Q&A with MC YOGI Who Blends his Love & Knowledge of Yoga Culture with Hip Hop, Reggae, and Electronic music.
Posted On 08 Dec 2014
Tag: All Access, All Access Music, All Access Music Group, Amanda Giacomini, Art, Art Basel, Artist Interview, Artist Profile, Beastie Boys, bhajans, Bhakti, Bhakti Fest, Bob Marley, Bonnaroo, Buddhism, Can't Touch This, Cope 2, DJ Drez, electronic music, Facebook, global music, graffiti, Grateful Dead, Hindu, Hinduism, Hip Hop, Ice Cube, India, Instagram, Jump Around, Kickstarter, Larry Schultz, M.I.A, Major Lazer, Matisyahu, MC YOGI, MIA, Miami, New York, Nicholas Giacomini, Nicole DeRosa, OBEY, ONLY LOVE IS REAL, Pattabhi Jois, Rap, Reggae, San Fancisco, Santigold, Shepard Fairey, Spanish Fork Color Festival, Taoism, The, The Beatles, The Humpty Dance, Utah, vegetarian, VH1, VH1 Go Super Sonic!, Wanderlust, Woodstock, world music, yoga, yoga culture, YOGART
From headlining international music festivals to teaching some of the largest yoga classes in America, MC YOGI (aka Nicholas Giacomini) is widely becoming known as yoga’s modern day ambassador to the West. Blending his love & knowledge of yoga culture with hip hop, reggae, and electronic music, MC YOGI is recognized as a leading voice in the emerging genre of conscious global music.
His influences range from Major Lazer to M.I.A., Santigold to Matisyahu and The Beatles to the Beastie Boys.
With three #1 World albums and hundreds of appearances each year, MC YOGI’s music is moving yoga to large, mainstream audiences. From headlining international music festivals to teaching some of the largest yoga classes in America, MC YOGI is widely becoming known as yoga’s modern day ambassador to the West.
A tranquil early childhood was cut short by a surprise family implosion that led Yogi to all kinds of messy rebellion: dropping out of school, graffiti punkdom, pre-teen drug abuse, stealing cars, lashing out at everyone and everything and not quite knowing why. It all led to the honor of being kicked out of no less than four schools by the time he was 17 before finally, by way of an unexpected introduction to yoga and classical Hindu philosophy, a complete rediscovery of self, of the yogic path, of the true meaning of music and love.
Between launching his Kickstarter campaign and heading to Miami to attend Art Basel, the very gracious MC YOGI took some time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions for All Access Music writer, Nicole DeRosa.
You just launched your Kickstarter campaign in support of your new album, ONLY LOVE IS REAL. How did this idea come about to use Kickstarter? Why did you decide to go along this path?
Kickstarter allows an artist to go direct. As an independent musician without a label it’s awesome to think that now I can create music and get it directly to my fans without all the trappings of a major label. ONLY LOVE IS REAL is the name I chose after meditating on what would be a poignant message that sums up my 15 years of experience as a yogi so far.
Where does this interview find you? What’s on the agenda today besides our interview?
I’m down in Miami right now at an event called Art Basel, it’s the one of the largest Art exhibits in the world. My wife Amanda and I are in the process of painting a huge mural here next door to the Wynwood Walls, which is a famous graffiti and street art exhibit.
While we’re down here I’m also teaching yoga with an organization called YOGART, which helps to connect yoga and street art. Growing up as a graffiti writer, and then becoming a yogi, it’s awesome to experience those two world coming together in such an inspiring atmosphere.
For those of our readers that are not as familiar with you, how did your musical journey begin?
I started writing rhymes as a young kid. I grew up reading comic books and listening to hip-hop. When high school came around I started free styling and performing at house parties and local hip hop events. Around that time I was painting a lot of illegal murals. As kids we used to steal paint, hit the freeway or the train yards and create huge pieces.
I used to mainly paint characters, while my friends painted letters. I got arrested a bunch of times, got kicked out of three schools, and my parents shipped me off to a group home. After high school around eighteen, I discovered yoga and meditation and it completely changed my life. That’s when I started experimenting with yoga based hip-hop music, and the rest is history.
Your music style characteristically contains themes with Hindu philosophy and many of your songs are bhajans (Hindu devotional songs). Who or what was the catalyst for your teachings and becoming immersed in Hinduism?
Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, it all interests me really. I just love anything that draws me deeper into the present moment, into a feeling of peace, relaxation, and inspiration. I remember the first journey I made to India. It blew my mind into another dimension, since then I feel like I’ve been on a spiritual pilgrimage, working to create more inspiring content, more yoga based music and art.
I had the pleasure of seeing you live for the first time at this years Bhakti Fest. Your performance was absolutely incredible! You took the crowd on a magic carpet journey of beautiful rhymes and sounds that literally transport you to the happiest of places. Which festival has been your most memorable so far?
Bhakti Fest is like a modern Woodstock for people into yoga and spirituality. I’ve been really lucky and have performed at some incredible festivals like Bonnaroo, Wanderlust etc. but the best crowd I ever played for so far was in Utah, at the Spanish Fork Color Festival. There were over 20k kids there, and DJ Drez and I set it off. The whole place went into ecstasy and there were no drugs involved, just pure joy, pure love.
Speaking of yoga, You have taught some of the largest yoga classes in America, and you are widely becoming known as yoga’s modern day ambassador to the West. Blending your love & knowledge of yoga culture with hip-hop, reggae, and electronic music. How long have you been practicing yoga and what kind of yoga do you teach?
I’ve been practicing yoga for about 15 years now. I initially learned from my dad. Once he brought me as far as he could, he took me to his teacher in San Francisco, the late great Larry Schultz. Larry is a legendary teacher. He taught yoga to the Grateful Dead, touring with them on the road. Larry took me under his wing, let me live in the studio downtown South of Market in San Francisco.
How did you come up with the idea that yogis would love a yogi who does hip-hop?
I used to practice yoga during the day, and go out and paint murals at night. It was awesome. Later my wife Amanda and I traveled to India to study with Pattabhi Jois who was also Larry’s teacher. And to answer the last question it just happened, I love yoga and hip-hop so much, they came together very naturally and people seem to enjoy it.
What is your all time favorite yoga pose?
Just sitting in Meditation is where it’s at for me. Space is the place, breathing dropping the mind deep into the center of my Self, and allowing everything to open up so the Truth can be revealed. It’s pure magic.
Who are your musical influences?
I grew up listening to The Beatles, Bob Marley, and the Beastie Boys.
Who is in your current playlist?
I love Major Lazer, MIA, Santigold, Matisyahu, too many to name. I listen to a wide spectrum of great music.
Is there anyone in there that we would be surprised to find? Any “guilty pleasures”?
As far as guilty pleasures there’s a gang of rap songs that I still really enjoy, The Humpty Dance, Can’t Touch This, Jump Around, I love old school rap music. I think it’s cheesy and awesome.
Describe your perfect day.
Well today I taught yoga, painted a huge mural with my wife Amanda, enjoyed some amazing fresh local vegetarian food and organic juice. Listened to some awesome music, performed with a world class beat boxer, met Shepard Fairey aka OBEY and Cope 2 legendary graffiti king from New York, wrote some new lyrics and had the opportunity to connect with fans. In the words of Ice Cube I have to say today was a good day!
What are you most excited about for this year? What’s on tap next for you?
INDIA! I’m going in December to perform at a big electronic festival called VH1 Go Super Sonic! I can’t wait. I love India like the moon loves the Sun, so stoked to go back and do my thing. I feel so grateful and blessed
Any last thoughts words or ideas for our readers?
Thanks for taking to time to connect. I’m really inspired by the growing interest in yoga and the work that so many of us are doing to empower people and make the world a better place.
Hit me up on Instagram @MCYOGI, or Facebook ( MCYOGI108) and if you get a chance check out the MC YOGI KICKSTARTER video, it tells more about my story and gives a sneak preview of the new music that we’re dropping soon. Much Love to All Access, Peace.
To learn more about MC YOGI, also visit his website here .