The Bay Area has always been a hotbed for hip-hop talent, going all the way back to the heyday of E-40, Too Short, Spice 1 and Mac Dre, to name a few. Now, meet YOGY. He’s a young man who’s wise beyond his years, poised to take all of his life experiences and create something more meaningful out of them—perhaps even helping someone else in the process. YOGY is currently in the running to have his video for the introspective “Mirror Mirror” aired on MTVU. You can vote for him over at http://on.mtv.com/16eWtS0. (Voting ends Friday at 2pm EST.)
Recently, we had the chance to chop it up with YOGY about a variety of topics including his past and current projects (Kings Wear Crowns and ’88 Hooligans), the many obstacles he’s faced in his life, and even the impact of Oscar Grant on him as both a person and an artist.
What’s the significance of your name? Is it an acronym? Short for something?
YOGY is short for “You Only Got Yourself.” Deriving from life since my childhood. I represent every single-parent home urban kid. My father was locked up most of my life and my mom struggled with debt and alcoholism. It’s just a common feeling due to the circumstances that explains in a nutshell my foundation and now my mindset.
Growing up in the Bay Area, who were some of your biggest influences?
Tupac is one of my biggest influences period. His All Eyez On Me album raised me. Yukmouth, E-40 , Too Short, San Quinn, Mac Dre, Hiero, Souls of Mischief…and this list goes on, from a musical standpoint. I’ve always been a fan, before anything [else], of the Bay Area music scene, which actually inspired me to create my own music.
Kings Wear Crowns is the current project that you released in April. What was the overall concept of this album? What goals did you want to achieve?
Kings Wear Crowns in entirety is a mixtape that I wanted to show my abilities on…show that my potential is something special. An artist with ability to not only push in Cali but to stand out in other markets. The title is inspired by the belief that we are all born kings. As far as the concept with this project, I wanted to continue to build up my core fanbase, give them a few angles of how I viewed the world at the time I was recording. I want my fans to be able to grow with me. I hate putting expectations out because even that can limit growth. I’m just here trusting my struggle.
You didn’t have the easiest life coming up. If you could, go into some of the obstacles you faced and the effect that it has had on your music up to this point in your career.
I’ve had ups and downs. From the day I was born, I was diagnosed with VSD [Ventricular Septal Defect], basically having a hole in my heart. I was told early that I wouldn’t make it to eighteen if I hadn’t receive the surgery needed. I never had it. I was told I wouldn’t be able to do half the things that I’ve done so beat the odds of life in my mind. I’ve been homeless. I’ve had more than two handfuls of friends murdered, just by living to survive. We live to learn and learn to live, right? But on the flip I was also blessed to have sports as an escape. Football and boxing are probably why I’ve been able to manage my own demons. Those same demons I’m speaking of are leading into the next project I’m working on, where I’m not only speaking on the lifestyle but the emotion involved in my life since ’88, the year I was born.
How do you think you’ve grown musically and personally from your last project to the one you’re currently working on, ‘88 Hooligans?
I think with content, flow, delivery, subject matter. Each album I want to get deeper on the message I’m trying to deliver. As I get older, things change. I experience more, so the content will always continue to grow. I want this album to sound like a soundtrack to the person who had a troubled past. If you experienced what it’s like to be from an inner city, the feeling of struggle, pain and anger aren’t the feelings people talk about. I want to give that through my own material, my own experience and hopefully spark the mind of people who relate, to want more for themselves.
Do you think this upcoming project could potentially help a wayward child growing up in your area? If so, how do you think this can help?
Like I said, I want the things that I’ve experienced, the things that have hindered me to be a reality, not saying my life was any worse than the next person living theirs, but just for younger people from this area to connect with somebody that came from the same things they may have/are going through.
Being from the Bay, I’m sure you’re familiar with Oscar Grant. Have you seen the Fruitvale Station film and if so, what are your thoughts on it?
Fruitvale Station was powerful, I didn’t see a person leave the theater without tears or at least water in their eyes. I feel like the timing was perfect with the Trayvon Martin case also going on. Being from the Bay, living in the actual city where it took place made that movie feel that much more real. It made me feel like any one of my homies could have been Oscar Grant that night on the BART. The Oscar Grant story also puts it into perspective how the justice system is only meant to affect us but that’s a whole other topic.
Has Oscar’s story had any effect on your music, if so what kind?
Not only the Oscar Grant story, but all the problems stemming from growing up in the society filled with injustice from our own justice system, racism but most importantly the mindless black on black/brown on brown murders that take place in cities like this everyday have effected me more so as a man. It has inspired me musically to change my approach, for the fans that do listen to YOGY. We need the guidance because we grew up in an era without fathers, without leaders. I just want to represent the real reality of our culture. I can name way more people doing bad or living average then I could living like the videos & movies. All in all, prayers are with Oscar Grant, Trayvon Martin and anybody that was taken away before their time.
What advice would you give to a kid growing up in Oakland and wants to be a recording artist?
Eliminate the word “CAN’T”.
You’ve been fortunate enough to open for some of the biggest acts in music. Have you learned any valuable lessons from them that you can apply to your own career?
Show sets are important. Stand out. The energy that you leave with the people in that building is everything. Connection and engagement are everything.
Adding on to that question, where do you see yourself in the next few years? Will you be expanding your reach into different areas or anything like that?
I have so many things I want to accomplish not only in music but in acting, fashion, even video game design. I’m ambitious. I’m always thinking of ways to change the scope of shit.
Tell me something that your listeners may not know about you.
I got a thing for Jhene Aiko….[laughs]
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