YUSEF SLIM

The London-based lyricist talks on the themes of his most recent release 'Mania', his transition from poetry to music and which artists are on his radar.

What were the main narratives you wanted to cover within your project ‘Mania’?

 

'Mania' is just an exploration of racing thoughts and what a manic episode can feel like to someone with mental illness, so it’s kinda loosely based around song topics and the ideas explored in the songs are rapid and connected but also slightly disjointed.

 

Where did the inspiration for the artwork come from and who did you work with in creating it?

Stylistically, it draws from horror-manga like Tomie and the narrative behind it was kind of about a woman falling in love with and then battling a clone of herself. The songs are about that kind of self-reflection and battle with the self, so they just married up well, plus it looks really cool! I have a friend Liv Macarte, who’s an illustrator/animator and we’ve worked on a few ideas and covers for this release and a few upcoming ones as well.

"...finding out who I am as an artist and what that artist sounds like.

I feel a lot more comfortable in my sound now..."

How do you feel your sound has grown or evolved since your first release ‘isolation’?


I took a lot of time out just working on stuff and learning new skills since then, mostly finding out who I am as an artist and what that artist sounds like. I feel a lot more comfortable in my sound now, and am (I think) a much better technical rapper when it comes to things like flows, rhyme patterns and breath control.

What was the creative process of working on that project?

There wasn’t really a process on that, I had released a mixtape called ‘save me’ on SoundCloud a few months prior and then just dropped these three at the start of 2018 as the songs that I had made didn’t really fit with that tape, but I wanted to release them and was able to put on streaming services. I knew I was going to take some time away from releasing after that & only started releasing music more regularly myself towards the end of 2019.

 

How did the collaborations on that EP come about?

In terms of working with the producers Jordan Pottz & Ouija I can’t remember exactly how we came into contact but they had sent me over some beats and I loved them and we just went back and forth on ideas for how the song should sound. Rob Kelly is someone who I found online and just loved his production & Kish! is someone who reached out to me when I was just starting with music and is insanely talented so when I made 'Sing About Me', I asked if he wanted to jump on it as I thought he could kill it and he did.

"My music is really personal to me and often like my therapy."

How important do you find collaboration for growth?


My music is really personal to me and often like my therapy, so I only really do collaborations where they make sense and fit the tone of the song. I’m not against collaborations at all, I just wouldn’t do them for the sake of having someone on a track.

What were the inspirations for ‘Purple Heart’?


My main inspiration for the style of the song was the early 2010/2011 A$AP Rocky music combined with some darker SpaceGhostPurrp sounds and lyrically it was just me getting my feelings during lockdown out.

How important are visuals and artwork to your music?


I’ve always cared about artwork to a certain extent but I’ve never really been a visual person, I barely even watch music videos if I'm being honest but it’s something moving forward I’m trying to explore a bit more. I have two really great friends who help me with the artwork for my songs/EP’s so I kind of just communicate ideas to them and they take creative licence with it until we get to a point where we’re all happy.


How important is it for you to remain a storyteller in your music?

 

It’s not really something I think about too much at this point, I just write whatever I feel the song needs, sometimes that’s exploring a narrative or sometimes I just write lines that are connected around a theme but don’t tell any sort of story and that’s fine too. Balance is good, I think too much of anything can be a bit iffy.

"I submitted a book of poetry to my professor who then came back to me and suggested that due to my writing style I might want to try my hand at music."


 

 

How did poetry lead you to becoming a musician?

Honestly, it didn’t directly. I was studying at University and I submitted a book of poetry to my professor who then came back to me and suggested that due to my writing style I might want to try my hand at music but I had no intention of making music prior to his suggestion. A lot of my early music on Soundcloud was me converting my poetry into songs but the path wasn’t so clear between the two.


How do you find that starting as a poet has aided your writing and made your music more authentic?

 

To be honest, it helped in the sense that I understand rhyme patterns and how to build lines but it’s also been a bit of a negative where especially at the start of my journey I wasn’t really ‘rapping’, I was just doing poetry over beats. That meant I don’t think I was saying things in the best way sonically or not writing with auditory enjoyment in mind whereas I’m thinking more about how things sound.

Which artists inspired you to get into music and who is inspiring you today?

 

I didn’t really have any intention of doing music before so there isn’t an artist who really inspired me to do music but right now I’ve been listening to a lot of 00’s Pop (Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears etc), Vince Staples and Earl Sweatshirt for inspiration. 

If you had to recommend five artists for your listeners, who would they be?

SL, CHLOBOCOP, LUCKI, Ivorian Doll & Tobi Lou

What's coming up for the rest of 2020?

 

I’ve got a single which I’m hoping is released this year which is a remix to an existing song but I think it’s really dope and other than that I’ve got one EP that’s done and ready to go. That might be released either late this year or the

first-quarter of 2021.

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