily through SoundCloud prior to all of this. What has the reaction been from those day one supporters now that so much is happening for you guys so quickly?
Akash: They’re really happy for us and they just want everyone else to realize how dope the sound is. We get DMs all the time like, “You guys are the future” and “Sledgren was right.” We’re just going to keep working hard.
Your ability to weave traces of Indian influences throughout your music is definitely something that sets you apart from the rest, and the recent single “All Alone” especially makes this clear. Is this something you guys really pay attention to achieving or does it just happen naturally?
Krish: It’s never forced. In the back of our heads, other than singing in falsetto, we know it’s how we can incorporate an Indian style into our music. It’s really natural for us. During our process of recording, we usually do half an hour of melodies on the beat, then we’ll write lyrics to those exact melodies. We’ll organize the melody first and then write after. While freestyling those melodies, we’ll automatically just incorporate a bunch of Indian and Middle Eastern style vocal sounds. We’ll improve it and then make words out of them.
What has the process been like for putting together the upcoming XX EP so far?
Akash: Leading up to when Wiz dropped Rolling Papers 2, we already had a bunch of unreleased songs, just waiting to be put into a project or be released as singles. The XX EP is probably the eight most experimental tracks and the most unique ones. We do want to stick to that underground R&B sound that got us here, but mix it in with mainstream appeal. With “Signs,” I can hear it on the radio one day but it also has that underground sound.
Krish: We focused and stayed home and we were just recording and recording new stuff. Now, we’re up to like 30 new unreleased songs. We set aside about 10 that tell a story, and that’s going to be for our album next year. “All Alone,” the song that just came out, it doesn’t sound like it belongs on an album. After a few songs into our EP, we decided we want the listeners to name it and not name it ourselves. We want it to feel like an underground R&B takeover, and this is through the features we have on it and the sounds.
Is it safe to say you guys have fully committed to the music route? Have there been any challenges?
Akash: We have been doing it full-time and we want to continue it. Hopefully, people catch on, but our sound will take a bit of time to sink in with people. Even in India, it will take some time because of our English. Worldwide, we hope people will accept us soon. We’re in it for the long run, for sure. We did a few songs a while ago and we found that we want to re-do some to fit our more current sound, so that’s been the biggest challenge. It’s good how it is, but we just want it to be the best it can be. One of our songs has som Hindi in it and we’re trying to figure out the best way to deliver it.
You guys are the best example I know personally of how much can change in just a year. How does it feel looking back to last October from where you’re standing right now?
Krish: This time last year, we recorded our first vocals ever on a Sledgren beat. It’s called “Naughty or Nice” and it’s still unreleased, but every time we play it for someone or a label, they say it’s our best song. That song is going to be on our album and it’s just crazy how one of our first songs we ever tried to make with Sledgren, is going to be on our debut album and it’s still good a year later. At time time last year, we only had one song with our new sound. Now, we have like 40 unreleased ones. We still listen to our songs over and over every day to see how the quality has improved.
Akash: At this time last year, we were going through senior year of college. We were applying to a master’s program at [Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute]. Our parents really wanted us to go obviously and that would mean we would have to stay another year in school. At the time, we obviously would rather pursue music, but we had nothing to show for it besides some SoundCloud follows. We got in to the master’s program, but around the time Wiz’s album dropped, our parents realized we’re not going back to school. It’s exciting to see where life takes you.