1. You are a DIY rapper and your story as an artist began with a vintage shoes fund... how did you become the Yury you are now?
I was born in the last Eastern European dictatorship, Belarus, and my family didn’t have much money, but I’ve always been into art and culture as a whole. When I entered grade 10 in Pittsburgh (USA), I remember getting my first pair of Air Jordans (black suede ones with the blue soles). They were expensive and I knew my family couldn’t afford to buy me clothing and shoes too often so I figured out a way to do it on my own : I started reselling used items (shoes & clothing) that people could not find outside the USA. Because of the scarcity, I could earn quite a lot of money out of it. I established a solid reputation on shoe forum marketplaces and had my own Ebay store. After a while, I got jaded of it and used the money I had saved up to spend it on studio monitors, a microphone, interface, software, and recording time at ID Labs studio. Through lots of trial and error, I began finding my comfort zone and molding who I was as an artist. To say that the culture has had an impact on me is an understatement. At school, I was the “white boy with gear”.
2. You lived in four different countries (Belarus, Israel, Canada, and the US), how did it have an impact on your music?
My first memories of MVs were Biggie’s “Dead Wrong” and Daft Punk’s “Around The World” when I was 7. Growing up in Toronto, Canada, I had access imported Hip Hop, but also o the electronic music scene in Quebec and its connection to France through Mr. Qizo, a French artist. When the creation of Google and Napster (1999), I got many new electronic-rooted influences . I wrote my first rap when I was 10, got back to them when I was 18 and got serious about it around age 20/21. The thing that made me a rapper was the fact of experiencing my teenage years at Taylor Allderdice. Roughly 80% of my friends at school were black because we had the same interests and the fact of attending this school positively affected my voice and flow. My cultural backgrounds was pretty uncommon so what I did bond with people over was music, fashion, sports, etc. These all blended to make me who I am today.
3. What stories and messages are you aiming to convey through your album “Still Life”?
Still life is a matter-of-factly way of discussing my existentialism : It’s a metaphor of existence, feelings, emotions and vibes. The album title is a dichotomy between “still life” as a style of art and what that metaphor means : “Still, life”. It’s an experience combined with a mindset. I’ve grown a lot since I recorded the album and am about to release a new one in October ! Its title? The Placebo Effect.
4. Where and how did you learn how to rap so well? Any mentor / particular musical influences?
First off, thank you for the compliment ! I’m my biggest critic so “so well” to me is quite relative. I’d say I started from scratch? I didn’t want to mimick others so I created my own style. The way I write and count bars is pretty atypical. Nevertheless, I’m nowhere near where I want my sound and flow to be but I know I’m on the right path. I never had a mentor but I did have European electronic influences like Justice, Crystal Castles, Daft Punk, and The Bloody Beetroots, which is odd coming from a rapper, but I’m also a producer. As for the rap, I’d say “Rakim and Eminem”. My main types of music I listen to are : Electronic (from ambient to EDM to Dnb to Electro-house and more), Hip-hop, Rap, Classical, Jazz, and so forth.
5. On the press page of your website, we can read: “While others chase reality in dreams, Yury makes his dreams a reality”. Which one of your songs best reflects your reality? Why?
My perception of reality changes on an almost day-to-day basis. Everything I’ve written about, I’ve felt at one point or another. At the moment, I’d say I’m in the “going along with the universe and letting existence flow whilst attempting to control its direction” phase. I know that may sound like some pseudo-spiritual nonsense or what have you, but one thing people need to know and understand about me, is I’m as genuine as can be. And I’m very open and honest about my struggles, downfalls, weaknesses, and perspectives.
6. Do you perform in public? If yes, what are the best memories you kept from your performances ?
I’ve performed a decent amount of shows. Anytime a fan/ emails / supporter messages/ contacts me and says how much they love my music or whatever, it helps keep me going. It’s almost like an objective push to continue doing this highly subjective art. I know I should appreciate the fact that I already have some die-hard fans, but I’m currently struggling in general to be appreciative of things, even as I fully comprehend what these things are and where I am in life at the moment.
7. If we switched places and I was the artist and you were asking the questions, what is one question you would ask me? What would you reply to this same question?
I would ask: What is your overall purpose/gain in all of this? And my answer is: I don’t really know. I just know that out of all the questioning and second-guessing I do of myself, I feel that this is the right path for me. Whatever it leads it, can be left open-ended and ambiguous because life in itself tends to be that way.
8. You chose to share your music for free under Creative Commons licenses on Jamendo. Why did you make this decision?
I’ve always understood that the business model works in a way that music is going to be heard one way or another. There’s not much money in the music sales themselves, so I’d much rather reach as large as an audience as I can. The profit is in the shows/touring and merchandise. It’s all more tangible and makes more sense this way. If someone wanted to truly support me through fiscal methods, there are ways to do that. But as far as paying for music, maybe when I release something on vinyl. But if it’s digital, please, share it with everyone. I want to expand and reach as many people as possible.
9. Is there a fun anecdote your fans don’t know about you and would be surprised to hear?
Well, guess this is a good a time as ever to share this. Just this past Labor Day (September 2nd, 2013) I was hanging out with Wiz Khalifa and all his homies at the studio. I went to high school with him, and have hung out with him in the studio during college, but it’s been over 5 years since we got a chance to catch up. I went with my good friend Frank Paladino (who shoots Wiz Khalifa’s videos) and we hung out all night with the Taylor Gang at ID Labs music studio. Lots of partying, listening to unreleased music, lots of fun. We were joking and laughing for a couple minutes, catching up on the past 5 years of our lives. I told him I finished school and got back to the music, to which he was very supportive, and shared some quick tidbits about his life. I ended up pretty messed up that night and people around got a good laugh out of it.