Nomadic Brooklyn MC Yasiin Bey recently sat for the first portion of a two-part interview from Hypetrak. He discussed his musical tastes at this point and his recent relocation overseas, which has found him living between Cape Town and Paris. Bey gives a bit of insight into the new music he’s got coming. He also speaks fondly of his participation in the 10th anniversary of Dave Chappelle’s Block Party – an event that reunited the musical titans that packed the bill for the original event in 2004:
You recently performed at Dave Chappelle’s Block Party, 10 years after its original landmark in 2004. How was the show?
It was a much bigger level than Block Party 2004. Shepard Fairey released specially-designed T-shirts that were given away to 60.000 people over the course of 10 days. The show was sold out and brought together longstanding friends and collaborators; The Roots, Erykah Badu, Nas, Talib Kweli, The Fugees, Common, Dead Prez. Kanye also passed through which was a great moment. It was great to see Dave Chapelle take stage too after his self-imposed hiatus.
With the new year fast approaching, what can you tell us about your forthcoming releases?
I’ve been in the studio with a lot of folks doing different projects. Me and Mannie Fresh’s collaborative OMFGOD album is 80% done. I’m also working on more releases from the Black Jack Johnson (a rap-rock hybrid that consists of Yasiin himself and keyboardist Bernie Worrell, guitarist Dr. Know, drummer Will Calhoun, and bassist Doug Wimbish), Watermelon Syndicate. I’m just staying focused and working areas much bigger than hip-hop, although hip-hop is where many of the projects sprouted from.
What advice can you give to hip-hop artists looking to push boundaries within the genre?
Hip-hop has evolved to a point where the movement is not solely dependent on the MC anymore. Producers like Madlib and J.Dilla, alongside a contemporary breed of producers like Clams Casino, XXXY, araabMUZIK, Floating Points, Jamie XX, are creating a good sonic experience. I want to showcase hip-hop as more than just attached to the vocalist as I would just encourage artists to explore a different sonic perspective in hip-hop, there’s no real mainstream advice I can give more like a different sonic perspective. If the work is good and it’s consistent, you just keep at it and people will will appreciate it.