Impactful. Intriguing. Innovative. Inspiring. Few musicians are defined by such a wide variety of positive adjectives. As a nonprofit leader by day and hip-hop MC by night, Ahmen has earned such high accolades for his work within the worlds of entertainment and social activism.
Ahmen’s #Troublemaker message of disrupting the system is connecting with audiences from around the world, as evidenced by appearances at conferences such as NYU Social Innovation Summit 2017, New Frontiers 2016, Frank 2016, Embark 2015, and INBOUND 2015. He has also led some of the most innovative social impact programs in the country, including Juvenile Justice Reform, Early Childhood Education, Youth Development, Civic Engagement, Mental Health, and more. As a result, Ahmen was named a “40 Under 40 Rising Star” by the New York Nonprofit Media and a “Next Generation Leader” by the Human Services Council.
In the spirit of conscious MCs of years past, Ahmen is an avid opponent of the status quo. He has traveled throughout the United States as a performer, activist, and speaker for the sole purpose of stirring things up while advocating for much-needed change. He is astutely aware that “racism lives on through subtle and institutional means. Income inequality is worse than ever. Politicians still fail to respond to the will of the people.” Yet, Ahmen insists that this reality can spark us to take action, unite with those around us, and eventually shake up the system.
In his recent tribute to the now departed Muhammed Ali, Ahmen’s description of the boxer’s legacy sounds very much like a blueprint for how he hopes to address these issues: “Ali fought against racism with the same force that he would deliver a crippling uppercut. He spoke out against the Vietnam War. He influenced the music of the time, giving a newfound sense of purpose to artists of all genres. Perhaps most importantly, he gave a voice and pride to millions of people who felt like helpless and disenfranchised victims of inequality.”
According to an interview with music blog Definition of Fresh, Ahmen’s Sri Lankan roots have greatly impacted both his music and his message: “Sri Lankan men are supposed to be engineers and doctors. I could’ve been in the corporate world and made a lot of money, but that’s definitely not the way to shake up the system. My parents came to the country with nothing in their pockets, and that’s an experience I try to convey through my music. The experience of my parents as poor immigrants from Sri Lanka inspired my attempt to sabotage the system.”
Not the typical antagonist, Ahmen’s insights come from a genuinely likeable place. People are drawn to his thoughts and the beats which accompany them. Proof positive is Ahmen’s “Our Time,” a song that represents his ability to tackle the difficult issues of racial and social conflict in modern America while also providing a renewed sense of hope, conviction, and purpose – all done in a listenable manner. “Our Time” is the first release from Ahmen’s highly acclaimed album, “If not now then when.”