Get To Know XYM (@xymyorkrapper)

Get to know XYM, his tracks are lyr­ic­al stor­ies to listen to! He’s a rap­per from York­shire, find out what he’s up to at the minute, his thoughts on music, soci­ety and expres­sion. His music is uplift­ing and his con­tent is mean­ing­ful.

Q. Why did you start using rap music to express your­self?

Cos I couldn’t sing, but I loved writ­ing song lyr­ics.  I remem­ber as a little kid mak­ing my own lyr­ics up to myself and singing away for hours.  But my mum isn’t one of these mum’s who lies to their kids and they end up going on X Factor and embar­rass­ing them­selves cos for their whole lives their mum’s told em how good their voice is when in fact they’re tone deaf.  My dad’s more like that, tries to put a pos­it­ive spin on things, but my mum def­in­itely plays bad cop.  She’s a straight shoot­ing north­ern­er who tells it how it is and she told me from a young age that I couldn’t sing and she was right. But when I dis­covered rap I was like yes, I can still do music even though I can’t sing.  And when my best mate played me Cypress Hill’s Illu­sions, I was like this is even bet­ter than I thought cos I can swear too.  Then my mum gave me a Pub­lic Enemy cas­sette of hers ‘Fear of a Black Plan­et’ and I didn’t look back.

Q. What topics/issues do you touch on in your music?

Everything really but to nar­row it down and say the life of the under­dog.  Wheth­er that hap­pens to mani­fest itself in pro-black lyr­ics or lyr­ics sup­port­ing the work­ing classes, I’m def­in­itely sup­port­ing the little man, and woman.  I wan­na make music for the people and I like to reflect how life is. That could be the life of an Alco­holic, like in my song with that title, or just the life of the every­man strug­gling in the mono­tony of a 9 to 5, or strug­gling to even find that mono­ton­ous job, or it could a little more glob­al, like I did a track called Haiti after the earth­quake there. I’ve been work­ing on a track deal­ing with the fact that Drum­mer Rigby got a thou­sand times more press cov­er­age than an Asi­an man who was murdered at the same time but as my hook goes ‘Drum­mer Rigby got all the front pages, but you nev­er read bout Mohammed Saleem, I’ll tell you now he killed by racists, read all about it on page 13.’  So yeah I like hold­ing a mir­ror up to soci­ety, but try not to be too preachy with it.  Hip-hops about enter­tain­ment after all, but like Dead Prez say ‘It’s big­ger than hip-hop’ so I like to chal­lenge my listen­ers.  XYM stands for Xpand Your Mind, so I guess that’s what I’m all about.

 Q. You big up ‘Hip-Hop Shakespeare’ in your song ‘Romeo and Juli­et’. How did this influ­ence your song and oth­er pieces you have?

Haha that was actu­ally a mis­take.  But I didn’t real­ise it until the album had been sent off for mas­ter­ing.  When I say mis­take, I put it in there on pur­pose, but I was going to take it out cos I thought it soun­ded too cheesy.  Any­way yeah I men­tioned Hip-hop Shakespeare cos Akala’s people reached out a while ago to get me involved in all that, but it nev­er happened.  I wro­te a track called Black Bard which was heav­ily influ­enced by Shakespeare and was a kind of homage to Akala’s track called Shakespeare.  And obvi­ously Shakespeare influ­enced this Romeo and Juli­et track a lot, where I set out to put bits of this story in a mod­ern day set­ting cos now the Cap­u­lets and Montagues would be two rival gangs fight­ing over post­codes or what not.  Also on my first album By Any Means I did a track called Pen­ta­met­er where every line was 5 syl­lables, so that was def­in­itely inspired by Shakespeare.  As for how heav­ily Shakespeare has influ­enced my oth­er work it’s hard to say.  I think Shakespeare’s put on this ped­es­tal where teach­ers and aca­dem­ics will over­rate him and say every single piece of his work was amaz­ing as was every line and each line has 100 dif­fer­ent mean­ings.  I think that’s bull, I think some of his plays were bor­ing and some­times he just wro­te lines cos they rhymed or were funny.  The reas­on I’m men­tion­ing this is cos I think it puts a lot of people off Shakespeare cos teach­ers make him almost God like and by say­ing everything he ever did was geni­us it takes away from his actu­al real moments of geni­us, of which he had many.  The fact his work is still done now (over done mind you) shows how great he was as his work’s stood the test of time.  But one thing that’s lost I think is the lan­guage.  Cos lan­guage has evolved Shakespeare stuff seems posh, but at the time it wasn’t at all.  Princes went to see his plays but so did pau­pers.  And that’s what I take from Shakespeare I like mak­ing stuff for the people and I like telling stor­ies with mul­tiple mean­ings, and Shakespeare was a mas­ter crafts­man at that, even if each line didn’t mean 100 things they’d often mean two or three.  And with his rhym­ing, rhythmic lines and all his meta­phors as well, I think Shakespeare could’ve def­in­itely been a rap­per today.  Big Willy Shakes, W Sheezy??!!

Q.  With your music I really can see you have a lot to say. What are your beliefs that have made you want to speak out with music­al expres­sion?

My beliefs are that I want a more social­ist soci­ety.  I don’t know if it will ever change (it seems to be get­ting worse at the moment) but I want to make people aware of how soci­ety is.  Cos in Bri­tain we live with this cul­ture of deni­al.  People like to think that they are self made, that they have got to uni­ver­sity or into a cer­tain job off their own backs and people who aren’t as ‘suc­cess­ful’ as them have just not worked as hard as them.  There’s a lot of old money and old boys net­works in this coun­try and it cre­ates such a glass ceil­ing.  But my thing besides just ‘com­plain­ing’ is that there’s more of ‘us’ and there are of them. So I’m try­ing to show people that there’s power in num­bers, if you take your heads out of the sand we could do some­thing about it.  Even if it’s not a full scale revolu­tion at least listen to my CD instead of the mean­ing­less rub­bish, that’s a start! At the same time I also want people to make pos­it­ive choices and real­ize that you have got a choice even if they are lim­ited, I still think it’s bet­ter to be in a ‘bor­ing’ low paid job, than live the fast life for a bit then end up dead or in jail.  So I’m try­ing reach out to people and relate to people who might oth­er­wise come under neg­at­ive influe­ces.  Hope­fully my music can inspire some people.

 Q. What inspires you and were there some great influ­ences?

 Stor­ies inspire me.  I love telling stor­ies .  Influ­ence wise there’s rap­pers and groups like Pub­lic Enemy, Ice Cube, Rakim, 2pac, Big­gie, Nas, Lupe, Com­mon, Mos Def, The Fugees, Dead Prez, Scar­face, Skinny Man, Klash­nekoff, Kano, Black Twang, J Cole, Big Pun even Jay Z.  And I’ll try and take the bits I like from them, wheth­er it be the mes­sage, the deliv­ery, the flow, the humour, the word­play, and mould it into my own style.  Then there’s just your great artists like Bob Mar­ley, Tracy Chap­man, Michael Jack­son, Otis Red­ding, Nina Simone.  I grew up listen­ing to soul and reg­gae so for me there are so many great artists who’ve influ­enced me the list is end­less.  But spe­cial shout out to three in Mar­vin Gaye for fight­ing again­st Motown to make What’s Going On and mak­ing the album he wanted to make, rather than the cheesy rub­bish they wanted him to put out.  Prince for just doing his own thing and for being good for so long and Sam Cooke, cos I think A Change Is Gon­na Come is the best song ever made.  And also I’ve been heav­ily influ­enced by polit­ic­al fig­ures, Mal­colm X, Mar­tin Luther King, Nel­son Man­del­la, Tony Benn, Mar­cus Gar­vey.  I like orators, cos that’s what I do but to music.  My dad actu­ally got me a CD of Tony Benn’s speeches done to reg­gae music, sur­pris­ingly it works.  I mean it’s not Grammy worthy but it’s good.

 Q. Are you work­ing on any projects/songs etc. at the moment?

Yeah loads of stuff.  I’ve just got back from Par­is where I shot a video with a pro­du­cer called Tis­sene who pro­duced my Black Boy Lane album which we put out on FAS Records.  The song is called Hust­lers and we plan on mak­ing a new album soon

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In Novem­ber I’m going to be shoot­ing a video for a track of mine called Space­ship pro­duced in Ger­many by Igni­tion Music.  Sukh­pal Sahota is dir­ect­ing.

I’ve just fin­ished doing a track called Hey with some Hun­gari­an boys called QP Com­bo and we want to shoot a vid in Hun­gary early next year

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I’ve just fin­ished a track called Bunga Bunga with AEL from Ita­ly and we want to shoot a video in Ita­ly next year for that

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I’m work­ing on a few tracks with a Lon­don pro­du­cer called Debo­beats. We wan­na take it back to the old school and release a want to release a vinyl. One of the tracks is called Sol­dier Boy and is going to be the title track of a short film I’ve writ­ten and am star­ring in March, with the same title, set in Heb­den Bridge, down the road from my par­ents house, about a sol­dier return­ing to Afgh­anistan.

I’m work­ing with a Czech pro­du­cer called Peaty Beats and we’ve got a song togeth­er which is being mastered in Ger­many right now.  Also I’m look­ing to col­labo with Tommy Solo from Manchester and A.C.E. from the US more. We’ve done a couple of tracks togeth­er already and I think our styles com­pli­ment each oth­er well. And I’m put­ting the fin­ish­ing touches to a kind of hip-hop reg­gae hybrid called Bob Mar­ley, pro­duced by a Swiss pro­du­cer called Mbeats. I’m always busy, writ­ing new stuff, I can’t help it.  But really try­ing to focus on get­ting some more vids made and build­ing up my European con­nec­tions.  I’ve been to a few hip-hop fest­ivals on the con­tin­ent and hip-hop is massive there.

Q. What advice would you give to young people who really want to inspire people with their rap, poetry and writ­ing?

 You’ve got to inspire your­self first.  If you don’t like your music and believe in the mes­sage no one will.  Don’t do stuff just to please oth­er people, cos you think that’s what they wan­na hear.  They want to hear you, so fol­low your heart, that way at least one per­son will like your stuff.  I’m the most listened to artist on my iPod by a mile and I’m proud of that fact!

www.facebook.com/xym.york­shirerap­per

Twit­ter  @xymyorkrapper

www.soundcloud.com/xym

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Lana Bell

Lana Bell

Author / Poetry Edit­or at I Am Hip-Hop 
Lana Bell, is an eight­een year old Lon­don­er who is based in Bris­tol. She is an emer­ging Spoken Word Artist, and the Poetry Edit­or for I Am Hip-Hop Magazine. She has been writ­ing for a dec­ade; though she has only been per­form­ing on from the age of fif­teen. She got into Hip-Hop music at four­teen, and she found a massive interest in Old Skl Sounds and the out­let that Hip-Hop music offered her.

About Lana Bell

Lana Bell
Lana Bell, is an eighteen year old Londoner who is based in Bristol. She is an emerging Spoken Word Artist, and the Poetry Editor for I Am Hip-Hop Magazine. She has been writing for a decade; though she has only been performing on from the age of fifteen. She got into Hip-Hop music at fourteen, and she found a massive interest in Old Skl Sounds and the outlet that Hip-Hop music offered her.

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