KillerHipHop Exclusive: Yonas Michael Interview
KillerHipHop recently caught up with former U-N-I member, Yonas Michael. Currently, Yonas is hitting the industry with his solo material after a successful stint with U-N-I. For the first single off his recently released The Mixtape Before Black Swan Theory, Yonas re-made the Poolside’s popular “Next To You.” Earlier this month, Michael released the Mick Boogie hosted The Mixtape Before Black Swan Theory. The tape is now available for download at YonasMichael.com
During Killer’s exclusive interview with him, Yonas Michael talked about his new tape, his unique sound, the mixtape’s cover, knowing Kendrick and Miguel before their rise to fame, and more. Hit the break for KillerHipHop’s exclusive interview with Yonas Michael.
KHH: Being from the west coast, people would expect to hear more gangster rap. Where does your diverse style come from?
Yonas: It just comes from my lifestyle. It’s the life that I portray, I see, envision. Any story that I tell, it’s 90 percent true. But sometimes, it’s stuff that I speak into existence just to attract. But I’m never trying to inflict something that isn’t me. I always make sure I’m telling the truth and just keeping it genuine for someone that’s in the same shoes as me, [so] they can just relate to it.
KHH: Your music keeps expanding hip-hop’s boundaries. Where do you hope to take hip-hop’s sound?
Yonas: I don’t have a definite answer for that. I mean, it started in hip-hop, and it’ll always be hip-hop, but I’m the type of guy to first impress myself and make myself better. You know, just keep raising the bar when it comes to hip-hop and music in general. That’s why I said “open box.” When I go into the studio, I never know what the hell is going to happen, what we’re going to make. I just love to impress myself and laugh at something that I just created that’s outside of hip-hop.
KHH: You recently dropped a pre-album mixtape titled The Mixtape Before Black Swan Theory. My first question is, what’s The Black Swan Theory?
Yonas: Black Swan Theory comes from a business term that creates a boom in the industry, meaning something that just changes the whole platform of how you look at things. I put that title to my music because when I follow up with the album, it’s going to be a surprise to the observer, and that’s the definition of Black Swan Theory. For example, like the Wright Brothers, they presented the plane years ago and I’m sure everybody laughed at them. But if you look at it today, that’s like the number one way of traveling wherever you go. It’s kind of like raising the bar, making a change within the music, creating that “boom” musically.
KHH: What does the cover art mean? You have a black cat on a chair?
Yonas: [Laughs] That cat is actually Mick Boogie’s cat inside of his crib that I took. This was like last year in October. My girlfriend took the picture on her phone, and Mick Boogie being a part of the mixtape, it just all made sense to use his cat out of his own crib. That cat’s name is Grimmy. A lot of people thought it was photoshopped. I put a fake cat on top of a chair, but that is real life inside of Mick’s crib. That’s his cat and everything.
KHH: On the tape you have a track with N.E.R.D. How did that come together?
Yonas: N.E.R.D. is by far my top three musical producers/artists along with all the other great artists. But I mean, it’s just my own interpretation of songs that I just love that I’ve never had the chance to put vocals over it and just give it my own. That was literally the first song that I recorded for the mixtape. It’s called “Sleeping Genius.” I stumbled out of my bed and just woke up and was like, I need to record. I don’t know something just told me. That was like the birth of The Mixtape Before Black Swan Theory.
KHH: So are these tracks leftovers from the album or were they specifically made for the mixtape?
Yonas: Nah. It was just the mood I was in at the current time and the songs I was listening to. It has nothing to do with Black Swan Theory. It’s more of a mixtape just hyping up the album. But also, it’s giving you a taste of things that I listen to outside of myself.
KHH: Talking about the album, what can fans expect to hear on Black Swan Theory that they didn’t hear on Lost In Hollywood?
Yonas: Lost In Hollywood was the first album that I made after the whole U-N-I break up. So, that was just getting everything out of my system rather than molding one sound. There was like punk stuff on there. It was kind of jazzy. Then there was hip-hop, so it was a world of everything complied on one album.
For Black Swan Theory, I just approached it totally different but still kind of keeping it an open sound, but sticking to one sound rather than just getting lost all over the place with different genres. For sure I went out of my boundaries again which goes back to that title. I’m sure I’m going to surprise a lot of people with this album. Lost In Hollywood was fourteen songs, Black Swan Theory is nine to ten songs. They’ll definitely love it. I don’t want to say too much about it. Just go in expecting the unexpected.
KHH: Do you have a release date for the album?
Yonas: It’s looking like, we’ve been talking about it, maybe like mid-January. I don’t know the date yet. So definitely around mid-January.
KHH: What kind of features can fans expect to hear on the album?
Yonas: I have two features on the album which is A-Dot, that’s actually my uncle who got me into rapping. We started a group back in high school. Now that I’m solo, I went back to my uncle and was like, yo we got to make a track again. So A-Dot is on there. A kid named Chris King is on a joint called “Throwing Time” produced by my man Fives. There’s only a few features right now. Anything can happen.
KHH: Yeah that leads me to my next question. Back in your U-N-I days, you worked with Miguel on a track called “Lately.” That was before the fame, before “Adorn,” before all that. Then on the music video, Kendrick Lamar made a cameo. What are the chances that you’ll work with either of those guys in the future?
Yonas: I don’t know man. They’re so busy right now and I get it. Everybody is in their own world taking care of their new light that has been shinned down on them which is great. I would love for them to get on the album but they’re traveling on tours doing all this other stuff. It’s kind of hard to get in contact with them right now. I’m just staying in my own world and trying to do it by myself really. Kendrick and Miguel, big ups to them. As you said and saw, Miguel being on “Lately” and Kendrick doing the cameo. Seeing them then and now is great. So we all started at the same time and they’re doing it right now which is great.
KHH: Where did you know Kendrick from?
Yonas: You know, in the LA hip-hop world. He actually reached out to us a while back for this record, “I Do This.” We got on the remix and ever since then, there was always mutual love. Anytime we had a show, we would bring him on stage and we would just rock out and do the remix. It all happened because of the love of music.
KHH: Any last words for the people of KillerHipHop?
Yonas: Don’t stop doing what you’re doing just believe in yourself. It’s only weird when it doesn’t happen.