‘Not Another Grime Artist’ – Discussing The Transcendence of Yungen

 

It’s no big secret that over the last few years grime music has broken back into the mainstream and been introduced to a whole new wave of listeners and supporters. Despite some scepticism to the rise, it’s undeniable that it has allowed underground and independent artists new and seasoned to flourish.

The case of Yungen is different, however – in truth it’d be wrong to label Yungen as a solely “grime artist”  – his musicality transcends genres and while many have tried to place his music into simple one-size-fits all boxes, it is, in fact, his ability as a songwriter to work in several disciplines of music which has always seen him flourish regardless of the trending musical climate.

Just off a headline show at Jamaica House 2017 and with ‘Bestie’ bursting into the UK Top 20 – we caught up with Yungen to discuss his musical journey, labels and growth.

 

FAULT: As a songwriter, where do you look for inspiration?

Yungen: I get most of my inspiration just being out and driving. When I’m sat down in a writing session, it’s difficult to just start from scratch; I need prior inspiration before I just start.

Has not releasing music which fits into solely one genre made it harder on you as an artist?

I think it’s helped me because when times have changed and music has developed, not being able to put me in a box has allowed me to stay relevant. In the last few years with grime and afro bashment-rave being in, to be able to do everything has helped me release music people are vibing at the time.

 

Is it hard when people say “Yungen, the grime artist” and put you into that one box when you work across a number of different genres?

A little bit – I feel like me being called grime MC is because I came in at its peak. Me doing grime they’d call me grime but years before I was called a UK rapper and now after ‘Bestie’ they’d probably call me an afro-beat artist [laughs]. I don’t mind that I have been labelled as this or that because I know I’m not just one kind of artist and it’s on me to always make that clear.

 

A lot of new fans have jumped on to the grime very quickly – do you think this sharp rise is going to help or hurt the genre in the long run?

I don’t believe that it’s going to hurt the genre. I think grime has just been opened up to a wider audience especially with people like Stormzy who are killing it and giving all the younger MCs coming up more opportunities.

Are you a fan of large stages or do you prefer the smaller venues and session gigs where it’s just you and the music?

I enjoy performing, it’s one of the biggest perks that comes with it. A couple of years ago I went on tour with Naughty Boy across the world, and that was a big experience for me, and it made me see a different side to performing in smaller clubs.

 

What’s been the best part of your musical journey so far?

There have been so many different moments that have been iconic for me. Signing a record deal and being able to put out songs and charting. Being on tour with other people and putting on my tour has been cool.

 

‘Bestie’ has blown up and become one of the hottest records this summer, do you ever worry about topping the high bar you’ve set for yourself?

No, I’m not worried, it just made me excited for my next one. With ‘Bestie’ I had a plan when I made it, and I had a plan of what I want to release after, I didn’t expect it to go as big as it did but I’ve always had a long-term goal, and I’m excited about the next move.

 

What are you listening to at the moment?

I listen to everything really – a lot of R&B and rap and whats popping at the moment.

 

What’s changed the most about you since the debut?

I’d say I’ve grown and learnt a lot about the industry and the strategies of putting out new stuff. Going from being independent and to signing a record deal, it’s good to learn everything involved.

 

If you could give your younger self any advice what would it be?

It’d be to learn more and be smarter on the business side of music – I’ve learnt it along the way now, but it’d have been good to have known how things work from the get go.

 

What is the big dream?

When I first started, I didn’t think I”d be here now, and because I’ve met what my target is so now, I’m just setting myself new goals every week.

 

What is your FAULT?

I don’t like going out much, and I’m antisocial with going out. I’m more happy at home with my boys or in the studio, so maybe I need to start going out and enjoying life a bit more.

Iggy Azalea announces release date for debut album, ‘The New Classic’

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On the 21st April, Australian sensation Iggy Azalea will be releasing her long-awaited debut album ‘The New Classic’, following a fairly extraordinary year that has seen her garner two Top 20 singles, over 1Million followers on Instagram and YouTube views totaling 50Million.

For a pre-album artist, these statistics are pretty staggering, but then so is Azalea’s music (and, it has to be said, her visuals). She first burst onto the scene with the track Work, accompanied by a high-octane video that sent social media into a frenzy. Her track Pu$$y was yet another viral sensation, and Change Your Life (featuring rapper T.I.) made it into the Top 10 in the UK.

With production credits including Timbaland, writing by the likes of pop phenomenon Katy Perry, and guest vocals from Rita Ora and dancehall legend Mavado, this album looks set for success. Azalea has given herself a lot of hype to live up to, but given her unstoppable climb thus far, she has reason to be sure of herself. We have a good feeling about this one…

Check her latest video for Fancy, featuring FAULT Issue 16 Music cover star Charlie XCX, here:

FAULT EXCLUSIVE: ZEBRA KATZ

With his unique blend of scathing minimal beats and irresistibly dark lyrics, Brooklyn’s own Zebra Katz (aka Ojay Morgan) is an artist currently setting the worlds of hip-hop and fashion alight. Initially creating the Zebra Katz character as part of an art school performance piece, the rapper gained huge international recognition at Rick Owens’ A/W12 show in Paris, where Katz’s now-signature track ‘IMA READ’ (later dubbed “the song of fashion week”) played on loop. Having since shared the stage with the likes of Diplo and Lana Del Rey, this is one personality we’re going to be keeping a very close eye on…

Interview by Charlotte McManus

FAULT: What inspired the name ‘Zebra Katz’?

ZEBRA: It came off the top of the Katz’s head. Zebras are my power animal, because they’re dwelling with the fact that they’re so unique within their breed; none of their stripes are alike, like our fingerprints, but much more beautiful. So, ‘Zebra’ as an animal, ‘Katz’ as a surname, because it just, y’know, stuck.

FAULT: You originally created the Zebra Katz character for a performance – how does his persona differ to Ojay’s?

ZEBRA: He’s the alter ego – a lot darker, and mysterious. He has an incredible stage presence. When I perform as Zebra Katz, I’m totally transformed into the character of Zebra Katz, and put on the new faces and different characters he has within himself, and the energies that he carries about. It’s translated in video, but when you see him live, people start to see the dualism in his character.

FAULT: Obviously it’s still early days with the project, but do you see it ever sparking off to create more characters you can express creatively?

ZEBRA: I don’t know.  I know they’re out there, and there are other performances that have happened before with other characters that I had, but I think Zebra Katz definitely outshined them all. Right now, at this time, I think there was a need for someone like Zebra Katz.

FAULT: What do you mean by there being a “need”?

ZEBRA: People needed a diversion from everyday pop music; and from the response I’ve received, it seems like there was definitely a want. Zebra Katz did a very, very minimal track [‘IMA READ’] that was to the point, you know? Some people think it’s a little brutal, but to me it was just pure honesty, this simplistic form. People needed a change – I know I wanted a change. Zebra Katz was it.

FAULT: A more minimal sound is definitely refreshing to hear – especially with the huge percentage of rap being so hyper-produced these days.

ZEBRA: That’s what makes ‘IMA READ’ so powerful – people listen to what I’m actually saying, as opposed to just hearing some ‘DUN DUN DUN DUN’ crazy riff. People want to dance, but you can still dance and have a message you can send out.

FAULT: Along with other artists like Mykki Blanco, you’ve been lumped in with the ‘queer rap’ label that’s doing the rounds in the media at the moment. What are your thoughts on that? Do you find it irritating to be categorised on the basis of your sexuality?

ZEBRA: It’s irritating that some journalists think it’s okay to disregard the music as a whole, and just reference people by their colour or sexuality. In most of my tracks, gender and sexuality are undertones, and they’re understated. I don’t think [my music] leaves anyone out, but if you happen to be from a queer background, or have a great vocabulary for slang or hip-hop knowledge, it makes sense. Queer rap isn’t really a genre, just a bubble in which a lot of people who don’t get it and really want to get it group [these artists] together.

FAULT: Considering how fast you blew up after the Rick Owens show, what’s been the most unexpected thing about gaining so much attention so quickly?

ZEBRA: The day after I quit my day job, I did a complete 180, and was managing Zebra Katz full-time, getting on planes, booking shows, and speaking to record labels – and really learning all this stuff. Everyone hopes to make it and break it, and I actually broke it – that’s the most surprising thing for me.

 


‘IMA READ’ will be released worldwide on September 14th (and stay tuned for news of an official full-length). You can check out more of Zebra Katz’s music at zebrakatz.com