meet genre-bending artist yeek and watch his new video about young love
We premiere the sun-drenched skater-heaven video for 'I'm Not Ready' and get to know the musician blending indie, hip-hop, and R&B.
Photography Christian Long
In the emerging musician Yeek's new visual for his single "I'm Not Ready" he and his boys hang around an empty Los Angeles pool. They mostly skate, sit on the rim drinking Hennessy, and hype Yeek. He raps, Have you seen a girl twerk to Fall Out Boy? / She's a lonely girl with all them toys, then coos, stringing his guitar, I'm not ready for love / I'm having too much fun. It's a moment that captures the laid-back breeziness of 20-somethings falling in and out of love. The video, directed by Christian Long, explores love in many forms: there are the platonic vibes of Yeek and the homies kick-pushing through LA, the passion of two partners kissing in a dimly lit room, and the raw intimacy of the singer-rapper realizing a kind of self-love in admitting that he's not ready for romance. (Yeek opens the video acerbically: We created the word love to understand the concept that can't be fully understand. The word I used to understand it is hurt, confusion, and being fucking stressed.)
"I'm Not Ready" is one track off of Yeek's first album, Love Slacker. "The album is my personal world," says the 26-year-old who produced the beats, sings, and raps on the project. "It's all thoughts and feelings about how I feel about the subject of love." Like music right now, the record isn't concerned with the limits of genre. "I like to say it's experimental indie punk with hip-hop undertones," says Yeek. "I like to think of my sound as something new, like a new genre." On "I'm Not Ready" alone the New Jersey native displays: the narrative lyrical style of Ice Cube's "It Was A Good Day," a playful punk aesthetic in the instrumentation, the subtle dramatics of emotive hardcore, and the silkiness of 90s R&B. We catch up with Yeek to have him expound on love and his sound, and get an exclusive look at the "I'm Not Ready" video.
Who did you grow up listening to?
Even though there's a lot of hip-hop and rap undertones in my music I grew up listening to a lot of punk, hardcore, and indie music. I listen to a lot of bands like Save the Day, The Smiths, The Cure. With rap, I listened to a lot of the underground stuff in high school like Mos Def. At the same time I was in a hardcore band and making beats in the studio.
When did you start making music?
As clichéd as it sounds, I've always made music. When I was like nine I started because my dad made music for his church and he would leave the equipment lying around the house. So I would hop on the guitar or start drumming or play the keyboard. I just started experimenting with it. Three years ago is when I started making the kind of music I do now.
How do you feel about people trying to label you as an "Asian rapper"? Do you feel that there's a lack of representation of Asian-Americans in music?
That's never really something that I thought about. Like, "Ah, I'm an Asian-American and I rap." I feel like we live in a time that's open and filled with individuals who are just themselves. I feel like we've grown as a creative community to not base things off skin color or ethnicity but to base things off the work. It's rare that someone says to me, "Oh, you're like an Asian singer" or "You're like an Asian rapper." They are like, "Oh, he's a dope artist." I feel like with rapping and singing those are just other instruments like the drums or keyboard that I know how to play. Yeah, it is true that Asians are often behind the scenes of the mainstream but I feel like now is the time to change that perception.
What inspired "I'm Not Ready?"
For "I'm Not Ready," I was at this event at Echoplex called Emo Nite, and I was just there by myself because they played a lot of the punk and emo music I used to listen to in high school. At the beginning of the song I'm like, "I'm at the Echoplex." So it's a song about what I did that day. It's also about how I felt at that time about romantic relationships. It was the summer of a break up.
The video's message is that we can't really understand love.
We don't really understand a lot of things in life. I feel like we find ways to try to understand it but we never truly get there.
How does the video communicate that feeling about love?
Basically, I wanted to show my lifestyle, my friends' edgy, fun energy and the culture of a new generation of younger kids. Young adolescents running around the streets of LA having fun and shit. The song is pretty straightforward: I'm not ready for love. I'm having too much fun. So I wanted to show that. At the same time me and my friend Christian Long, who directed it, wanted to capture the angst and despair we kind of emphasize when we are single and then have the next shot be of two people completely in love. We wanted to show a compilation of different loves.
What's your favorite album that came out this past year?
Frank Ocean's Blonde, because he didn't care what anyone would say. It was the most anticipated album of the year and he created a timeless sound. For the most part it had a slow pacing to it. And a lot of people like to think that slow songs mean that you are being lazy or simple but his songs were intricate. There was depth to them, production and writing wise. And those are the things that I feel like I want in my music. I want to reshape the way people see music. I want to push and show that the culture is driven through pure innovation.
Text Antwaun Sargent
Photography Christian Long