interview 0312 added 09.06.05 words: Nikesh
UK hip-hop is certainly thriving at the moment, with some
around dropping dope albums and 12”s dropping
all the time. As the UK hip-hop sound emerges and it becomes
clear what the bar is, it’s nice with a musician comes along and
offers something a bit different and alternative. Cue
Brighton-based beatnik rapper-producer, Yoshi. A man of Afghan
origin, he cuts an impressive figure in his outlandish clothing
and self-assured sense of experimentation. Sampling anything
from William Shatner to John Frusciante to gardening shows, he
ends up with electronic soundscapes and interesting beats that
pave the way for his rhymes about life in Brighton and the
confusion and clarity arising from his dual heritage.
released first album, “From a Western Box”, Yoshi retired to the
studio to create something a bit more textured. What he ended up
with was the concept album, “Flowers and Trees” (released on
17th May). Essentially, a summery album about childhood and
naivety and belief in the cleansing powers of nature, the hippy-ish
songs take in everything from folk to dark minimal electronica
to straight-up hip-hop and Afghan rhythms. A man of such
eclectic tastes, Yoshi needed to be tracked down. So, I met him
on Brighton pier, he bought me doughnuts and we talked hip-hop,
growing up and pseudo-intellectuals.
Introduce yourself to the UKHH.COM
audience, what is your mission statement and your favourite
flower? Are you some sort of hippy-hopper?
I go by the name of Yoshi. Born in Brighton, living in Brighton,
making beats and writing rhymes for 9 years or so now. As far as
the mission statement, haha, I don't really have one. I'm more
of a lazy bum poet who eases his way through different phases in
life. I strive to do something fresh each time that's the only
thing I stick to. "Your music is tomorrow’s unknown, known life.
I love tomorrow" That's a quote from a Miles Davis record and
it's the only thing I keep in mind, I got it printed out on a
cheap printer and stuck just behind my mixer on the wall.
As for flowers, I don't have a favourite flower man. I just love
them all. Cherry Blossoms especially haha. I like learning
flower names in different lingos, I can say loads in Japanese,
quite a few in Dari (Afghan). I'd like to learn some in Dutch
though, I think that would sound interesting.
As for me being a "hippy-hopper" haha, yeah, I'm at this point
where I'm a bit opened, emotionally, so that's why I give off
this hippy-ish vibe that you’re talking about. I was really
analytical and logical when I was 16-18, quite anal and specific
and demanding about things. Then I think falling in love, and
discovering spirituality, looking beyond what you see, that all
starts turning you in this direction of being opened. Opening
up, like a flower. So that's the process me and my hip-hop have
been going through of late. Surviving on, and living through
emotions. That's the first way I connect to something-
emotionally. That's why when I listen to people like Coldplay, I
don't make fun of the simple lyrics or look down on them like
these pseudo-intellectuals or snobby music-reviewers.
“...I can dig
Chris Martin, he's not an idiot, he seems like an intelligent
guy; it's just that his lyrics are very understated, same with
Seal, I love Seal...”
Cos I can
dig Chris Martin, he's not an idiot, he seems like an
intelligent guy; it's just that his lyrics are very understated,
same with Seal, I love Seal. That guy knows what he's doing. And
that's what it has become with my hip-hop lyrics, and my musical
approach. I say things that may seem obvious sometimes, or
cheesy at other times, but if you stop for a second, you'll find
the depth, you'll feel how the words can be looked at from many
angles and interpreted many ways- so I like that, cos when you
feel so much inside- you don't want to go into specifics
sometimes. You can't! You need to just let it out in a raw form.
Which is probably linked to why I never really dug all these
complex, supposedly "clever" metaphors that rappers like Canibus
and Eminem used, cos it can feel contrived. The key is balance,
which is what I'm learning these days.
Tell us the concept and themes behind
the album "Flowers and Trees"
Man, 'Flowers & Trees' is a little jewel of a 14-track LP I
made, which is all about childhood, positivity, the art of being
creative, and what it means to be an artist and ‘an interesting
human being’ living in this cocaine-world of boring plans and
secure money. Overall it's just a very positive album, and it
was made in a spirit of childhood innocence, and that's what it
reflects. I hope. I'm a naïve dude, that's what some people
often say, which I take as a compliment. Just the other day at
my friend’s birthday party I say to my friend,
"Won't it be crazy when we're all adults sitting here at
birthday parties?" And this other lady who I'd just met started
laughing at me because I said "When we're adults" and hey, I'm
basically in my mid-20's so I guess that sounds crazy. But I
said it to her just as I feel it: I don't consider me an adult.
Not in that sense. So that's the main theme of the album…
taking, or maybe keeping the essence of what made you young,
tapping into it and using it as a grown man in this world. Some
things you can't keep… like urine-soaked trousers. But there are
so many things we really can learn from these youngsters amongst
us. So that's my philosophy! That's my "mission statement" haha!
My curriculum veeetie!
How successful do you think you were in
your mission statement?
It's so crazy giving form and structure to the music that comes
from you without any thought of form or structure. That's what
you have to do afterwards to give it an angle. I don't want to
do that though. This is just wicked music. People seem to really
like this kind of hip-hop I do, and it sticks in your head and
it's catchy, so I think it's successful in that respect.
How do you approach production?
Well I just have ideas. In the shower I come up with loads, the
chorus and lyrics for 'When U see the future' were composed in
the shower. I jumped out and e-mailed someone I knew and told
them, "this is going to be a wicked song". Walking home at
night-time I come up with a lot of ideas too, I like to walk
home early after I've met my friends… I'm known for leaving
early… because I get to walk through the busiest part of town at
the time when everyone's in the club, or on their way in, and
I'm on my way out. So that inspires good ideas and lines.
crazy giving form and structure to the music that comes from you
without any thought of form or structure...”
just get home, sit down and make the concepts in my head into
reality, and watch how they never cease to change and evolve
once they're out of my head, and how no idea or concept no
matter how good it is, will stay completely the same in your
mind. John Coltrane spoke about the same thing with regards to
getting the music in his
head out into the real world of sound. But anyway, technically I
use my computer, I got a mixer, a nice mic, and a Korg Keyboard,
two nice monitors and a compressor which doesn't work right now.
It's all about what you do with it though, what's in your mind.
You talk a lot on the album about your
affinity for Brighton. What are your thoughts on the Brighton
Yes man. I love this town. It's just a town to me, it's my town
and I own it. I just can't say enough about it. The beach is
responsible for so much of what I do, how I live. You know? I
see inner-city kids from London sometimes. I'll never forget
these kids a few summers back. I was playing ball on the beach
when I saw them; they just went mad when they approached the
sea. It's like they'd never seen it before and they just went
wild, running around screaming with smiles on their faces they
were only like 6 or 7. Brighton's full of out of towners.
There's something about being on the edge of the earth that I
love though, and likewise something about being inland which I
find really suffocating. As for the hip-hop scene down here…?
Man it's great. I'm not particularly involved that much, which
is a shame. But, I think that's just me… I don't like to stay
too involved in one particular scene. I make as much of an
effort as I can though and the people are all great here.
brightonhiphop.com is a cool thing to have! When I did my
show at the one and only Slipjam: B night down here, I was just
overwhelmed man. I'd never come into contact with young hip-hop
heads in Brighton like that before, and they were so supportive,
so cool and open-minded. They were hip-hop haha. And I think
that's reflected in all the acts that are doing well down here.
I need to make more of an effort to get out to shows and so on.
But I'm just not one for events and being out that much if I'm
There are a lot of elements to your
music, like hip-hop, electronica, world music, even folk... do
you view yourself as a hip-hop artist?
I knew you'd pick up on that, and the folk thing is something
I'm really getting into now too, I like Wilco, and Woody Guthrie
these days. A lot of that religious folk music from the
Depression-era in America is powerful too. Plus Rachid Taha is
dope. If you want to talk about an experimental artist from 'the
world' haha, check him out… he's clever. But I don't know about
the hip-hop thing man, I don't want to say anything where I'll
be sounding like a broken record or cheesy… but at the end of
the day, I believe that hip-hop can embody all those styles and
genres under it.
it's just a very positive album, and it was made in a spirit of
childhood innocence, and that's what it reflects...”
Is hip-hop itself a genre? If it is then I want
to transcend hip-hop too, and in that case- I'm not a hip-hop
artist, I'm more. But if, as I think, hip-hop is something
bigger than genres, then I'm comfortable with it, and calling
myself a hip-hop artist is fine in that case. It's all about
people's different perceptions. But I listen to all music, so I
am all music, you know? Man, it's a dirty game… labelling… isn't
it? I like to push things though, that's all. I don't like to
box things, I like to make things free, and that includes
hip-hop, and people’s preconceptions of hip-hop. Mangling and
changing things is important sometimes.
Where do you hope to take your music in
the next few years?
I hope to take it upwards, like a hot air balloon. Then, as I'm
up high in the clouds, I hope to take it sideways, all across
the Earth, like a hot air balloon. 'All across the universe',
like John Lennon said.
What new projects you working on?
I can't tell you because I don't want to. Haha, I have just
completed two exclusive tracks for some cool dudes at
www.muslimyouth.net who released this massive CD with mostly
younger MC's on it, and I was the big daddy of them all haha. It
was a wicked experience recording up in London though. So cop
that if you're interested to hear more of my stuff. But, my next
album I can't tell you about now. Needless to say I never stop,
thank God, and I'm working on it everyday.
What is your attitude to live shows?
I love live shows. My attitude to them is love. Love-live haha.
Come and see me if I'm in your area; you'll have a great time
because I put on a mad show and I talk to you. Plus I'm tryin'
to incorporate a few Beatles covers in between some of my tracks
so watch the space! Nothing like a MC who can't sing having the
time of his life- that's what I think.
Who are your main influences?
There are too many bro. These days I have been mostly listening
to.... The Beatles, George Harrisons solo stuff, Pharoah
Saunders, Miles Davis, John Coltrane.. Joni Mitchell, John
Frusciante. At the moment I'm listening to Foo Fighters, but I
check for everything old and new man. Mars Volta are nice,
Divine Styler, Mos Def. I don't give up on Wu-Tang either man.
Rza is timeless. Someone in the hip-hop community should be
honouring him cos of how much experimentation and diversity he's
brought to hip-hop. The last hip-hop album I heard was the Edan
one and I liked it. But I don't know man. Too many to name, plus
I sample a lot of them, so I wanna keep it hush-hush, haha. I'm
mainly on to other stuff right now though, not listening to that
much hip-hop at the moment.
really dug all these complex, supposedly "clever" metaphors that
rappers like Canibus and Eminem used, cos it can feel contrived...”
Shameless plugs/shout outs/rants?
Thanks and praises to God for everything that is. Love to my
family in the UK and USA and everyone who smiled at all the
funny lines and general sillyness on my album. Mirth, I like the
word mirth! My LP is full of mirth! Haha. Peace to everyone else
with an open mind and an opened heart. And to those few who I
don't speak to anymore, don't forget to remember me... in the
jingle-jangle morning... Thanks to you for the interview man, it
“Flower &Trees” and “From a Western Box” are available to buy