Posted On 17 Jul 2018
Yonas released his newest album “About Time” on June 29th. This project blends a myriad of sonic influences and shows off his “lyrical prowess, providing an uncanny dose of his talents behind the mic.”
For a taste check out…
“Legacy” video: https://youtu.be/5sUopvPNKQ0
“All Rise” video: https://youtu.be/VmTPaJSUTO8
Click here to find “About Time”: https://onerpm.lnk.to/AboutTime
Yonas began his music career at the early age of 5 when he was enrolled in violin classes in East Harlem by his parents. He went on to study classical violin at the legendary Juilliard School of Music. Fast forward a few years after putting the violin down, Yonas became entrenched in the house party and club culture, becoming one of New York’s notorious freestyle rappers.
He won a Billboard Songwriting Award for his single “Banga” and racked up hundreds of thousands of downloads for his independently released projects. His albums have consistently reached top 5 on the iTunes Hip-Hop charts, top 25 on the overall iTunes album charts and top 50 on the Billboard Hip-Hop charts. His video for “Fall Back” found its way into the 2013 major motion picture, “The Place Beyond The Pines” starring Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper. Yonas gained major momentum with his “Freemix Tuesdays” series, with his remix of “Pumped Up Kicks” going viral to the tune of over 6 millions views. He was also featured as a Breakout artist in XXL magazine in June 2012.
Learn more about Yonas in the following All Access interview:
Thanks for your time today! Where does this interview find you now? What’s on tap for the rest of your day?
In bed, answering emails, writing a song, and half asleep at 8am. Went to bed at 4am. It’s my routine 🙂
All Access Music is currently compiling a list of our artists favorite songs this summer so what is YOUR song of the summer?
Post Malone’s “Better Now”… the dude’s mustache weirds me out but what a brilliant artist!
Overall, how do you think 2018 has been treating you and your music career? What has been one goal that you have had this year and how close are you to reaching it?
2018 has been great! My goal was to release my first album in 3 years, and to to finally headline a tour over seas. Both missions accomplished. My goal for the second half of the year is to tour the U.S. with a live band for the first time.
Growing up, was music always a big part of your life? Can you recall your first ever musical experience? How did you first get into freestyle rapping?
Music has always been in my life. My first musical experience was probably watching a VHS tape of a Paul Simon concert with him performing somewhere in Africa. Sounds random, but it was my favorite thing to play over and over and over. That is definitely not how I got into hip hop though. Freestyling came later in life, at house parties it was the thing to do. I’d battle friends and foes, all the while drinking 40’s and chain smoking. Some of the greatest times of my life so far.
What has been the biggest surprise so far about making music your career? Has there been an unexpected or welcome challenge to it all?
The biggest surprise is that I made it a career, ha! I never would have thought I’d be here, 7 years in, owner of my own company, and actually making profit. It’s a blessing for real. I guess the challenge for me has been reinventing what it means to be an independent artist. I negotiate mostly all of my own deals and I make the music along with the producers I work with. I co-direct all of my videos, and really just have a 360 degree hold on my career. Talking with CEO’s and Labels and structuring different deals is a fun challenge for me, and allows me to continue full freedom artistically.
How do you think you and your music have been influenced by your hometown and where you live today? What is the music scene like there these days?
New York City gave me a lot of grit. You’ll see everything you could possibly think of in just 24 hours being in New York City. Homelessness, Pure Wealth, good deeds, fights, entrepreneurs, broken glass, drugs, sky scrappers, parks, etc. It’s the most schizophrenic city there is, and its the most beautiful city there is. If it wasn’t for that grit, I wouldn’t be able to pull off the very pop/mainstream sound I have. It balances everything out… when I can sneak in lines like “I’m just a young kid from a rough block/ where the number one phrase is “fuck cops”/ and we all carry blades and buck shots/ I’m just trying to make a change before my luck stops/” some people have listened to my song “don’t give a damn” and STILL haven’t heard that line. Put the medicine in the candy. I feel like the New York hip hop scene is crazy right now. So much potential for NY to be at the top of the industry, we just need to stop all the infighting. New York is super competitive, so it’s only natural once we get a buzz, we end up fighting each other for the crown. If we somehow formed voltron and came together, it would be a big moment in music.
How would you say that you have grown as an artist since you first starting making music? What has remained the same?
I think my musical selection has grown. I am more selective with who I work with and what songs I’ll write to. Its a maturity that can only happen over time. When you’re just starting out, you’re excited to jump on anything. Now I’ll only work on what makes absolute sense. I think my content has stayed the same, because my story hasn’t changed. I write about what I’ve experienced, and I think that’s why a lot of people continue to relate.
What did it feel like releasing your newest album, “About Time”? What did it feel like the first time you heard this collection for the first time? How did you approach the making of it? Was it any different than your previous projects?
About Time for me is a big moment in my career. I think it’s my best project, my most mature project, and it’s 7 years in the making. I’ve released numerous albums before this one, but I feel this is where all of those projects were leading me. I’ve had an amazing fan base all these years, and I feel like now is our time. The first time I heard the entire project as a whole, it felt right. Everything clicked, which is crazy because I really focused on each song separately and didn’t focus on “making an album.” My whole mentality was to take my time making the best and most natural music I could make, and if it all fit together then great! The only other time I approached a project like that was my very first album, so it was almost like bringing everything full circle.
While it’s difficult, can you pick out a couple of your favorite tracks off “About Time”? How do you typically go about writing your music?
On this project it’s not hard at all. My favorites are All Rise, Legacy, Keep Up, Through The Fire, Waiting on You, King of the Summer, 4000 stories, and Everywhere We Go. Sounds like a lot but those are very specifically my favorite songs. I just feel each of those songs I was really able to capture the true essence of the message. It’s like having a muse present in the studio when you’re writing, and when you’re done, you don’t even remember writing it. It’s an out of body experience and when you hear it back it all makes perfect sense.
What do you think makes for an ideal show for you? What has been a favorite performance of yours so far? What are some of your upcoming summer tour dates?
Might sound crazy but I’m taking the summer off from touring. I just got back from an over seas run, and I really want to let people digest this album before taking it on the road. I’ll definitely be out on the road in the Fall, but for now, I’m home spending time with my new daughter Riley, and letting the album marinate. My ideal show is a lot of energy, crowd singing along, and just a great great vibe. I pride myself on being an entertainer, so the live show has to be electric. My favorite performances might just be in Germany. I have a ton of fans there and their energy is insane. They love music and it shows.
We are currently living through a very trying and politically charged time right now so I am curious to know how your own music is reflecting this time period? Would you say that other musicians are making music that has been influenced by this climate? Do you find that at your shows you have to say something about the political climate?
I think right now might be thee most important time in American history. I’m not so willing to concede to that “we’ve been here before, things will get better” mentality. I don’t think we’ve been here before, where half of the country is being duped, and the other half is fighting to uphold our democracy. The institutions of this country are being dismantled piece by piece, I just think we may turn around in 8 years (or less) and realize we’re no longer a democratic nation. I could be over reaching, but it’s worth it when speaking on peoples rights and freedoms. I recently realized my music has always displayed that urgency.
Some lyrics were recently brought to my attention from a song I released in 2011 entitled “Stupid Brilliance” and in that song were the lyrics: “our downfall will come from within the nation/ but the government don’t like that I’m spreading this information/ and I won’t stop ’til my radio syndication’s international and I cause massive evacuation/”… sounds like some shit from Handmaids Tale, ha, but aye, is it not true?
What has it been like keeping up with your social media accounts and all the different platforms? Is it hard to stay up to date on it all?
It’s been fun. I think the key to social media is to know who you are and be yourself. Some people post once a day and resonate with their audience, some people post three times a day. For me its about capturing moments I think people will connect with in some sort of way that’s meaningful.
Who are some of your favorite artists or rather, what musicians have continued to inspire you and your music? Who would you absolutely still love to work with in the future?
Musicians don’t really inspire me. Life continues to inspire me. I feel like the world has a message and artists job is to listen and translate that message. If we aren’t doing that, we aren’t doing our job. People who I feel do that well, Jon Bellion, Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, Vic Mensa, Adele, and a bunch of artists I know I’m forgetting.
If you had all the money and time in the world, which one of your songs, new or old, would you make a music video for? What would the video be like?
“Life Ain’t Easy” – the hook goes “if i could bury myself, I’d bury myself in music, ’cause life ain’t easy”… I’d be wearing a suit, laying inside of a glass piano as if it were a casket, the piano glass would be covered in sharpie-written lyrics of the song and torn pages of classical music, and Bill Murray would be playing the piano. It would be legendary.
If you were going to be stranded on a deserted island forever, what musical item would you take with you and why?
Something loud enough where I could make a sound and call for help, ha! I’d probably take a piano. I have no idea how to play, but forever is a long time to learn.
If your music was going to be featured on any TV show that is currently on right now, which would you love it to be on? Or if you prefer, what is a movie that you love that you wish your music was featured in?
The show Billions, its bad ass! I would pick Game of Thrones, but I don’t think they have modern music on that show 🙂
At the end of the day, what do you hope your fans take away from your music?
I hope they find some comfort knowing they’re not alone. They’re not alone in the thoughts they have, they’re not alone in the feelings they have. I hope they find background music for their house parties. I hope they find someone else who also enjoys my music and they make a new friend because of it. I hope they find something that makes them think twice, something that’s witty enough for them to hit replay. We are all stuck on this planet together, and we’re all just trying to make sense of this thing called life. I hope they find whatever they need to keep on going.
Where can our readers connect with you?
You can find me on twitter (@itsyonas) if you want to debate sports, music, movies, or life… and you can find me on Instagram (@iamyonas) to take a peek inside my life and my process making music. Other than that, my music is available worldwide on all platforms.
All photography provided by WMA Agency