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First spotted by Pharrell in 2008 and since then continuously making waves of her own as a singer, songwriter and a DJ, 2014 marks the year for British songstress Yasmin to stand out as a bustling force in the realm of music production and creative artistry. Having previously worked with the likes of Diplo, Shy FX, Jamie XX and more, the London-based artist first stepped on to the music scene as a hip-hop enthusiast, but has since become a notably fluent force in the realm of Electronic music, Disco, Chill-wave and more. Now a headliner at music festivals within her London home-base as well as across the globe, Yasmin’s most recent claims to fame stretch from her work on Major Lazer’s Free The Universe to her own unique productions with Gorgon City and Drums of Death. We caught up with Yasmin to discuss her personal music taste, her experiences working with some of today’s most notable music influencers, her thoughts on being a female DJ in a male-dominated industry and her predictions on upcoming music trends for 2014.
As someone who’s been working within DJ culture and electronic music since before its rise over recent years, what changes have you noticed within the electronic music scene? Or in music overall?
As much as I’m forever looking back at eras gone by and wishing I could have played and partied then, I’m actually really excited by the scene at the moment. I got into djing by playing hip hop, 90′s R&B and soul and there’s a real influx of those melodies and samples kicking around in electronic music right now. People are really shining some light on those throwback sounds, from the obvious cuts to sampling an overlooked adlib and turning into a club jam (Julio Bashmore – Au Seve) and although it does feel like it could be in danger of being overkill – with anyone and everyone chopping up an Brandy acapella – but for the time being I’m really enjoying this melody and movement happening in the clubs again.
You have a background in both hip-hop and electronic music, the two genres have grown apart yet still overlap in some regards – what are your thoughts on public perception of these two areas of music?
I think that with any genre of music that is as big as these two, public perception is always gonna be so varied and vast. That’s what I enjoy about such genres though, there’s so many levels and sub-genres to get lost in. The reason we like music is because it’s flowing and ever changing – if we held a music note in the same place forever no one would want to listen to it – so it’s expected that music of all genres overlaps and fuses, and it definitely feels like right now, these two are having a moment. With the R&B elements in house music to hip-hop within techno (as I mentioned before) I see reactions across the board, from the purists who can’t stand it to the open minded young raver that can’t get enough. Perception is personal.
You’ve worked with production legends from the likes of Diplo and ShyFX to Jamie XX, tell us about your experiences working with them, any funny stories? Or inspirational ones?
Yeah I’m really lucky to have worked with these guys. In a way I felt like I worked with some of them before I’d really found my own feet musically but I learnt loads from them that has brought me this far, so I guess it’s like a constant education. When it comes to club music, Diplo has an amazing ear and he was constantly putting me up on new exciting producers and artists. Jamie XX was such an interesting person to work with because he’d sample some drums from a R&B track, play steel pan drums, then cut a vocal from a garage track and seamlessly arrange them all together into something fresh – I was really inspired by that because I’m into so many genres of music and I’m always listening for ways to tie them together without it feeling forced. Shy FX is just a legend, he’s been in the game for so long, he’s pioneered a music movement and is still such an in demand dj/producer today, heading up one of the UK’s freshest labels when it comes to club music. His longevity is something I aspire to 100%.
Tell us about your music enthusiast habits: are you a record collector? Are there any old records (or CDs) that you still hold on to? Any tracks that are a “guilty pleasure” or music predictions for the upcoming year?
I don’t really have a big record collection, I started djing on the cusp of the “digital era” so was collecting mostly on MP3s and CDs. I have a few select joints on wax and I have a copy of Mary J Blige’s What’s The 411 (Remix) album which I can’t see myself parting with, and I figure its never too late to start collecting records. As far as guilty pleasures go, it would have to be some late ’80s British pop/dance sorta situation, like Sonja’s “You’ll Never Stop Me Loving You” or Haddaway ‘s “What is Love.” My music habits are pretty antisocial – I just like being alone, in my living room, headphones on, something rolled and getting lost in a web of youtube tabs, spotify, soundcloud, discogs, iTunes etc for HOURS. My tips for 2014 would be: hip-hop from Topaz Jones, soul from Sampha and club/juke/R&B vibes from New Jersey artist Pure – his latest mixtape has been a staple in all my sets since I got my hands on it.
You’ve made the transition from DJ to singer and songwriter, tell us about the changes you faced? Any plans to dive in to something different next?
It was a bit difficult for people to grasp in the beginning, it seemed like they thought I could only be one of the 3, but as time goes on I think people are discovering the other sides to what I do. Making music wasn’t a plan I always had in mind but was more of a natural progression, in 2014 I’m looking to do a little radio mixshow couple times a month somewhere I can play whatever the hell I want not always dancefloor driven wanna get an outlet to play a lot of the chill stuff I’m into aswell. I have new music coming this year [including an EP with BRTSH KNGHTS] which I’m really excited about – a body of work is finally forming and it feels right for once, things have been falling into place and I’m just going with it, it encompasses a lot of things I’m into from the R&B to the UK flavours, feels like a really good representation of everything I’m about. More collaborations will be coming too in 2014, I’ve done another track with Gorgon City for their debut album, also working with Shy FX on a track for his next release, and myself and Roy Davis JR have a couple tracks getting wrapped up so excited to get them all out!
Although there are prominent and talented female figures in the DJ scene, such as TOKiMONSTA, Maya Jane Coles and yourself to name a few, the scene is still a predominantly overtaken by male figures. Did this ever pose any issues in making yourself a known force in music production and mixing? If so, how did you overcome them? Any words of wisdom for females looking to jump in on the electronic music scene?
Like any male dominated work place you’re gonna run into the same bullshit. It’s swings and roundabouts though, I’ve always preferred being an underdog personally, as much as you can get overlooked you’re in a position to pull off some impressive shit and suprise people. My advice would be to just do it, the only way the bullshit gets in the way is if you let it stop you doing what you love to do. Listen to all the music you can, find what makes YOU tick and have confidence in your own taste.