For the next month, Rightnowish will be featuring artists with local roots who are taking the sounds of the Bay to a national stage.
YMTK is an eclectic, spiritual, fun-loving R&B and hip-hop artist who grew up in Oakland and currently resides in Los Angeles.
But since sheltering-in-place, YMTK says he's been exploring his creative process as an individual.
"... when you are creating by yourself, it’s like really on you," YMTK says. And as a creative person, second guessing himself is common, but this time in solitude has proven to be a "swift kick in the ass to really focus on YMTK," he says.
But, focusing on self and going through the process of doing soul work isn't a foreign concept to YMTK. He spent his childhood in the church and says it has given his music a foundation, no matter if it's a dance track or a prayer song.
In addition to discussing the role spirituality plays in his life and art, we talk hoops, hanging with Mr. Cooper, and shooting your shot as a musical artist in the middle of a pandemic.
Below are lightly edited excerpts of my conversation with YMTK.
Pen: Two tracks that you recently released: "Be Well" and "Jiggy 2x"? They seem like two different lanes, man. One is a more uptempo almost dance party song and the other one is more grounded spiritual. How do you arrive at those two points?
YMTK: … We're complex people, you know, we go through different moods... Sometimes I'm "jiggy jiggy," and I want to dance -- and it's a different vibe than Dizzy Love, which is dancy, but it's more like Bay Area with that bounce -- and Be Well, as you said, is a more introspective and spiritual song.
Pen: Gotcha, Is there anything that's led you to that spiritual growth?
YMTK: My whole journey has been a very spiritual -- and spirit filled -- quest. I feel like I'm a little bit more tapped in and aware of it and aware of God... Because my father's dad was a preacher, my mother's dad was a preacher. And my mom, she's an educator, but she's also a gospel singer. So I was just a little bit more tapped in to really see how God was working in my life... And music being such a spiritual process, you know, we're literally pulling things out of the air.
Pen: ...The Bay Area has a rich history of R&B… How do you feel in carrying that baton?
YMTK: It's a blessing to have crossed paths and and have relationships with some of these legendary figures and just being able to contribute to the legacy of Bay Area music in general, I feel it’s a blessing and responsibility at the same time...
Pen: ...In your music you mentioned, “Used to be a hooper, hung with Mr. Cooper”
YMTK: That’s because I crossed paths with “Mr. Cooper”, with Mark Curry. He went to St. Joe's and was a hooper back in the day. So he used to come back to the alumni games. He would be there chilling, taking pictures and joking around and stuff.
YMTK: As an adult, I was working for this company, 51 Minds Entertainment, in reality TV, and [Curry] was having a meeting there and he recognized me in the elevator and was like, “boy, what did you do to your hair?”... I'm not a clean hooper no more at St. Joe's... It was just a testament to leaving the town, getting out here, trying to make something happen and then running into a legend that I really respect and look up to and being like, oh, yeah I'm out here.
Pen: That’s tight, to show that paths do continue to cross. And then on the note of hoop, like, I grew up playing baseball in East Oakland and like it plays into me as a photographer because I know to anticipate certain things or, you know, that mindset of a baseball player falls into the work that I do now. Does the hooper’s mindset play into the work that you do now?
YMTK: Yeah, no question, bro. No question. I always say, you know, the only thing we have control over is our attitude and our effort.
YMTK: And that's something that I picked up from hoop. You don't control the outcome of the game, you don't control how your teammates are playing, you don’t control somebody else's having a hot hand and going for 30, all you can control is your attitude and your effort.
YMTK: It's not about the outcome being a win or a loss. It's about like what you did. So I really have taken that mindset of just understanding that I have very little control. And a lot of that has to do with my spirituality of just understanding that there is something bigger than me at play.
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