Yungen: Talks about his Debut Album ‘Project Black and Red’

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UK Rap artist Yungen has been making a lot of noise on the UK Music scene recently. The Play Dirty rapper’s debut album ‘Project Black and Red’ entered the UK charts at No.26 and iTunes charts at No.11. With the world seemingly at his feet, we sat down with him over the weekend to discuss the album, his family and upcoming show.

 How are you, Yungen?

 I’m all good man.

Project Black and Red has had a fantastic reaction and done well in the charts. Did you expect such acclaim?

I didn’t expect it to do that well. But knowing my fan base, I knew there were people who were actually gonna go and get it, I just didn’t know how many people would actually go and get it (laughs). But nah, I think it was sick, it got a great reaction and it was exactly what I wanted and more.

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What was the main concept behind the album and its title?

The main concept was moods. That’s why I separated it. I wanted one part to be my dark, ignorant, ‘turned up’ side and then I wanted the other project to be about girls, passion, love, my family and stuff like that, do you know what I mean? I wanted people to properly understand me. To understand that I’m normal. Sometimes I’m angry at the world, sometimes I’m the happiest person in the world. I just wanted people to understand my different moods.

There was a very distinct neo-soul sound on the album. You’re still only 22, is this the definite direction you’re going to take your music in?

I’m just finding myself. This project is the closest I’ve ever got to saying ‘you know what? This is actually me.’ I really enjoyed making it… not that I don’t enjoy making other stuff but everything you heard was my idea. I have a track on there called ‘Life of Sin’ and I have a girl singing on it. I wrote the hook, but obviously I can’t sing (smiles) so I needed to find someone to deliver this to me. It’s just me feeling the music, man.

world. I just wanted people to understand my different moods. 

Your music has always been heavy on lyricism. What songwriters have influenced you the most?

When I’m writing, wordplay has always been important to me. When I first started out, there was always a lot of punchlines. I don’t know where I got all these punchlines from… I think it’s from Lil Wayne. Lil Wayne would say some punchlines and I would think, ‘how do you think of that? Nah, I gotta think of something better than that.’ So that got me into punchlines. But meaningful rap feels more like me. It lets me talk about rage and stuff like that… that’s where I’m kinda at now. I wanna do wordplay, but I also want it to have a deeper meaning.

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It usually takes a long time to build up a strong and wide fanbase, yet you’ve done it in only three years. What do you attribute that too?

I don’t know really. I gave them time to get to know me. A lot of people come up, make one big tune, and then disappear. And it’s hard for the fans to connect with them. So I always try to give them content they can keep up with so they can get to know me. Like I’ve been shooting for one of my vlogs now because I really want them to know me. There are some fans that come to every show and I know them personally… like by their names! They’ll say ‘Hey Yungen’ and I’ll be like ‘Yo what’s going on!’ I think that’s a good thing and I think it comes from interaction on Twitter and stuff like that. For example if you have ‘Play Dirty’ in your username, we follow you back. They DM me I DM them back. They tell me ‘I hope you have a good day’ or they might ask me for advice. So yeah interaction’s huge for me.

The independent music route has been fruitful for you. What attitude do you have when it comes to record deals being put on the table?

Yungen: When I get into record deal situations, I just want to feel as though the label’s behind me. I know a lot of people think when you get signed it’s about making £300k and trying to get the most money. To me it’s not about that. If I get into a label situation where I’m one of the main priorities and they’re prepared to support and back me and take me to where I need to be, I think that’s the main thing. That’s what I’m looking for.

 In the album and even in previous freestyles, you’ve referenced your sisters. What does family mean to you and how does it affect your artistry?

 That’s a good question. I’m very close to my sisters and my brothers. They get me through a lot and make me realise I have to do a lot to in order to make their lives better as well as mine. It’s not like I have to. They’ve never said ‘you have to do this to change your life’ but it’s something I want to do for my sisters and my nephews and such.

What was it like to tour with Naughty Boy?

Ah, that was amazing. We had some experiences, man. Probably some of the greatest experiences of my life. We went to some amazing places; Dubai, Australia, Malaysia. We even went to some countries I had never heard of!

 You’ve just announced the headline show at the 02. What can we expect from you? Can you give us any hints?

 It’s called ‘The Black and Red Show.’ It’s on November 6th.  I’m trying to make it to make it the show of the year so there’s a lot of preparation to do. I can’t give out any info about who I’m gonna bring if I do bring anyone. I’m gonna play new music and old music and I really wanna perform ‘Hometown.’ That was my first ever track and I’ve never performed it. I wanna perform it to see who has really known me from then. I’m really looking forward to that. I really want to be in touch with my fans. I feel like these are gonna bemy fans. My real supporters are gonna be there so I really wanna give them a good show.

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Do you think UK rap is on a stronger landscape than a few years ago?

We’re definitely on the up. It’s becoming a lot more meaningful. The likes of Wretch 32 doing tracks like ‘Don’t Go’ that actually mean something. Tinie with ‘Written in the Stars’ and Chip with ‘Champion’. We’re getting there slowly and surely. You have Krept and Konan coming through with ‘Don’t Waste My Time’, which is a hard rap song but it’s been well received… getting played on radio, getting French Montana on the remix. I think we’re finally building a bridge where people don’t say ‘UK rap or American rap?’ It’s becoming normal. Krept and Konan won a BET award. So did Giggs. It’s becoming normal.

Last but not least, dream collaboration?

Chris Brown. I really like his story. I feel like if we ever had a session we could bring something out. The best tracks I make are always ones where they mean something. I feel like I could do something with him because he had a mad background and a mad upbringing.

Project Black and Red is out now on iTunes.

Interview by: Henry Ofori

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