It’s 10:30 p.m. on a Monday night. After three long hours immersing himself in his own musical creations in the Vanderbilt Recording Studio with Theo Kandel, Aly ‘Lackhoney’ Lakhani heads back to his Mayfield to study for an upcoming Organic Chemistry exam.
Viral at Vanderbilt from his collaboration with Matt Zhang and Maryam Muhammad on “Location,” Lakhani is now on his third year of producing his own music under the alias “Lackhoney.” Pre-med student by weekday and rapper-producer by weekend, he certainly could teach a lesson in persistence, self-confidence and discipline.
Comically enough, Lakhani used to hate curse words. How does one listen to rap when he can’t stand even the mildest of curse words? “I actually didn’t… at least not until I grew up and out of my aversion to bad words,” he responds. “And I eventually started to appreciate rappers who have range in their sound or who were making art, not just the people who were making songs just to make them. To me, in real rap music, the substance and intention comes through— that’s the most important thing.”
In 9th grade, Lakhani’s discovery of freestyle rapping inspired him to give it a try.
“I would just spend hours in the shower freestyling, or thinking about verses in the back of my head while doing homework, for the next four years,” Lakhani describes. Though his passion for rap emerged early on, he didn’t start seriously making music until November of 2015, when an early college decision shattered his sense of self.
After this rejection, he really felt like he had something to say and a way to get it out. Without any hesitation or thought, he uploaded “His Story” to SoundCloud. When asked why he used SoundCloud, Lakhani replied, “Because I didn’t know any other way. For people with no resources, that’s the perfect medium. There are no checks and balances. You can just make an account and upload your music. Now that I know better outlets, my music is everywhere, but you’ve got to do the best from your frame of reference.”
From there, his interest in making music really took off. Lakhani would spend seven hours a day on YouTube to master music production software, which he now employs with ease.
“I liked having to stumble my way through it, stubbing my toe with every step I took to get to this point,” Lakhani said. He also diligently studied other artists, like Chance the Rapper, to better understand the craft.
“Sometimes I swear it’s because addiction runs in my family,” he jokingly claims. “But in my case, it only pushed me with the music.”
Then, Lakhani came to Vanderbilt, which marked another turning point in his music-making career. Here, he had access to more resources and no longer had to be “self-contained on [his] own island” like he was in high school. Nowadays, Lakhani actively seeks out talented people to work with—he calls it a “weird obsession.”
Kandel and Lakhani play off each other’s respective strengths. When Theo struggles with his rapping, Lakhani directs him, “You know Chance’s verse in ‘Ultralight Beam’? How he’s talk-rapping? Try it like that.” Meanwhile, Theo brings a lot of musicality to the table, offsetting the witticisms of Lakhani’s verses with his Melodore vocals and harmonization.
They spent the summer sending each other beats, which have mostly materialized into songs on their upcoming EP. “Baby Talk” is set to be released soon and features conversations between Lakhani and his adorable-sounding baby cousin. Song ideas—lyrics, or even the instruments and the melodies he wants to be played by each respective instrument—come to him sporadically, and he’s able to hear it all come together in his mind before he has a chance to play it out loud.
Lakhani isn’t merely chasing his dreams—he’s taking a leap out of the metaphorical airplane and diving toward his goal with every ounce of his being. He dedicates so much of himself to his work that it seems preposterous that it would be manageable, easy even.
Yet that’s exactly how Lakhani makes it sound when he explains he’s usually not in the recording studio during the school week. With his discipline and willingness to spend Friday and Saturday nights in the studio, he is able to achieve so much. Granted, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to let loose on the weekends, and Lakhani admits it’s not healthy the way he’ll work on his music from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m. Nonetheless, he is living proof that ‘not having enough hours in the day’ is nothing but an excuse.
For the Vanderbilt students who dream of breaking into the music industry, Lakhani’s main advice is to “believe in yourself and believe in the process.” He adds, “ [Don’t] compare yourself to a professional [whose] music has years of experimenting that goes into it. And put yourself on Gary Vee and Russ [to learn] to move with speed, but without ego attached to things. If you attach your ego to your music, every like, stream, follow or lack thereof will feel very personal. [You can’t] let that get you down, just shoot and reload and shoot and reload until it works.”
Photos by Chris Hornbuckle (Instagram @switch_lanez_visuals)