Interviews

Published on May 9th, 2020 | by Percy Crawford

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Yuki Drops Debut Album, “Be Free,” Hopes the World Connects With the Project

Hot New Zealand producer/artist, Yuki stepped outside of his comfort zone for debut project!

New Zealand based, producer and hip-hop artist, Yuki, most notably, produced on Jaden Smith’s sophomore album, “ERYS” in 2019 – including instrumentation for the track “NOIZE,” featuring Tyler the Creator.  With that track receiving impressive placement as the official intro to last year’s NBA Playoffs, Yuki’s career was kick-started, gaining him high praise amongst his musical peers. On May 8th, Yuki digitally released his debut album “Be Free,” which sees the budding talent interweaving hard-hitting hip-hop production with intricate instrumentation, straight from the heart writing, and sticky vocal melodies.  This fresh and unique “D.I.Y” approach to the genre is what makes this kid exceptionally special.

I was able to catch up with, Yuki to discuss his new album, his relationship with Jaden Smith and much more!

How is everything going over there in New Zealand in terms of being quarantined?

Yuki: It seems to be going well, we were really early to go into quarantine. We actually just got out of level 4 a week ago. Some things like restaurants have been opening up again, but we are still all staying inside until the government says we’re good.

Obviously, you’re still able to create and make music. I’m sure that’s therapeutic for you to still be able to do your thing.

Yuki: Of course! It’s weird because I was already inside pretty much every day creating. At first it almost felt forced, like “Well now you have no choice but to create,” which was stressful, but now as I’ve been preparing to drop, “Be Free,” I’ve been super inspired to make new music again and really live with it in a different way than ever before.

How does music differ if at all from New Zealand to the states?

Yuki: I think in terms of inspiration and aesthetics we are pretty much the same, as the U.S is such a huge influence in every music genre and community anywhere. I feel where we differ is in delivery. The way of life here, how we communicate, grow up and the things we take in, whether from media or other sources, is VERY different. I think it finds its way into the music as this vulnerability that simultaneously comes off really brave and confident when opening up, if that makes sense.

I get it for sure. You produced for Jaden Smith and you also laced the track, “Noize” for Jaden and Tyler, The Creator which in turn was picked up by the NBA. How did you link up with, Jaden?

Yuki: I had some mutual friends with him and my beats had made its way onto his phone through them; he made two songs out of them that he had performed on his “VISION TOUR” in 2018. I then randomly met him at Complex Con and told him who I was, he recognized me and showed an interest in creating together. It all sort of snowballed from there.

That’s awesome. Is it tough to not be nervous when you’re working with someone as talented as Jaden, or do you believe in your talents so much that nerves don’t come into play?

Yuki: Not at all! Maybe early on when we both didn’t really know much about each other, but now he’s like my big bro. We’ve experienced a lot together in a very short amount of time. It was very natural becoming friends, so I don’t really feel any pressure anymore, just eagerness to make something special. In regards to talent, I know that my talent wouldn’t be the same without his and vice versa. We are both there on the day to do our own thing, so it’s more of a team effort than a rapper and a beat for me.

What has the process been like for creating your debut album, “Be Free?” Long days and restless nights or did you just take your time and make sure it came out right?

Yuki: A bit of both! It was super easy to start the album coming off of working on ERYS with [Jaden]. I was so eager to make my own music with the new things I’d learned, and things I’d lived through, that the first half of the album was very easy to make. I would make maybe 3 ideas, and get them all to a version I was comfortable with in a few days of non-stop work. The tricky part was finishing them. The songs started becoming very cluttered and messy and it was hard locking down what the album was; I made 70+ ideas for the project and only kept 10! So it was a mix of very quick, sporadic creating and then weeks of sitting back and thinking it through.

In your opinion, what made now the right time for you to drop an album?

Yuki: I think now is perfect because we are all in this weird time, living with the fear of the unknown, and this album is like my reinvention. It’s my first real statement of what my solo music is, so to hopefully present it to a new audience who can really sit with the music and have less distractions, feels right to me. Also, it just timed up well with the mixing and mastering process which only finished a month ago!

Talk me through the title, “Be Free.” We understand what that phrase means on a broad spectrum, but what does it mean to you?

Yuki: Over the process of making the album, “Be Free” has become less of a phrase or anything to do with the subject of “freedom,” and more of a brand or logo that I think represents me and the music. When I listen to “Be Free” I’m not thinking “Wow, I really feel free listening to this;” I’m more hearing who I was when I was making it. I’m hearing the motivation to be free from stress and all the things that were going on in my life at that time. I have often thought about the name, “Be Free” coming off as fake deep, or preachy, but now I just see it as a name that looks cool, rather than a sentiment.

I listened to the album; I love the diversity of the album. You’re doing a little bit of everything. Was that your goal, to put out a diverse product and provide a little bit of something for everyone who listens?

Yuki: I think the diversity was unintentional mostly. I had just finished working on a super heavy trap/heavy metal/punk album so the music I was listening to was the complete opposite, because I wanted to cleanse my palette a little. So my technical side was more trained to make hard hitting production, whereas my creative direction wanted to focus more on pretty chords, hooks, and layering textures, which I guess ended up mixing together and becoming the album’s sound.

How do you decide what beats you’re just going to rhyme to and the ones you are just going to use the instrumentals to?

Yuki: I never really decide, I produced everything myself, with some small contributions from my friends, but I never really make “beats” for myself. I just start with an idea and see what comes to mind vocally and produce it out wherever the song leads. My songs are never an instrumental and then a song; it’s always moving together from start to finish so the idea feels whole.

How are your musical inspirations? Who inspires you to do what you do?

Yuki: My musical inspirations are all over the place as of now but I guess early on I would have said Tyler, The Creator, Frank Ocean, and Jimi Hendrix. For “Be Free” it was a lot of Vampire Weekend, Hiatus Kaiyote, JPOP, “Testing” by A$AP Rocky, and my friends’ music. Now I’m listening to a lot of old Justin Timberlake, OutKast, Kanye West, and 2000’s era hip hop. As for what inspires me to do what I do, I think that’s all internal. There are so many things I want to experience, avenues I want to explore, and things I want to create. I also want to inspire people like my early heroes inspired me.

May 8th is the big day for you. Are you anxious for this release, calm, or a little bit of both and why?

Yuki: To be honest I’m super anxious. I was calm and confident while making it, but now it feels like I’m revealing my child to the world (laughing). This album is so far from anything I’ve previously done and I think it’s really unique so I have no gauge of how it’s going to play out in my mind. It’s the most confident I’ve ever been in my own music, but the least confident I’ve ever been in the business side of it.

I can’t wait for the world to hear, “Be Free,” best of luck with the album and everything else you have going on. Is there anything else you would like to add before I let you go?

Yuki: Neither can I! I hope when people listen to the album they hear the time and effort put into it by me and my friends and connect with it! I appreciate anyone and everyone who listens and supports.

Be sure to check out, Yuki’s title track, “Be Free!”



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