Last summer, NEO 10Y — the artist alias of multi-hyphenate creative Nik Thakkar — released the politically-charged “Echo Chamber” alongside a graphic visual. Eighteen months later, the artist is unveiling two interconnected tracks, a sexy and subversive pop anthem, “Dopamine” and a raw guitar track, “Poems To F— To,” along with a two-part visual.
Billboard caught up with Thakkar after his show at Boardner’s, the oldest venue in Hollywood, where he previewed the tracks and some of the accompanying artwork. The musician talked about his new releases, his obsession with numerology and what it means to be a conscious artist.
Billboard: Tell me a bit about “Dopamine” and “Poems To F— To.” Are they connected?
Thakkar: I wanted to release these in classic a-side/b-side format, but also I wanted both songs to tell the story of each other. “Poems To F— To” acts as a descriptor for “Dopamine,” [as it’s] a song that you can have sex to. “Dopamine” is a song about finding yourself, your own happiness and the truth, so that we can collectively, through group consciousness, find world peace. The “f— you” in “Poems” is in the direction of the powers that are keeping the truth and human happiness from us.
From the perspective of world peace, the bridge of the song explains this clearly with, “I am full of hope and all I’m longing for is peace/ So please give me that my friend” is the idea of finding peace within oneself, so that we can find peace as a planet, for humanity overall.
“Dopamine” has more of a pop feel than your previous tracks. Why were you drawn toward that sound?
I wanted a song that was relatable on a wide level because the meaning is so important for the culture. It’s a story that I think we can all relate to, it’s something we all have within us, in our brains. As you know, I am also a massive fan of pop, and I wanted to create something that felt unapologetically NEO 10Y, but also slaps. People are already trying to Shazam it in strip clubs, where my brilliant friend and collaborator Sebastian Bartz who produced the final version with me has been playing it. Goals.
Some of your lyrics have explicitly queer themes. Is being unapologetic about your sexuality part of your overall message?
I think being oneself is really important. I think it is sad and dangerous when artists are in denial of who they are. It’s also not authentic. The world is becoming queerer and I think we need to show a representation of role models across a wide intersection.
What does conscious artistry mean to you?
There’s a right and wrong side of history. There always will be. In the last two years, a lot of truths have been unveiled. We know where we stand and we are finally learning about how to harness our power as individuals to stand up for what is right. Being conscious is being just that, a sentient human that has the best interests of society in mind and actually acts that way. It means not using guns in promo images, or working with alleged sex offenders. It means using your right to vote for the benefit of the wider population. It means editing your personal consumption habits to become completely non-violent towards all beings on this planet.
You’re releasing your new music on Oct. 10, or 10/10, which is a great date for an artist with your name. Tell me more about your relationship with numerology.
Yes! I had time to plan this one. The one and zero in my name is rooted in the fact that ten is the only number where both parts of the binary code are cohesively together demonstrating a sense of togetherness, which is integral to my voice, non-binary nature and artistry. The ultimate balance. Complete. Also, my Sanskrit name is Nikhil which means “complete,” so it all fits together really nicely.
Numerology is something that I think everyone can tap into and a lot of synchronicities are rooted in the geometry of the spirit world. I’m grateful that it plays into my work so much.
Watch the videos for “Poems To F— To” and “Dopamine” below.