I met up with Yungun and Mr Thing at The Thekla in Bristol before their show with Phi Life Cypher on the 18th February. Originally recorded for my UK Hip Hop radio show, we needed a quiet spot and were given what can only be described as a storage room.
Rockett Time- Welcome Yungun and Mr. Thing to The Thekla, and our rather basic back stage setting. Could you please introduce yourselves to The Rockett Time listeners.
Yungun- Hi, I’m Yungun, aka. Essa, and Im standing here with my friend Mr. Thing,, and we’ve come up to Bristol tonight to perform at The Thekla, Rukus night, and we’re looking forward to the evening.
RT- What name are you going under at the moment, as we know Yungun, we know YG, Essa and Nico Suave, what are you calling yourself?
YG- Sometimes I get confused myself man. Yungun is my name as an artist, Essa is my nickname, and you might see me appearing under that name as an artist as well. Then there’s also Nico Suave, who’s the international latin lover, and Don Cosa, the new member of the crew. Senor Cosa, that’s Thing.
RT- So Mr. Thing’s just become Spanish as well?
Mr Thing- All, the way, Si. Basically Senor Cosa is Mr. Thing in Spanish, so it just became Don Cosa after that. Its brilliant innit, I couldn’t have asked for it to have gone better. Don Cosa from Casa Cosa, that’s my house, ‘house of Thing’.
RT- Last time we met it was at Kung Fu in Camden, where you were helping out Tommy Evans. Do you notice a difference in the crowds in and outside London?
YG- Definitely, yeah there’s a difference. I think that in London people get to see a lot of the artists that are around on the scene more often, they are spoilt for choice a lot of the time. You can go Kung Fu every month for example and see a lot of established artists getting up on the open mic there. I guess other parts of the country, depends where you go, its different everywhere I’ve been. They don’t see certain people as often, so the response is different, because people feel like their getting something that they haven’t had a chance to see in a while. Also peoples tastes are different. All kinds of artists come through here, just as much as anywhere else if you ask me, and same up North- Manchester or Nottingham they’ve got all kinds of stuff going on. What I find interesting is that tastes are different, and to see what people do or don’t like.
“…What I find interesting is that tastes are different, and to see what people do or don’t like….”
MT- Yeah, I’d go with that as well. Here is different to anywhere else. Down here, I can’t play certain tunes, its that simple. Some records I cant play here as people just don’t like them, but that’s how it is everywhere. I do a residency in an R & B club, and I could no way, and Ive tried to play Roots Manuva to them. Forget it, they just want to hear top 10 MTV or whatever. It’s the same if I go to Kung Fu, Youre not gonna hear me play top 10 MTV! Im not gonna give anyone any shine there. Here I couldn’t play tunes that Id play in London, because in London its more of a London Hip Hop thing. So they just want to hear their local rappers all the time, or the rappers that theyre feeling the most. Down here it’s a similar thing again. Everywhere is the same in the fact its so different. There, I got out of that one!
RT- Two nights ago I was out seeing your good mate Doc Brown in Bath. Tonight it’s yourself, Mr. Thing and Phi Life Cypher. The amount of quality music happening live has got to be good for the scene?
YG- Yeah, I really think so. Live music is an important part of any form of music. A lot of artists can put alright records together, but to come across well live is another thing. That’s a test of a good artist. Doc and Phi Life are people that perform really well, and so the proof is in the pudding as they say!!
MT- Much as I like doing the studio stuff and going out Djing, I love doing the live shows. You see people respond off your music, and that’s something that you can’t buy for any money. To have someone knowing the words…. Well that doesn’t count for me, I just make make beats, but they know the beats to the songs. It’s a nice feeling to have people come up and say that they like the beats or the rhymes. You can’t reach people like that if you’re stuck at home, you’ve got to go out.
YG- We’ve been trying out new things as well. We’re always working on new songs. I quite enjoy doing brand new tracks. Me and Thing have got certain songs that we do that you won’t actually hear on records yet, and even if you do, you might never hear them in that form as we’re doing different things with the songs. I really enjoy doing that, because it gives us a chance to experiment a bit. You can like the album, then go and hear the show and get something different.
RT- When is the new album coming out?
YG- The new album is called The Middleman, and I’ve been working on the songs for a little while now, and it’s coming later on this year. I can’t be more specific than that, that’s quite mysterious! It’s going to be everything that The Essance promised and more. That first one was like an introduction to who I was and what I was about, and this album is going to solidify everything that I started on there. People are going to see me doing my thing even more. I’ve been working on a lot of tracks with a lot of different people, so I’m buzzing, and hopefully everyone else will be too.
RT- Mr. Thing, have you got anything coming out soon to get hold of?
MT- Not for a little while. The bulk of my work at the moment is tied up with doing YG’s album. In between doing songs for YG I’ve managed to do a whole new LP with Tommy Evans, we’ve done 12 tracks already.
“…I’m trying to tap into something that is inherent in everybody….”
RT- But his album’s just come out?
MT- Yeah, we’ve done another one already and its coming out later this year, called The Oddysey. I’m mixing tunes every week, and he keeping picking beats, writing and coming to me saying ‘I want to rap on this one now’. It started out as a 12 inch, and ended up being a whole LP. There’s good stuff on there, Devise guesting, Yungun’s on there too, and I don’t want to say too much more. I don’t know what we’re going to use on The Middleman album yet, as we’ve done a lot of tracks. We’re going to do a mixtape as well, with a lot of freestyles and exclusive stuff, that we haven’t even given to anyone yet. Hopefully a 12 inch as well with some of the remixes on as well. I’ve got a lot of stuff waiting to come out. I’m doing a Kings Of Hip Hop compilation for BBE. Me and DJ Premier, and I’m not lying. That’s coming out sooner, as my deadline for that is next month.
RT- Whats the vibe on The Middleman?
YG- It’s a personal album. I wouldn’t say that its conscious, or political hip hop, but its expressing views. It has got a personal message, rather than a social commentary. Its more about the individual. Not just me as an individual, but anyone as an individual. I’m trying to tap into something that is inherent in everybody. There’s going to be a whole range of different styles on there, some of which people will be surprised to hear me doing. We’ve got the party tracks, deeper tunes addressing certain topics and then stuff that’s just different to what people are going to be expecting.
RT- You manage to guest on quite a number of other projects. Recently with Beyond There, Tommy Evans, £10 Bags, and Mks mixtape among others. How does this compare to creating your solo work?
YG- Guestings a mean to an ends. That’s how I came into the whole music game as I didn’t have any projects of my own at the time. It’s the best way to get yourself heard. I still do it to this day, people are always calling me up saying ‘Do you want to do this or that’. Its interesting collaborating with people, as you get a bit of their vibe, and a bit of your vibe and you see what the mix is like. You learn something new each time, and it can bring a different side of you out as well. Sometimes the things that I do on other peoples tracks, aren’t what I’d be doing on my own stuff. But, for me, the things that I enjoy most is doing my own songs.
RT- What’s up with Dupa Styles at the moment, are they still going?
YG- Dupa is coming. It’s me and Devise, and that’s how I started out rapping, in a group. We’re still planning to release stuff as a group, but in the meantime he’s guesting on some of my solo records. People are going to hear him on my album, and on the mix tape that me and Mr Thing are doing that’s going to drop before the album. He’s on Tommy’s forthcoming album too. We’re definitely going to work on stuff as a group, but at the moment we’re both doing solo things. He’s putting together some solo tracks which I’m looking forward to hearing as he’s definitely one of my favourite MCs.
RT- You seem to work with the crème of UK producers, is there anyone left?
YG- Yeah, Joe Buddha. I’ve been speaking to him recently about it. Sometimes its difficult to hook stuff up, we live far apart for starters. A lot of the other people that were on my list have been ticked off. On the album I’m collaborating with a load of people that I’d wanted to work with, like Cee- Swing and Snips. I would like to work with some foreign producers, to get a different sound. Jay Z is someone that I’d love to get a beat off, as well as the heroes- Premiere, Pete Rock. I’m a guy who is open to suggestions, I take beat CDs off up and coming producers every week, and listen to people’s stuff. I’ve done tracks with people that I didn’t know about before. I did a track with a guy called Chemo, who produces a lot for Wordsmith. He’s really good, and I’m really feeling the track that we did. I’m always open to suggestions- If they’ve got hot beats, then I’m interested.
“…I’m a guy who is open to suggestions, I take beat CDs off up and coming producers every week, and listen to people’s stuff….”
RT- On the other hand, Mr Thing, have you got beats that are just waiting for the right rapper?
MT- I’ve got a lot of beats at home that I just have. When YG gets a beat CD from me its normally 20 something beats.
YG- And that’s almost every week, or every other week. I’m not joking. I’ve got a whole rack on the shelf of beat CDs from Mr Thing.
MT- I didn’t realise how many I’d given him over the years until I was around there, and was like ‘Wait a minute they look like my CDs’. Obviously there is people that I would love to work with. My whole thing on producing for people is that I only really want to work with people who are really feeling it. I don’t to work with people for the sake of it. If I connect with someone really well, that’s how I make my favourite and best stuff. I’m lucky to have that with YG. We find each other listening to the same stuff on the same day, and that can only be healthy. It’s the same with Tommy. Top of my list at the moment that I haven’t worked with is Kyza- he’s incredible.
RT- Do you feel that the UK Hip Hop scene is fulfilling its potential at the moment?
YG- No, but that’s not a negative response. I just feel that its got a lot more that can be done. I’m looking forward to what is to come, theres a lot that could happen.
RT- Does UK Hip Hop need to aim for commercial and not just industry success?
YG- I reakon definitely. I has to reach a wider audience for it to thrive, that’s the only natural progression. A lot of die hard people are scared of that. I’ve never felt that way, and I consider myself die hard. Its headed in that direction anyway, as artists such as Doc Brown and myself as well are aiming at those sort of things. The response is starting to pick up too. That’s the way that it has to go. People have to start trying to reach a wider audience. That doesn’t involve compromise. You don’t have to make make rubbish songs to appeal to a wide audience. Some people do make rubbish songs that do that, but there is really good music that manages to do well commercially. That’s the ultimate goal- making great music and for everyone to be able to hear it. It’s no good if its stuck into your bedroom.
RT- I want each of you to pick someone to lead UK Hip Hop into mainstream.
RT- Its that because Yungun is sitting next to you?
YG- No, its cos I gave him £50 earlier!!
MT- You’d need a load more than £50!!! No seriously, when you hear the album that he’s making now, people will understand. Theres no swearing, nothing to offend you. There might be some lude talk, some fun, but nothing that you couldn’t play to your parents and them not understand. And that’s what people need to do. Obviously a lot of this music is super youth based, and I’m not as youthful as I could be. I cant play a record out that’s swearing all the way through or whatever. What YG is doing is different to that, they’ll appeal to a lot of different people. The tracks that were on The Essance even- people that don’t like hip hop like those tracks. Friends of mine, who aren’t hip hop heads, heard Liquid Love and were crying at the end. That’s what’s important- if you can reach anybody, then that’s where its at. That’s what YG’s got, and that’s what Docs got that as well. Docs a smart guy, he knows just what he’s doing, plus he is one of the most ferocious battle rappers ever.
YG- He doesn’t even but that on wax as much. His songs have got content, and he’s saved that…
MT- Hes saved that for the Poisonous Poets CDs. That’s terrifying, another side of Doc Brown that’s not on The Document.
“…I don’t to work with people for the sake of it. If I connect with someone really well, that’s how I make my favourite and best stuff….”
RT- Yungun, you always look to be having fun performing, is this your favourite part of the job?
YG- I hate it- its an act, I do it for the money….. Jokes, I love it, I really enjoy it. Its hard to say what my favourite part is, but I really enjoy the instant reaction- looking into peoples faces and perform songs to them. I also really like writing. I’m on my own, no noise anywhere, nobody around, and I’ve just got a beat fresh off a Mr Thing beat CD, and I’m writing a track to it. There’s a peaceful feeling there that I don’t get in any other part of my life. I’m engaging my brain but I’m sat on my own. Its very theraputic for me. Its two opposites really, sitting in the quiet, and in the club with loud noise everywhere but I like them both.
MT- I love doing shows. Also when I’m up at 3 in the morning, phones not ringing and I’m making beats- that’s when I’m happy. It’s my zone.
RT- So definitely looking forward to the show tonight?
YG- Yeah- we’ve got some special treats for the people tonight, some new tracks, and we’ll mix it up for them. I like the people in Bristol, the feeling here. I’ve been here before and enjoyed it.
RT- Where do you see yourself in a year or two?
YG- That’s a deep question for me on a lot of levels, because there’s music and there’s other stuff that I do as well. I’ve got a whole other side of my life. At the moment I’m at a pivotal point. I know that my album will have come out, and people will have had a chance to respond to that, and I’ll be deep into the next album.
We’ve got plans to tour Australia and Japan in the summer, and a whole lot of other places too- across Europe. We want to push the music as far as we can without any form of compromise.
MT- I want to be producing more people, and avoiding sample clearance lawyers.
RT- Do you get a lot of problems with clearance of tracks?
MT- Not at all. But if something that I do does blow up really big, then I don’t the arse sued off me ‘cos I cant afford it. So just be nice to me. Now I’ve done a few things that I’m happy with, I just want to do it more. I’ve been making beats for so long, and its taken me ages to get anything out that I’m happy with. I’ve told people that I wont put stuff out as I didn’t think that it was good enough. Some people don’t have a quality control and will put anything out. I don’t go with that, I’ve really got to love it to allow it to go out.
RT- Before I let you go, is there anyone that you’d like to send a shout out to?
YG- My brother Daniel- he’s come down for the show tonight. Also to the people of Bristol. Look out for the Middleman album coming out soon to a store near you, and the mixtape, and the tour.
MT- And the tea towel!! My cousin Daniel, who’s here as he’s at University in Bristol. Phi Life, Nappa, Harry Love, Extended Players, everyone.
Rockett Time is a radio show on Bath Student Radio (URB) and is purely UK Hip Hop. Broadcast on Mondays 9-11pm, it can be heard on 1449AM in Bath andwww.1449urb.com. For more details see show pages on www.1449urb.com.