Are you paying attention? Between the vaccine promises, quarantine protests, and keeping track of the mask you forgot to put on at that last store, it’s understandable to not take notice of what you used to. Let’s face it. Our shows are running out of content, Hollywood is at a shooting standstill, and it’s only a matter of time until binge-watching old seasons of “The Office” begins to take a toll on your mind. Yet, one form of entertainment seems to have not lost its luster and impact despite the world being under various Quarantine measures. Music is alive and well.
From the Instagram battles to the mash-up videos of our favorite artists doing at home renditions of their own work and covering songs that they have always wanted to do live. The art has not suffered as much, although live performances and festival cancellations have caused many artists to take a major financial hit. Yet the musical experience just simply adapts to its new surroundings and conditions, something that new artist “Yuki”, is no stranger to.
Can an artist’s debut during the pandemic be a success? Very possible. But something must be different about them. Really different. More than a standout, an anomaly if you will. Not many of them come along the pike these days, but after listening to the quality and pure fearlessness of Yuki’s “Be Free“, which debuts May 8th. It is evident that this is not one to miss or skip over. Some may know him for his heavy production work with Jaden Smith on his sophomore album “ERYS”, where the track featuring Tyler, the Creator was featured during last year’s NBA Finals. We sat down with Hugo “Yuki” Chan to gauge his creative chops and what to expect from him as an artist.
This new album is a brilliant rollercoaster. What was your thought process going into putting this debut together?
I wanted to take my favorite ideas from experimental music and apply them in a way that didn’t turn off an average listener. A common trait of experimental “left of centre” music is that it’s confusing, disjointed, and can make the listener feel dumb. I identified that a lot of music listeners are saving and re-listening to songs just to wait for that “one moment” that plays. I wanted to make songs packed full of potential “moments.” So, every new listen uncovers subtle and new ear candy.
The instrumentation is undeniably experimental, yet clever. Other than Hip-hop, which other genre gets your creative mind moving?
For me, I don’t really get attached to certain genres, more the worlds that certain artists create. For example, you don’t have to be a pop fan necessarily to love and listen to Blonde. Anything that fully absorbs me into the world of the project or song I love! Justin Timberlake, JPEGMAFIA, Lil Uzi Vert, and a lot of Japanese soundtracks have been inspiring me recently.
Your production, vocals, and rhymes carry emotion effortlessly. What makes a dope record in Yuki’s mind?
Thank you! First off to me the artist has to believe in the record. If I listen and feel like you’re not owning your idea, or are second-guessing yourself, I can’t fully open up and hear what you’re trying to present. It’s about not being scared to create something that you think others might not like or something that is really out there and exciting.
For someone who doesn’t know Yuki, what would you like a potential fan to take away from your debut?
I want people to listen and understand that I’m not a celebrity; I didn’t have an endless budget to create with or a massive label backing. These are all ideas that started in my bedroom, and I worked my ass off to get them to where they are now. I don’t think or claim to be the best artist in a room, but I know I work ridiculously hard and that if you trust your ideas and really root for yourself, you can make something special. I think Be Free could be an example of that thought process.
As a producer, do you find it difficult to craft music for yourself, as opposed to another artist you may be working with?
Sometimes yes, I’ll make a beat and end up realizing I can’t rap over it like I imagined, or that I simply can’t write over it. I think the advantage of going in-depth on both sides is that the ideas that I can’t land or the songs I make that don’t fit can always be adapted to someone else or repurposed.
The title track, “Be Free”, would make a perfect backdrop to us coming out of quarantine. Has putting out work during this trying time made music creation easier or difficult?
It comes in waves for me. Sometimes knowing I have so much free time pressures me into thinking that EVERYTHING I make has to be amazing, or that there’s no excuse to not make music every day. Other times I just naturally get really engrossed in working on something for hours and hours and can fully flesh out an idea.
Do you happen to have any live performances coming up on any social media platforms?
Nothing planned yet. To be honest, I just don’t think Be Free would sound good acoustically or with my current set up, but I’m thinking about it more. I definitely want to perform this album live though, I think it would be madness.
Music during this time has been a source of recourse during this unpredictable time. It has always been since the beginning of time. Throughout history, the soundtrack to our most trying times has been some of the most memorable, soothing, and therapeutic pieces of music that we often callback to. Yuki’s “Be Free” deserves a seat at that table.