Yahanis Talks Realness, Reform, and Reggae
24OurMusic had the opportunity to interview Yahanis, an artist rapidly making a name for himself in Montreal’s hip-hop scene. When I spoke with Yahanis outside the venue that he would be performing in, his icy and intense blue eyes fixed you in place and hinted at a potential for aggression. He looked like someone who might linger outside a club at three in the morning looking to pick a fight. Perhaps he once had. Yahanis admitted to a former roughness, but so too revealed himself to be reformed. Over the course of the interview Yahanis gave us insight into how his drive now goes into creating songs that contain elements of reggae, rap, and club-banging dance music, and how his checkered past is material for songwriting and a badge of authenticity.
Who are you as an artist and what should readers know about you?
What people should know about me is that I’m different and I’m genuine. The reason that I’m genuine is because I’ve lived through a lot of the things that rappers like to talk about. I think that people can see that in my eyes. So for that reason alone, people who really know me and people from my city support me. They’ve seen me hurting. They’ve seen me struggling. When my hydro was cut off they saw me in my room writing lyrics. I have a story to tell and it just so happens that I can rhyme and I have a good voice for rapping. I love poetry and I want to share my story with people and have them follow me through my journey.
How would you describe your sound, and what artists and genres would you say have contributed to it?
I would say that I’m very, very chameleon like. I can do a little bit of everything and I often change my genre. I have two tracks that I’ll be performing tonight, one a club-banger beat, almost a kind of Pit Bull beat, and another almost complete reggae beat, almost like Vybz Kartel or Busta Rhymes. Many people have heard them and have said, ‘Shit, I like both of them a lot,’ so I’m still trying to find myself with regard to which genre I want to pursue. I do really like the reggae, only for the reason that it is very different, and I’m trying to do what other people aren’t. So my ultimate, long-term goal is to mix my natural rapping skills with my reggae and kind of have a rapping-reggae blend.
Can you give 24OurMusic some insight into your writing process?
When I’m writing my lyrics, I listen to a beat. The beat tells me what story I want to tell and the reason why is because I have so many stories to tell. So as soon as I hear a beat I think, ‘Damn. This is a perfect opportunity for me to tell this story.’ And then I tell it. Like I said, I’ve been into poetry before I was into rap. Since the age of nine years old I was writing little poetry things on my Facebook and Twitter and then hash-tagging it #justpoetry. It was really inspiring and people kept giving me feedback. So I decided, ‘Let me see if I can rap,’ and I could. So I put my poetry into rap.
Do you mind if I ask what some of the stories are that your keep alluding to?
I would sum them up in a sentence: Everything you’ve seen in a gangster movie, I’ve lived through it. I’m twenty-two now and I’m done living it. Am I that person right now? I wouldn’t say so. Right now I’m trying to find a better track in life and move onto a better road. I’m very inspired by rappers who had it rough and then found hip-hop as their motivation to get out of the streets. I grew up in poverty. I watched my mother and two sisters suffer and I contributed a lot by doing things I felt I had to do at the time. That’s what gives me so many stories to talk about in my rap. I feel like that history is a gift in the sense that it gives me material.
Hip-hop often has as a recurring theme representing one’s city. In what way has Montreal shaped you as an artist and is there anything about it that you’d like to see changed?
What I think distinguishes me is that I’m mulatto. My father’s Trinidadian and Jamaican and my mother is Israeli, Irish, and German. That makes me very diverse and I can relate to almost anyone. That being said, I also am a Montreal rapper, which is already an uncommon thing since many rappers come from, you know, Toronto or Hollywood or wherever. That makes me different and I look different and when I compare myself to the big rappers, you know, I can’t really say I’m Eminem or J. Cole or Vybz Kartel. I really am different in the rap genre that way.
Speaking of Montreal, could you pinpoint any local artists who’ve helped you along the way? Any shout-outs to give?
Well I really have to give a shout-out to MakeWay Studios, specifically Brandon, a.k.a. BuDz. He really shaped me into what I’m doing right now. Before that I was with a crew called Mo’ Money Entertainment and a guy named Mo’ Mazery. I worked with another crew called Get Them or Not. They really started shaping my career since I was young, making me understand what music was all about. And I have my father and he’s almost my manager. He’s really into the music business and he has his best friend, Righteous, and they’re pushing me into the right direction. I would give a shout-out to anyone who’s ever met me and felt my character.
Mind telling us about any upcoming or ongoing projects?
Right now I’m currently working on an album. I would like it to be a decent-sized album. I’m looking at about ten songs. MakeWay Studios has said that they’re really going to help me do this and kind of fix my image and whatnot. At this moment, my image is not one hundred percent stable. In my city, people know Yahanis. Outside of my city, I’m still pushing to get that image really known well. I’m working on the album and doing videos and making an official site and mainstreaming it.
Okay, thanks for taking the time to talk with us, Yahanis.
Yeah, thanks, man. Respect.
Check out Yahanis’ unique reggae sound: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4kc3jxNdqt0
Photo by Grant Cabrales
The Hayden Roth Company