strolling through downtown mexico city with artist and social media star yung jake
Part-rapper, part-visual artist, Yung Jake is a distinctly 21st century individual, in both his work and delivery. He creates an aesthetic that only makes sense within the context of social media.
María Fernanda Molins
Since 2011, the artist and rapper Yung Jake has thrived and multiplied throughout the internet, using social media to spread his videos, artworks. It's always a matter of how and where we encounter Yung Jake. A mode of being that has earned him the title as net artist first, and rapper second. However, today in Mexico City, I'm walking next to him, talking without texting, while he prepares for his rap performance at Raymondstock, a bitesized music festival for very rare boys of Mexico City.
I wanted to start off by talking about how the framing of your work, because the work places the viewer in it just as much as it places you, the author; which I think ends up being a really important theme throughout your work.
It's kind of branching off but most of my work so far has been something that you can only get in specific places, like the app store or on a particular website. But now, I think the context of me being here in Mexico is like the same as a band or a touring rapper, like I'm just here 'cause they asked me to and it seemed like a tight opportunity. And then I guess I try to bring it back thematically doing like visual things with the iPhone or asking for wifi in my rider.
Is it important to be familiar with your background in order to approach the work you're making now?
The background helps - the timeline is there to be considered. But like now I'm saying that I'm a rapper and I'm making real hip hop songs, in the studio, with a producer and a writer, always still with my hand in it, but so maybe the work is something that can also be considered on its own. Like this track I made, She don't need to know. It's a song about cheating on your girl cause you have to. Like it's a burden that comes with the lifestyle. You have to cheat on your girl, and I'm sort of saying the girl doesn't care either. She does her thing while I party and shit. She doesn't want to look through my phone cause she has better things to worry about.
In addition to making music, you also recently had a solo exhibition at Steve Turner Contemporary which featured sculpture - could you say that there's something happening where there's an aspect of your practice that's becoming more tangible and concrete?
Yeah, it didn't exist before because I had enough satisfaction with the conceptual thing of being this internet persona and then I think I just started to crave it as an artist so now I'm making real rap videos, real rap songs, moving away from the internet theme and making physical art and doing physical appearances.
What does a live Yung Jake performance have that makes it more tangible other than the fact that you're physically there performing?
I was gonna say the fact that I'm physically there performing.
In the beginning you were using hip hop as a medium or vehicle of sorts, is the way you are using it now more honest, or more substantial?
I don't think it's more honest or substantial 'cause though before it may have been more gimmicky it was coming from the same place. The main reason I started to rap as my art was so I could literally tell you how to view the work. I just feel like I had to work up to this, like I wasn't really ready before to be a rapper or a visual artist.
Why is it important that you're making normal/real hip hop?
It's important 'cause I'm like opening myself up to world -I get considered more as a rapper, and maybe on the flipside as an artist, instead of as just an internet artist. I don't wanna be a net artist, I think that's kind of lame. Like, I think it's cooler to be a rapper not like an internet rapper.
Was there a connection between making objects in your art practice and developing more concrete hip hop music?
Yeah, totally. It was a blatant decision to separate art and rap.
So in terms of your audience, instead of having getting "likes", the recognition comes from hip hop heads?
Yeah, I think so. When I started doing rap it wasn't as rap, it was art using hip hop as the medium. I was bringing these rap videos to art school crits and there was a lot of art references in them -and I think now without that, it opens up the audience, it makes the work more accessible. And I think that the kind of gestural art stuff is gonna just be inherent cuz it's me and I'm weird, so that's gonna be there.
So what makes you different?
Lol isn't that the point?
Text Clay Gibson
Photography María Fernanda Molins