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Getting to Know: Yusuf Yellow

Leeds-based rapper Yusuf Yellow brings personal brings a fresh, reflective take on Hip Hop, exuding lyrics of personal experience with jazzy, ambient beats. We spoke to him about his most recent track ‘Would It Even Matter’ (released 1st August) - a self-produced piece that plunges his lyrics even deeper into the ideas of self-awareness and vulnerability – and his inspirations behind lyric experimentation.

For those who haven’t heard of you, how would you describe your sound?

I’d describe my sound as a juxtaposition of mellow hip hop beats mixed with deeply personal lyrics. The beats reflect the external and the bars reflect the internal. Calm on the outside but a whirlwind on the inside haha.

Congrats on your latest release ‘Would It Even Matter?’. As one of your most intimate and personal tracks to date, what were your inspirations behind it?

Thank you!! The inspiration came from the realisation of how temporary all of this is once lockdown started. In a matter of a few weeks, it felt like everything I had been working towards had been cancelled and no one had a clue what to do. I had just built a circle of friends in the new city I was studying in and everything seemed like it was going great you know and then Corona happened.

However, this made me realise what the most important things in my life are, my family and my health. Because no matter what happens they’re staying with me.

After I had this realisation, I started to evaluate the other areas of my life and stopped to process what had happened throughout the year. And this is what I projected onto the song.

How have you found creating over the past few months during lockdown – has the environment around you aided or stagnated your work?

To be honest I’ve never been in a stronger place creatively. I spent about a month writing a song a day, sometimes two and just kept going until I’d written to every beat on my hard drive. I realised I had a lot more on my mind than I thought I did haha. And luckily, I feel like I still haven’t burnt out yet, I’m taking every opportunity I can to work with new creatives and develop my own stuff now I’m in Leeds.

Looking at your background as a writer and musician, how did you first get into doing what you do? Who were your main inspirations growing up?

I first started with just writing down as much as I could about what was in my head to try and understand the things I was going through. It then turned into poetry when I went to LA for the summer and was inspired to get more creative. My good friend Jerimiah then got me to start freestyling with him which was so hard at first but is a funny memory now haha, and that inspired me to start writing bars and making tunes. I then came back home, started rapping over YouTube beats and putting them on SoundCloud and performed with any opportunities I could. Through that, I met some amazing rappers and producers that helped me get a point where I could release my first project ‘The Yellow Tape’. I then went to Leeds College of music to study electronic music production and now here we are with my first self-produced single haha.

There are so many musicians I loved growing up, my earliest memories were stealing Dr Dre The Chronic from my dad’s CD collection to listen too in my room and also listening to Immortal Technique in my brother’s car haha. Subconsciously I will have been influenced by so much music growing up however due to how personal my music is to me I couldn’t pin any inspirations to what I write. Plus, the music I listen too is so different from the music I make haha. However, the new single I produced was made after listening to and studying a lot of Harvey Gunn instrumentals, so I think that inspired me for sure.

And finally, what can we expect next from you in the coming months? Any new projects in the pipeline?

Yeah, I’ve got quite a lot of music building up now with quite a few different artists. There will be another single coming in a few months and then there will be some big things to follow, that I can’t wait to share with everyone. I’ve challenged myself with some of this new music, diving into new genres and feelings that I haven’t tapped into yet so it’s exciting times for sure.

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