Here is an interview with Wake Your Daughter Up hiphop and audio blog. It originally ran right before the launch of Never Knows Best on June 15th, 2008.
WYDU: For those out there in the blog land that might not know who you are, can you give us a brief introduction?
Yameen: Sure. My name’s Yameen aka “Stinke”. I’m a producer born and raised in Philadelphia, presently living in San Francisco. I’m also a huge fan of the site. Thanks for having me.
W: Man, I already gotta questions your taste, liking this site…hahaha. You got an interesting start in the “game”, coming up on the infamous Heiro boards from back in the day and working with them, how did you hook up with that and do you think it’s benefited you as an artist?
Yameen: In 1995 while I was still in high school, I started a little website called Tha Threshold. It had a graffiti section, a video game section, a links page (which were really big back then) and a little section about my favorite crew at the time, Hieroglyphics. I originally made the Hiero page to see what was going on with all those guys because it was like the “Hiero Hotline” just dried up and no one knew where any of those guys were, or what they were doing.
So, you know, I had this cool little website. And it was getting a few hits. But the video game section was kinda popping…So I decided to shut down the Hiero section of the site and focus on the games part. Ironically, the day I decide to do this, I get a beep on my pager (1995, y’all) and it’s from the “510″ area code…I’m like, “Who is this?”. So I call the number back and it’s some guy claiming to be Tajai from Souls of Mischief. He wants to make my website, “Official”, he says! “Sure, sure buddy….”, I had assured him. “Well, why don’t you send me some stuff to prove you’re actually Tajai and then we’ll take it from there.” No joke, this is how it went down. So a week or two goes by and oh shit! A huge package arrives with all kinds of Hiero press photos, Souls of Mischief “No Man’s Land” promotional water flasks, stickers, all this stuff. I mean, I’m still in high school. So I take all this stuff back to school and I’m flossin this shit like, “YEA MOTHERFUCKERS!” Haha…
So yea, through Tajai’s connection we made the website official in 1995. A year or so later we acquired the “Hieroglyphics.com” domain name which cost $180 a year back then. In 1995, you could pretty much count all of the hiphop websites on both of your hands. We all knew each other too. Aside from Mystik Journeymen, Hiero was the first hiphop group to have a huge online presence. And we dominated between 1995-2001. We funded the entire recording of 3rd Eye Vision through the website and our burgeoning e-commerce initiative. We won tons of awards and established a lot of the web practices adopted by many other sites in the intervening years.
But yea, as far as benefiting me as an artist, definitely. My first music EP commercially-released was with Tajai of Souls of Mischief in 99′. And it was released on Tajai’s label through Hieroglyphics Imperium. So right there, that was a great jump-off. I also got to tap into the Hiero fanbase since I had Hiero members on my records. And likewise, that worked in different scenarios: When I did Aesop Rock’s website in 1999, we were able to hit up the Hiero fanbase and turn them onto him, for example. It all worked cause I think all the Hiero Heads were on more or less the same shit. It wasn’t like I was posting up links to Doritos like, “OMG, check this shit out, blood!”
Also, if I can just mention this…The time I tried to interview Kwest Tha Madd Lad from a payphone in Queens was one of the more bugged out memories I have from this era. I really wanted this interview to go down, but it just rang and rang. I still want to do that interview, Kwest. Hit me up yo.
W: There is always some weird shit going on with interviewing Kwest, I think that he makes that a prerequisite. The Heiro website was basically one of the first of its kind on the web and you are somewhat credited for that, as you mentioned, being the webmaster and all. How was it working on something those days that was still fairly new? How did you create the “blueprint” for indie hip hop on the web?
Yameen: My official title was “Webmaster and New Media Coordinator”. I was spearheading ideas that would take the entire crew and indeed our fanbase and online community further. “Yo, there’s this new technology called RealAudio that lets you stream audio we need to get that;” or “Let’s document the entire production of 3rd Eye Vision from start to finish and post it online each week;” or “Let’s release albums like Del’s shelved 3rd studio record online-only.” I was also designing the site, and we got bit quite often.
But I think it was about being original and pushing new ideas and rallying the online community and charging ahead. The entire Hiero website, the record label that spawned from the web initiative, everything that Hiero became in the mid-to-late-90′s up until today can be single-handedly attributed to the worldwide Hieroglyphics fanbase. They were the ones buying the web-only cassettes, the t-shirts, spreading the word, coming to the shows. Essentially, making sure Hiero survived. Our “blueprint” was exciting the online community and keeping them engaged.
W: Never Knows Best is your first album as being known as Yameen, how long in the making was this project?
Yameen: Word, Never Knows Best is my first album under the name Yameen. It took about two years to finish.
W: Describe the album, how did you come up with the concepts and what influenced you?
Yameen: The album is me on production with a bunch of great guest artists including Shock G, Georgia Anne Muldrow, Maylay Sparks and Lady Alma from Philly, Azeem is on there, Casual from Hieroglyphics and DJ Icewater.
When I first conceptualized the album, I was going to do a full instrumental album with a running musical narrative, much like I’ve done in the past with some of the concept records Tajai and I worked on. But then I was like, “You know what? People like lyrics. People like remembering songs, and humming and singing them to themselves.” And so I dropped the full-on instrumental idea. Then I started to think about the instant-on internet generation and how attention time is precious, and how you really need to grab people and entertain them quickly because there is so much access to instant media now. And so I experimented with making what little instrumental songs are on there short. And they kindof bump right into each other, as can be heard especially in the beginning of the album. I try to just get right to it and make a record that is fully enjoyable from start-to-finish.
W: The sound on this album is rather unique, how would you describe your music on this album?
Yameen: Man that’s a great question.
W: Why thank you…
Yameen: I’m really not sure. Of course I call it hiphop and soul, but I have dance influences as well. It’s different. I’d suggest anyone interested should peep the sound clips on my site or on iTunes and make your own decisions. If anything, I think it’s exciting.
W: Playing devil’s advocate here, what would you say to someone that would say that “this isn’t hip hop”?
Yameen: Well, I mean, I grew up listening to all the dope artists covered on this website, know what I mean? I love Kane, I love X-Clan, I know who the fuck 3X Dope and BWP is and shit, hahaha…If you’re reading this, most likely we have the same exact influences. Some of my stuff might push the BPMs a bit faster than your normal boom-bap, but shoot: in my opinion I’m still making hiphop. Soul music.
It’s tough cause as much as I would love for everyone to be into it, I know my music’s not for everyone. But I have a lot of different sounds on the album. I have battle MCs and r&b crooners. Got some blow-your-speakers-apart rap shit and I have some housy-r&b shit. I can’t help it!!
W: How do you see the state of hip hop in general changing in the future. With the experimentation of sounds, such as whats your album, it’s something that some the hardcore extremists might have a problem with. For those calling for more creativity in the genre, they might praise the expansion of the sound such as found on your album? How do you walk the fine line between being to experimental and keeping those hip hop roots close by?
Yameen: I don’t think I’ve ever worried about losing my hiphop roots. This is my life, it’s intertwined, it can never leave. But I do think about accessibility in my music, and how people will receive it. Especially as I have gotten older. At the end of the day, when I’ve made a song, I only need to consider: Do you like it? Is Yameen happy with what he has produced?
I am always interested in hearing how people respond to the album and the music: What songs did they enjoy, what did they absolutely hate. I am already starting to get some great feedback. Truth is, I never know until it’s out there.
But as far as the future of music and the future of hiphop in particular, I am more-so interested in the changing media landscape. Before Never Knows Best, the last album I released was “Nuntype” with Tajai in 2005. In those three intervening years, there has been a tremendous change in the way music is sold and distributed. Look at how many of our online vinyl stores have fallen since then: HipHopSite, Sandbox…Everyone downloads music now. There was even a bit of resistance from the label when I wanted to press CDs this year. It’s changed so fast and so dramatically. The distributors too have been heavily affected. Everyone has.
I mean, I’ve been pricing my CDs at $9.99 for years. I think all artist should do that. It doesn’t make sense cause most cats is gonna download your stuff anyway. Either to get a taste or from iTunes, etc. But my point is soon I see CDs becoming just a promotional tool cats give away. Gotta give it up to Prince, Radiohead, Trent Reznor…These are artists trying new things. It’s good to see.
W: You have an interesting line up of guest artists that you worked with on this album, how did you choose who you wanted to work with?
Yameen: For each song I had each artist in mind. I was lucky to work with so many professionals, too, in the Leon / Jean Reno sense of the word. Everyone was laser-sighted, precise. I had never worked with any of the artists on the album before so that was a lot of fun.
Also have to give shouts to Matt Kelley, my engineer, and Ken Lee who mastered the album. These guys are two hiphop legends. They’ve worked on so many classic records, it’s ridiculous. One of the reasons why I recommend the CD version are because of these two guys, it just bumps. Oh and peace to Doug who laced the album artwork. That shit came out really sick as well.
W: Was there anyone you wanted to get on the album but couldn’t? Any artists you want to work with in the future?
Yameen: Yea, I’m lose-mapping the next album in my head and pretty much know everyone I want to work with. I get a bit superstitious, tho, so I can’t name drop anyone until it’s recorded.
W: Understandable, don’t want to jinx anything. What does the future hold for Yameen? World tours, cars, women? haha
Yameen: Yea, all that shit man! Hahaha…Lifestyles of the rich and infamous, word up. But definitely more music, more media convergence ideas: music mixed with visuals and interaction. Synesthesia. We are, to quote a song title from my record, Sifters In The Land Of Fun, after all. More so now than ever before.
W: Any last words for our fine readers in the blogosphere?
Yameen: Yo, go cop Never Knows Best on Ropeadope Records, in stores everywhere. Amazon.com, iTunes, yameenmusic.com. Download the free album sampler at my website mixed by DJ Statik. Big ups to Travis and the entire Wake Your Daughter Up crew. I love the site, keep doing what you’re doing. And to all of YOU! Thanks for supporting. Peace!
W: Thanks man, this was most enjoyable and best of luck with the album!
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