Last week saw the release of the “Knoxxville EP” by Hyderabad based producer Yung Raj. It is the first release from 4NC¥ a label set up by Pavan formerly of Foreign Beggars. Half a year in the making, the album features Nate08 from Mumbai and UK MC and artist Jammz. The EP has a distinct British sound with its throwbacks to Jungle and Grime and it also reinterprets Acid House and Footwork with Indian instrumentation.
DJ Isuru talks to Yung Raj about the EP, with info on his career so far, musical influences and future projects.
Where did you get the name Yung Raj?
The name Yung.Raj was given to me by Pavan from Foreign Beggars, post a performance where I shared stage with them (as a beatboxer) 6 years ago, I wasn’t using any alias back then and the Foreign Beggars Instagram post from that show said shouts to Yung Raj on the beatbox and me and Pavan had a few chats and decided that the name is dope!
Where did you grow up and where did your journey as a music fan start?
I grew up in the city of Hyderabad, India and I remember there was a music teacher in my school who used to try and get all the kids to sing and he used to play the keys, I dug the singing part but watching him push the keys down and me hearing a chord really changed something in me that day onwards as I still remember that moment really clearly. Like many others in India, I did have a phase of listening to the Bollywood music that my parents played but luckily my aunts and uncles were so cool they gave me CDs full of Nirvana, Tool, Linkin Park, Eminem and a whole bunch of other shit that was popular in India at the time in the college circuits but I was still in school so it was pretty dope to have that exposure early on as it definitely influenced my direction.
You originally started out as a beatboxer, how did that influence your later productions?
Beatboxing really acts like a step sequencer in my head when I’m producing and its easier to vocalise the ideas I’m thinking of even if i dont record them and because of the freestyle nature of my beatboxing all the lil fills and breaks and dynamics are sort of ingrained because of years of beatboxing even though I don’t realise it that much. I’ve only recorded my own beatboxing in a few songs of mine but for the most bit I just use it as a composition tool at the moment.
You spent over a year working on the EP could you tell me about the production process?
Through the year I sit and keep creating and compile the ones that make sense together into EPs and beat-tapes. This one’s a bit different as it marked my transition from my old studio to my current one so all the tunes on this EP are a bit different to what I was creating last year, the studio now is in the same house as my parents and that changes the vibes a bit too so for a lot of these tunes I’d started the skeleton whether it be drums or bass and then worked on them gradually to the point where I was happy with them. I make some coffee, open up Ableton, and just try to create what I’m feeling in the moment.
What does the term Lo-Fi mean to you?
I try not to think about the term ‘Lo-Fi’ so much coz to me it just mean lo fidelity but its being used to label a lot of hip hop as that and has become a way of channels and record labels to capitalise on the insane work that the beatmakers have done but I definitely feel a lot of my music would come under ‘Lo-Fi’ as I try and leave a lot of artifacts and dirt and noise in my tracks.
Which artists influenced your sound with this EP?
I’m big into the soundcloud digging so I just go through a lot of stuff that I’ve saved from my favorites on SC and listen to them on rotation when not making music, it’s a bit confusing for me to point out the exact influences coz it includes too many genres and too many artists but basically good underground electronic music.
You have track titles such as “Who really cares”, “This too shall pass”, “Existential Bread”, is there an underlying philosophy behind your productions on this EP?
Yeah that’s kind of the vibe, that don’t take things too seriously so that you can start having fun or at least not be too hard on yourself, adjust with the times and accept the only constant that is change. That’s my way of life too but of course I’m still riddled with truckloads of self doubt and anxiety but I keep using titles in my music to remind myself of things like that. Almost like self-notes and at the same time broadcasting it to the world if that makes sense.
Who is Nate08?
NATE08 is a prolific, beatmaker, DJ and bass player from Bombay and one of my homeboys!! He makes a lot of killer shit from hip-hop to house to jungle and is def one of the dopest bass players I’ve heard in the country. Before the pandemic, we’d meet quite often as I’d travel to Bombay and we’d sit and cook a lot of beats or play some b2b’s.
Who is Jamzz?
Jammz is a grime MC and record producer from Hackney, East London and the founder of the record label I Am Grime, his flows are ruthless and his beats are super cold! Big ups to Pav for linking us up for the track it was a real fanboy moment for me. Huge shoutout to Jammz for absolutely murking it on the track we made together, I really cant wait for everyone to hear it!
How did you discover Jungle? Did it have an impact in India?
When I was 15, I met a DJ in the city who showed me turntables and vinyl for the first time in my life. His name is Dakta Dub, and he showed me the roots and just quality records playing in the studio, we used to chill and watch documentaries on Dub and pretty much through that and my own discoveries on the internet led me to a plethora of artists from the UK and I kept digging, plus it was bound to happen coz my most favorites beatboxers were from the UK too and they kept beatboxing genres like Dubstep and DnB etc. So yes, the sounds on this EP are kinda drawing inspiration from what’s happening out there but more like an audio translation of what’s happening in my own head.
Your track “Knoxxville” sounds very Acid House inspired, how important is Acid House to your musical journey?
I’m a sucker for Acid basslines and the TB-303 is a beast, hearing it used over the years in different ways and genres, I always wanted to make a track with the squelchy acid bass vibe so I did it on Knoxxville, not gonna lie I haven’t heard enough Acid House but I still love it.
Were you inspired by Charanjit Singh’s album “10 Raggas to a Disco Beat” which also fused Indian instrumentation and musicality with Acid House?
That album is legendary and one of my favs, I’m really gutted I never got to meet him or see him live. It’s crazy how ahead of his time he was, and how casual he was about it. Definitely want to make something in that direction but since I do not have a good grasp of Ragas I’m gonna wait until I can do it right! RIP Charanjit Singh.
You reference Footwork on the EP, which artists from that genre inspired you?
As the individual list would be really long let me just shoutout the crews, The whole TEKLIFE crew from Chicago spearheading the scene, Juke Bounce Werk from NY, all the jungle influenced stuff from the UK and so many more that I’m missing on this list right now. RIP DJ RASHAD!
“Existential Bread” really stood out to me, almost uncategorizable in terms of genre, you mentioned not being tied down by genre, could you elaborate?
Just having heard artists like Flying Lotus, Aphex Twin and J Dilla to name a few you could broadly go ahead and say Hip-Hop or IDM but in my opinion it still doesn’t exactly fit the sound as I feel that’s more artist driven than genre driven (I might be wrong) so I kinda take that and not try to put it in a category so that the creation process can breathe more freely. I just want people to like my music for what it is and not have an expectation in their mind as to what(genre or sound) the next one is gonna be like.
The EP will be released on the label 4NCURRENCY (4NC¥) What was it like working with the label founder Pavan of Foreign Beggars?
I used to bump Foreign Beggars loud on my speakers all through high school and till this day still. Ever since I first met Pavan, it’s been a killer ride and now getting to release an EP under 4NC¥ is sort of a dream come true still, I’ve got mad love for him and the process has been dope start to end! I love how he let me do my thing and let the EP come about the way it did!
Are you working on a follow up? What form will it take and what genres are you exploring/deconstructing?
Not necessarily a follow-up but yes I’m back to cooking everyday and putting some beats in the vault, I went to music school for 2 semesters after high school so with all this free time during the pandemic I’ve been playing more keys than I used to, so my more recent productions are taking shape more through melodies and harmonies as opposed to the raw and gritty bass and drum combo from some of the tracks on Knoxxville. I’m thinking more in terms of BPM than genres nowadays so let’s see where it goes!
Are you working on any other interesting projects at the moment?
Yes I’ve got a beattape in the works with Owlist from Jaipur, who’s another crazy beatmaker and a friend of mine. We both share the same love for samples and beats so we’re sending each other chops and drums putting stuff together for now. Other than that, just making beats without thinking too much coz some of the best ideas come through like that!
Are there any contemporaries of yours who you think more people should be listening to?
NATE08, Three Oscillators, Oceantied, Hanumankind, Parimal Shais, Owlist, Kayoti, Kartik to name a few! Lots of homies in the sub-continent making some really really killer stuff rn, we just getting started!! Dont sleep on em!
Could you pick one track by any artist that has been very important to you?
I tried thinking super hard, what’s that one track that changed things for me but I just can’t seem to come up with a name, so here’s a track that keeps me coming back to it for different reasons, I use music as therapy more as a listener than a creator so some tracks just hit the nostalgia feeling right on the spot and calm me down, and this is one of those for me, like I can instantly remember the day I first heard this track whenever I play it — The Glitch Mob — Starve The Ego, Feed The Soul.
Listen to ‘Knoxxville’ Here
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