Yasiin Bey Discusses The Drama That’s Caused Him To Fall Back From The Music Business (Video)
Even since his days as mighty Mos Def, Yasiin Bey does not do many interviews. However, the Black Star MC recently gave Ebro In The Morning more than one hour of his time—reportedly impromptu. The MC/actor/poet and activist jumped in a cab and appeared before Ebro and company to speak his mind. During the conversation, Yasiin weighed in on Mayweather vs. McGregor, Colin Kaepernick’s status within the NFL, and his relationship with both Brooklyn and South Africa.
For those curious about Bey’s Hip-Hop standing, that part of the discussion comes near the midpoint. “What people don’t realize is that when you spend your time in a way that you really don’t respect…even if you get money out of it, you f*ck up that money. You don’t really respect that money, ’cause you feel an urge and an impulse to reward yourself and get some pleasure at least. [Because] you’re like, ‘I had to do this bullsh*t to get this bag, so now I’ma go have fun with this bag.’ You don’t really treat the bag with respect,” he says after Ebro mentions record labels and HBO’s Something The Lord Made. Yasiin separates what he considers art and “bullsh*t.”
At 36:00, Ebro asks, “when do we get the music?” Yasiin replies, “Man, look at the game…people could ask that question to Andre 3000.” In a Complex interview this month, Outkast’s Andre stated his hesitancy to release music and rap in general. “What’s happening in the industry with some of the best and the brightest have just been silent. [I am talking about] O.G.’s [not] the cats born in the ’80s, ’cause they’re supposed to be running right now. You’re supposed to be hearing a bunch of records from Kendrick [Lamar] and Drake. What else they got to do? No disrespect, but like, this is what they’re doing. When 3 Stacks was 30 years old, he was out here bubblin’ too. Even [JAY-Z], he laid back for three, four years and got into a whole other thing before this 4:44 thing came out. So why is it that all these cats is like ‘What’s up with the structure around our culture, which is unique to any other thing that’s happening in the world, before or since it?’ Why are we not hearing these voices? Why do people not want to engage the industries like that? It’s a very good question, and I think people know the answer.”
Yasiin proceeds, “Naturally, anybody with some sense [would agree]: I don’t want to deal with that and bring that home to my family or bring that home to myself. I don’t want my mom to inherit the f*ckin’ P.T.S.D from running around in the Rap game and the beefs…you see that people can’t get along for longer than 20 minutes.” Yasiin continues that despite some large sums of money, artists regularly diss one another on social media, including threats of violence. “What kind of sh*t is this? When it was really dangerous in the city in the ’90s when ni**as was all goin’ out to the same places, and you could legit see somebody on the ave, none of that was happening…now it’s a lot of crazy noise but it’s dangerous because now people’s egos are involved because of the digital camera, for the Instagram.” He decries the consequences, “None of it is real, until some real sh*t happens and somebody gets really hurt over some bullsh*t while everybody get money.”
Asked about his relationship with Hip-Hop in 2017, Bey details, “I love the culture but what it looks like is that the technical process around it is [built] so that the only people who really benefit off of the culture are the algorithms.” Beaming a smile, he continues, “The platforms, not the [artists benefit]. I’m not with that. To quote JAY-Z…they said, ‘how long did it take you to make Reasonable Doubt?’ He said, ‘My whole life.’ That’s real talk. He had to live his whole life and all them experiences to make that record. Why would I give you my whole life for nothing? Not even the bag; I’m not even getting the bag. You get the f*ckin’ bag, and I get the drama, the stress…what is that about?” This may explain Mos Def’s name-change, departure from the label system, and relative recluse.
He adds, “There’s more than one way to skin that cat. People are not on those platforms because of the platform. They’re on those platforms because of what [is] on those platforms. So the technical process has taken precedence over the content. And people have modified the content to suit the technical process. How are people even supposed to focus on your sh*t if there’s a million other ni**as that’s [on the platforms]?” Yasiin Bey proceeds to praise artists like J.I.D. who are from the new class. He also says that in the 1980s and 1990s, artists like 2 Live Crew, E-40, Hieroglyphics, and Too Short proved that labels were not always necessary—long before Drake made a new class aware.
Ebro asks Yasiin what it will take for a Mos Def or Black Star tour at 46:00. Recently, Bey said he would be stepping away from the stage with some final shows. “I could show you better than I could tell you. The music speaks better than I…I don’t like to get in the way of it. I was never big on being a celebrity because that just confuses the issue. I do have a public profile. I also recognize and never forget that the reason I have a public profile is [because of] the work.” Referring to a Hip-Hop career since the mid-’90s, Yasiin stakes his claim as an MC. “That’s what I put out front. All of the other sh*t, like the here-and-there and the movements, that’s cool. But the only reason that we up here talkin’ is ’cause I do this and I get busy as an artist. That should be front-and-center.”
Moving the discussion forward, the Black On Both Sides creator declares, “You gotta remember, for us, in this culture, it’s predominated by young Black men born between 1967 and 1994. Almost 90%, if not more. If we don’t agree, there’s a way that we should disagree. But we shouldn’t be disagreeing in open air, turning this sh*t into some WWF type of sh*t, ’cause number one: it’s just not sexy, and two: real dangerous sh*t can happen, and we got youths. Even if we don’t have kids, we have younger kids watching.”
Yasiin Bey last released The Ecstatic in 2009. He has confirmed several projects in the works, including one with former Cash Money hit-maker Mannie Fresh.