It probably goes without saying, but New York City is undeniably the birthplace of rap. Its impact is still very much alive as the genre continues to grow and change around the world. But for many young rap fans, “boom bap” is a dirty term, associated with dusty beats, old heads, and the wave of the past.
A buzzing prodigy among a recent wave of young, talented, retro-inspired MCs, YL has already caught our ear. Bar for bar, he’s already proven he belongs in the discussion for hottest underground spitter in NYC today. We recently had the chance to catch up with the budding artist for an exclusive interview where we discuss his new album Alone Time, how he’s keeping himself busy, and his love for sneakers. Check out the full interview down below.
SL: How you been keeping yourself busy through all this?
YL: I was making a bunch of music when we first got on lockdown, which is actually most of this new album. But it’s definitely slowed down, I’m in bed a lot more just smoking watching old wrestling pay-per views. Trying to keep my writing up really.
SL: Raw is War ear was a different vibe. I still catch myself doing the same thing. But you’re out in New York, right?
YL: Most definitely. And yeah man, I’m in the heart of this whole crisis.
SL: It doesn’t seem like this has slow down your creativity at all. Did you have the concept of the album together prior to the lockdown?
YL: Man, I’m just blessed to have the home studio for real. The title itself was something I had before this whole thing spiraled and maybe 1 or 2 tracks that I already had recorded earlier in the year.
SL: The new album somewhat plays on what I’m used to hearing from you. With a handful of releases under your belt now, would you say you’ve found your sound?
YL: I like to think so, and I feel like it’s still expanding the more I work with other producers. These days it takes me like 1 minute to go through a pack of beats and decide what I’ll take. I know what I want and I know what moves me off rip.
SL: That NY sound is still predominant whenever I play one of your tracks. Who were some of your early influences?
YL: Fasho! I think most people feel the same way. A lot of my early influence were people like Blu, Curren$y, AZ, Jadakiss and J Dilla. Shit like that. I’m really just influenced by anything thats good music. But those dudes I named are people I feel play a part in how my music sounds now.
SL: I think when artists hone in on their sound a lot more and find themselves musically, they connect with just a few producers and build their catalog around them. Do you have that go-to producer?
YL: Hell yeah I agree. It’s fire when you have that trust in a producer to let them dictate the sound a little bit. My go-to producers are Roper Williams and Zoomo. They understand me 100% that’s why we make so music together. I don’t need to explain so much.
SL: Have you ever tried your hand at producing?
YL: Yeah I been making beats for the past 3-4 years. I got a bunch of shit but I rarely put them out there like that. I did a small beat tape last summer but decided to take it down. Dropping more this year though.
SL: It seems like you try to push out a new video every couple months. How important are the visuals to you?
YL: To me the visuals are just as important as the music. Making good music is one thing but you need more than that to have people wanting to engage with it. I hate when I see rappers with great songs put out terrible videos. I never want to be that. Plus, a good video gives extra life to a song that might’ve been looked-over.
SL: Oftentimes in an overcrowded industry like this, it’s hard to determine the real from the fake. How important is that element of authenticity to you?
YL: That shit is everything. That’s the element that really connects you with an artist in my opinion. I want people to hear my shit and be like “damn I know exactly how that feels, I understand him.” It’s gotta come from the heart.
SL: Let’s talk about appearance. Nowadays, there’s a lot that goes into being an artist. From the music, social engagement and even the way you dress. I noticed you’re big into Jordans. What’s your favorite retro, of all time?
YL: I just started getting back into Jordans for real. I used to have a bunch when I was younger so now I’m just buying the ones I never had. I just copped the Aqua 8s so that’s definitely my favorite right now, but of course the Jordan 4s too. I’ve been rocking them nonstop since I bought them last summer.
SL: A little while back you did some work with Sneakersnstuff, right?
YL: Yeah I had done some modeling for them last year.
SL: What was that experience like?
YL: It was calm overall. It was my first time getting paid to pose. Would definitely love to do more of that in the future.
SL: Do you think music and fashion go hand-in-hand?
YL: In my world, yes. I can’t speak for other rappers. When I was young the artists I looked up to were all fly and grew up wanting to be the same way. I want heads to look at me and feel like that.
SL: It’s not always Yankees caps and timbs for you. What’s one misconception people have about New York — especially in the underground hip-hop scene there?
YL: I believe the biggest misconception is that there is no underground scene. that shit is super alive right now but if you’re not willing to go the extra mile and look for it you might never know. There’s mad shows with crazy fantasy line-ups that be going on and it’s kind of like if you know, you know.
SL: How as that hometown love been to you?
YL: It’s love for sure. Still looking to grow my presence out here but those that know my music and see me out in the street always give it up. Surreal to think about. You drop an album people really connect with and they look at you like you a celebrity already or as if you got your life/career figured out. I’m trying to flood this shit with so much music that you have no choice but to know about me.
SL: It a world of streaming and having everything at your fingertips, you still push out physical copies of your music. How important is having that tangible element to you?
YL: I think it’s essential for where I wanna take my legacy. I appreciate anyone who streams it for free and those who cop the digital but it’s almost like you never fully own it unless you have it physically in your hand. The internet could be gone tomorrow and then what? I want to give people the option to support what I got going on right now.
SL: There’s a lot of young artists starting out. What’s one piece of advice you’d give them?
YL: Don’t bite others and offer something to the people only you can give them. Basically, do you.
SL: After his album, what do you got planned next?
YL: I’ve been in a zone making music so i just want to keep that momentum going. More albums this year for sure. Zoomo, roper both and I got albums in the works so keeping busy during this lockdown.
SL: Any last thoughts?
YL: Hope everyone out there is safe and taking advantage of this down time. RRR IS THE FUTURE.