Hailing from Atlanta, Georgia – Yamin Semali. If you haven’t heard of him, then you probably should take some time to do so. Fresh, inventive and multi-talented, we expect Yamin to be well known in the underground scene the world over one day. His ability, level of professionalism and work ethic would surely make it a matter of time. It has been an honour to interview him and we hope you enjoy reading this. Please take some time to check some of his music which we will post at the end of the interview.
Rockfresh: Q1: Tell us a little more about yourself and how you got into making Hip-Hop.
Yamin: Hey this is Yamin. I grew up in East Point, GA. I came into Hip-Hop formally by promoting on labels’ street teams and buying records to find samples and to DJ parties. The same person, X-Ro from Los Angeles, put me on to promotions and taught me to make beats and DJ. This was around 1999
Rockfresh: Q2: You’re a jack of all trades. What made you go from DJ & beatmaker to emceeing as well? From listening to your music, you didn’t appear to pick up the mic until years later?
Yamin: Well, I always wrote and have been rhyming since I began learning how to track songs but it wasn’t a passion at first. I hadn’t enough experience in life to really make it consistent. I had to grow up before I felt comfortable speaking. As an emcee, I feel just as capable and my opinions and ideas need a good platform to express.
Rockfresh: Q3: What do you prefer doing?
Yamin: If I had to choose, beats all day. Right now, I’m doing an album with Illastrate and he’s doing all the production. It’s different in a good way. I’ve been able to look inside 100% as opposed to listening to records which is outside inspiration. Some tracks I do, like “Never Leave” use no samples and the reward is a little different, but even then you have to search for the right synths and drums. It’s a real gift to make yourself and others think when it comes to expressing thoughts, but I don’t like too much attention. As a producer, you can affect people more anonymously. I also like making beat tapes and just riding around the city listening to them.
Rockfresh: Q4: Tell us more about your album “Yamin” that you released last year. Mostly all done by yourself from start to finish and in our opinion was one of the stand out albums of last year. Did it get a good reception elsewhere?
Yamin: It was well-received. I got a lot of props from it. It opened doors for sure. Dart Adams, one of the best music journalists in the world, placed it on his list of 50 best albums for 2013. I put a good number of videos together for it, mostly from my own network or even my own phone. It was very in-house. A few people wanted to release it or expressed interest but it became a game of “hurry up and wait” so I just invested in physical copies and some online presence. I still mail them out, mostly to European countries.
Rockfresh: Q5: How did it go down with your local scene seeing as you’re from down south where (from the outside loooking in) crunk seems to be more the culture there?
Yamin: It’s a subculture here that is strong, dating back to the 80s, that is more culturally significant than crunk or trap can ever be. The entertainment factor has made profit like Hollywood but real music hasn’t left, it has just become less visible to the average consumer. I always thought crunk music was lame even though I have a connection to it through my management. My label partner Chris V produced an album with Lil Jon back when he was actually rapping, as well as Bonecrusher, called Full Contact Sports. It wasn’t what you know them for today. The production style that evolved into “crunk” was actually started by Chris V, who is from a Midwest town. 10 years ago, my group Clan Destined used those super fast high hats on a few tracks but we were just experimenting. Now that’s a radio staple. A lot of innovation was made down here, exploited and usually mediated for a sure hit. There are new artists here that incorporate many styles to create something of their own and it’s good to see the bar get raised.
Rockfresh: Q6: Arguably, OutKast are the best known gift to Hip-Hop from Atlanta, how much of an influence have they been on you?
Yamin: Immense. Same high school, same town, and many of the same experiences. When we were younger, that was the thing to us: continuing a level of consciousness in our music while still being funky. The industry changed a lot since ’94 so things aren’t so good now, but they proved it can be done down here. I even released a tribute song to them and the city of east point this year.
Rockfresh: Q7: Another Atlanta favourite of ours is Kno of CunninLynguists. Any chance of a collab one day?!
Yamin: No doubt. Could happen, but we haven’t met. I know Deacon and SOS but typically only speak through mutual friends
Rockfresh: Q8: Which artists would you like to collab with in the future that you haven’t done so already?
Yamin: I’d like to do something with Stevie Wonder, Lee Perry, Battlecat, Andre 3000, Damian Marley, Esperanza Spalding….many talents come to mind.
Rockfresh: Q9: Tell us more about your recent release – Senior Dues vol 2. Plenty of well known people up on that. It must have been quite the experience to work with the likes of J-Live, Kurupt & Count Bass D (amongst many more.) Must have been rewarding to work people like that?
Yamin: Yes definitely. Not just because of their fame, but because of what they exhibit as artists and/or friends. Things kinda worked out by just being connected to so many people throughout the years. It wasn’t my intention for it to come out that way. I’m glad it did though. I grew up on Death Row and Dogg Pound. Getting Kurupt was all thanks to Big Vision, a man of legend in Atlanta who also blessed that same song… and J-Live influenced me to keep all my skills, from the deejaying to the rhyming, equally sharp. Count is a genius of sound and showed me how to keep it about individuality. It was also great to work with Dublohskytzo. His production is soooo stupid. This album still made me want to be a better soloist so I don’t have to depend on co-signs and association as much as most new artists.
Rockfresh: Q10: Outside of the industry, who have been your biggest influences towards your music?
Yamin: My grandmother for letting me bang on pots and pans in the kitchen as a toddler. Malcolm X for showing me that dignity is not to be compromised and every girl with whom I’ve been in some kind of relationship for all the subject matter they have given me. Haha!
Rockfresh: Q11: Certainly you come across as someone with a sense of deep personal pride. Do you think that helps you connect with the right people such as the likes of Kurupt etc?
Yamin: I think I attract situations based on being dedicated. I could’ve quit years ago and never knew my full potential. I made the beat he’s on back in ’09. He didn’t hear it til last year. Imagine if I quit five years ago, before even making that track? The key is to keep going (if you have talent). Pride is a part of it, but I am my worst critic and I never feel good enough for me very long. I don’t mind being that way though because it is a constant motivator. It ebbs and flows.
Rockfresh: Q12: Tell us more about Yamin the man outside of Hip-Hop. What else do you like to do?
Yamin: Well, I like to volunteer in places that I can socialize and help others. I do a little work at Truly Living Well urban farm here in Atlanta. I organize with different organizations on community-based issues like preventing child abductions or cleaning up the litter in parks and neighborhoods. Even though that is not directly related to Hip-Hop music, I think it is still the same culture of self-sufficiency of which Hip-Hop was born. I love basketball too, but not really the NBA too much. I just love the game, so you might find me on a court near you one day.
Rockfresh: Q13: What would your life be like if it wasn’t for Hip-Hop and the values it has clearly bestowed upon you?
Yamin: I’d probably want to assimilate into popular culture just to be a part of something, which is the worst reason to do anything. I’d still have a level of cultural pride regarding my ancestors but I would probably be more faithful in American justice systems and end up an “educated fool” which is the new statistic.
Rockfresh: Q14: If someone had never heard your music before, what song would you ask them to listen to and why?
Yamin: Probably “So Much” off my first album. It shows my production style and lyricism, plus the message is very near to my personality and outlook on life. It’s basically about how there is “so much” more to life than what we usually think about as a species. Either that, or “Yamin” because that is like my theme music. I produced it as well.
Rockfresh: Q15: How and where can people keep up with you?
Yamin: Twitter.com/yaminallday and yendollarmusic.com are the best ways. I put tracks on soundcloud.com/yaminsemali from time to time too.
“Yamin” Official Video
Yamin The Album – the CD is of excellent quality (Rockfresh recommended!)