This pandemic hasn’t been as stifling as one would believe. In the era of a new normal, working at home is now an integral part of it. For many artists who are at home in the studio anyway, getting through it is mere child’s play, one would imagine. One artist who’s been steadily grinding is Yung Xavi. The Palm Springs artist has dropped the singles “Shawty Bumpin’” and “Make the Cut”, showing a range of eclectic influences from rap-rock to electronic. In preparation for the release of his debut album “To Jonathan”, Yung Xavi kicked it with Rap Reviews over Google video and we seized the opportunity to pick the young man’s brain about what makes him tick, from his struggles, his inspirations, and finally to his aspirations:
Rap Reviews: What inspired you to get into doing hip-hop music?
Yung Xavi: It was a mix of two things, for sure. I definitely felt it was my last chance to do something with myself, do something that I loved. I was in sports, I thought I’d be an athlete growing up. I was supposed to be taking care of myself and ended up injuring myself for a long period of time. I was lost, and I have a whole musical background…playing piano when I was 5 years old, drums when I was 8. And it never occurred to me that I could run with it in any direction that I wanted: I could be in a band or an artist by myself. But it took me two rehabs later and OD’ing a bunch of times to realize that I could do something else besides sports. There are so many things that I did growing up so it’s like, “why aren’t you doing them now?”
RR: How long have you been rapping?
YX: I started just by creating samples on the piano, but became inspired to do this around when I heard “Changes” by 2Pac. And it occurred to me then to craft my own piano samples to rap over. Also, my mom asked if I’d ever heard of Mickey Avalon and brought me to friends of friends who knew him and brought me into a studio. And let me tell you…I learned the basics and foundations to how to make a song, I ended up doing three songs with them
RR: All in one session?
YX: No, I had a couple with session. About five or six, just for these three songs. But from those sessions, I now knew my way around a studio, and met people who have their own home studio. I mean, I’m originally from Palm Springs, but I moved out to Torrance, CA where everyone does music. So, I was able to work with so many different people and so many different styles. And I did that for two years before I found my voice, saving money, producing my own music videos, and getting in touch with record label A&Rs.
RR: Yeah, you have a real do-it-yourself aesthetic about it. You mentioned 2Pac a few moments ago and you have a lot of eclecticism in your background. Who would you say are some your other musical influences?
YX: I’d definitely say, besides a lot of the rappers I used to listen to, is System of a Down. They were a band I see as influential because they spoke about things that were bigger than themselves, like political justice. As an artist, I feel that you always wanna get to a point where you talk about things bigger than yourself. Something that’s so empowering that it moves the world, and take my experiences to a point where its relatable to people and helps people realize they can live their dreams or get through their day.
RR: Which musical artists, emcees or otherwise, would you like to work with and why?
YX: It’s been a dream of mine to work with System of a Down, their lead singer. And not even to do a song with him, if I could just be in a room and talk with him, just to see where his mind goes. I feel like it would be the most amazing experience for me. Their music is on a whole different level and like to get my music there, I love they bring the production to vocals and how everything comes together on a very nice package. Plus, he’s worked with several rappers.
RR: And System of a Down incorporate strings into their songs, don’t they?
YX: Yes, they do. And I try to incorporate live instruments into my music too. Working with guitar, string, and guitar players. Even I do the same as a piano player. And coming from a musical background, I feel it’s my job to have a hand in the creative process as much as I can be. Many producers are sometimes surprised that I have input since they don’t know about my background and most artists let the producers take charge.
RR: What’s the biggest challenge for you when it comes to your creative process?
YX: I don’t think it’s really that challenging, to be honest. I have such a fun time writing music and I have so many experiences to draw from, I really enjoy it. I’m comfortable with my voice, what I’m doing, that I’ve found the formula that I use. I like to be versatile, but I’ve never had issue in getting a song done. Beyond that, my biggest challenge is social media (laughs). I grew up activity-oriented, so trying to get into the social media aspect of things and pushing myself out there is the biggest challenge for me.
RR: For your upcoming album, “To Jonathan”, can you explain the concept behind it?
YX: It’s coming out June 18th, it’s a tribute to my father. My dad passed away when I was 8 from a heroin overdose. Throughout my life, I didn’t know how to cope with it and started unintentionally following in his footsteps in trying to connect with him. It wasn’t until I was in his same shoes in rehab where I realized what the fuck I’ve done, and that I could’ve been connecting with him and honoring him in ways that didn’t involve doing what he was doing. That’s what this project is: A collection from all the personal experiences that I would’ve shared with him. I’d have loved to hear feedback from my dad on the songs I’ve put out.
RR: Will the album be available online and/or physical format?
YX: I believe it might have a physical release, but it most definitely will be out digitally everywhere on June 18th.
RR: Who’ll be the producers on the album?
YX: So I’m still working with the same producers building the album, there’s gonna be a part one that drops and a part two later just because there’s so many songs right now. But I’ve worked with J-Beats, Buddah Bless, J. Dot, J-Phoenix, Brendan Thomas and his little brother, Levi. And my homie, Santiago Romero, who I was doing music with for two years, so I had to include him. In part, to get him some exposure as well and for helping me out for more than he had to.
RR: On your website, you describe your style as something of a hybrid rock-rap. But your singles that you’ve released go along with the whole modern/urban style. How do you describe your brand of music?
YX: I lean more towards the hip-hop side, so it’s not all rock. I have hip-hop in all my stuff because that’s what I originally started working on. I have to keep to that, even if I have to branch out to other genres.
RR: What city or venue is your dream for performing in?
YX: Definitely Coachella! I grew up in that area and being in Palm Springs, it’s right there! I went to my first Coachella when I was 16, and seeing that is a whole new experience. And I’ve met several artists at Coachella and I was thinking to myself that one day I’m gonna trade places with them.
RR: Apart from System of a Down, who else is in your music rotation?
YX: I love just going on SoundCloud, and listening to other artists who, like me, are on the fence. Just seeing who’s up and coming. But besides that, I like listening to artists I heard growing up: Eminem, 2Pac, DMX (RIP)…I loved him as an artist growing up. Mobb Deep, OutKast, Green Day, Queen….a lot of rock bands and hip-hop artists I like to mesh altogether in listening to.
RR: Where do you see yourself a year from now?
YX: I don’t really see myself blowing up this year. I’d honestly like to maintain a steady growth over this year and see the numbers slowly increasing overall across the board. I see myself working with other artists now that I’ve found my voice and have gotten more comfortable in my own skin. I really feel like this is the year where underground and maybe bigger artists may take a shine to me and maybe get something to happen.
RR: You’ve really got a plan with this and you know what you wanna do with yourself. Anything you wanna add?
YX: I do have a new single coming out April 30th called “Take Me Home”. I can’t say too much about it, but it’s my interpretation of punk rock and drill. I’ve really wanted to mesh them together seeing as how increasingly popular drill’s been getting nowadays. I wanna put my own spin on it to see what the world thinks. And you can find me on all social media platforms and I have my own website.
RR: OK, thank you for taking the time with this, Xavi.
YX: Thank you and take care.