INTERVIEW | HYDERABAD PRODUCER YUNG RAJ TALKS TO US ABOUT HIS LATEST EP ‘KNOXXVILLE’

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

Fol­low Yung Raj below: 

Ins­tagram: www.instagram.com/yung.raj
Face­book: www.facebook.com/Yung.Raj.Beats/
Twit­ter: twitter.com/Yun­gRa­j­Beats
You­tube: www.youtube.com/channel/UCH6I
Sound­cloud: @yung_raj

 

 

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DJ ISURU

DJ ISURU

DJ Isuru is a music journ­al­ist and broad­caster on SOAS Radio. He also runs the Mishti Dance event series fea­tur­ing the best in Asi­an Under­ground, the next party will be on Octo­ber 2nd at Pop­lar Uni­on. Tick­ets — https://poplarunion.com/event/mishti-dance‑7/

About DJ ISURU

DJ ISURU
DJ Isuru is a music journalist and broadcaster on SOAS Radio. He also runs the Mishti Dance event series featuring the best in Asian Underground, the next party will be on October 2nd at Poplar Union. Tickets - https://poplarunion.com/event/mishti-dance-7/