Detroit; Home of Motown Records, the automobile industry, the 2009 NCAA Men’s Basketball Finals and one of the hottest producers that’s bubbling beneath the surface. Armed with his crew, C.I.T.Y. Counsel, You Know carries the beacon that lights the tunnels of Hip-Hop’s elite underground.
Where are you from?
YK: Detroit! Motown!!!!
Your name is a rather unique one. How did it come about?
YK: I always wanted it to be pronounced U No, but it never caught on so I changed it to You Know, but I made U.N.O. my production company name, it stands for Underground Noise Orchestra, I think the acronym is suitable seeming as I am one person.
How long have you been producing? Did you start out producing Hip-Hop or were you producing other genres of music?
YK: I have been producing hip hop since I was about 17, I would say, but I have always loved messing around with keyboards, so I have a bunch of tracks I made when I was about 15, the quality is horrible, but I still love the cheesy melodies I came up with back than.
From where do you draw your musical inspiration?
YK: A lot of soul records, other producers I admire. Sometimes I hear an artist and I get this feeling inside, like the song literally makes me happy, and from there I jus try to make that feeling on my own. Sometimes it works sometimes it doesn’t. However, if I get that feeling when I make a beat, I know it’s a keeper.
Is it me, or do I hear a little bit of J-Dilla in your production? What artists influenced you to get into production?
YK: J Dilla is most def my biggest influence, I love how raw his sounds are, never overproduced, and the tempo of his tracks. I also listen to a lot of Madlib, when it comes to creativity, no other producer can touch him. Exile is also a big influence on me right now.
Despite your youth, your music and production style express the abundance of creativity that you possess with ease. How do you think your music fairs against well-established producers that are in the game?
YK: I think beat wise, I would have a market. Someone out there will like it. But talking to other producers, they start talking about mastering, mixing, mics and monitors, real talk im just a 20 year old kid with a computer and some records in his room. I still have a long way to go before I get that ego going. Before I start comparing myself to other producers that do this as a career, I feel I should learn to actually work in a professional environment. I’m working towards that though.
Your crew, City Counsel, is making a lot of noise and developing an underground following on the Internet. Tell us who City Counsel is, your role in the crew and what direction the crew is headed.
YK: C.I.T.Y. Counsel is Colourful Intelligent Thoughtful Yesteryear. We are definitely trying to change the sound of hip hop, the group consists of J.O. and Nytez B and Y.O.U.N.G. C, the very talented M.C.s, and than me and Lon.Z as the producers, with a strong contribution of beats comin from Whiskaz, another Detroit. But besides me and Whiskaz, the majority of the group is in Columbus, GA, so shout out to the down south fam.
When can your listeners expect a full-length feature from City Council?
YK: Well I was actually just informed that our mixtape is complete and just needs to be mixed so look out for it.
What other crews are you affiliated with?
YK: I have worked with a variety of other artists, the Mic Specialists, BornCrisis, Sco, and Stalley, and some other producers to, like my mans Determination beats and Smokey J. Always looking for collaborations though. I wanna start a Detroit group, but its hard to find dedicated rappers sometimes.
You recently collaborated with fellow underground producer/emcee BORNCrisis to make “Record Store”. What was the experience like working with him?
YS: It was exciting. As soon as he said he wanted the beat, I knew it would be good. He definitely puts thought into what he says, and I think most importantly what the listener hears. He has a message and I can’t be happier that he put his message on one of my tracks, which I want to give a shout out to Determination beats, he co-produced that joint. But yea, when I got the track back it exceeded expectations, we are workin on another track as well, he recorded his vocals, but I’m slow on writing my verse so I’m holding it up. Look out for it though.
AS: How did you two come up with the concept of such an interesting song?
YK: That would be a question to ask him, I just made the beat. But he would send me the verses as he completed them, and it was cool to see the song evolve.
You skilfully blend sampling with live instrumentation on many of the songs that you have produced. Which style of production (live vs sample based) do you prefer?
YK: Definitely a sampler, I won’t ever stop sampling. But I have been listening to more soul records, a lot of Eddie Kendricks, Curtis Mayfield and Issac Hayes, one day I want to compose like them, just create amazing epic soul records.
What other projects are you currently working on?
YK: I wanna do a solo album; just have to find the time to write. I got so many beats, and I’m being selfish with them, no body has heard them because I haven’t decided if I want to keep them or not.
How would you describe the current state of Hip-Hop?
YK: I think its fine. No matter what generation your in your gonna have your Lil Waynes and your Gucci Manes and Young Bergs… you get the idea. But at the same time, you will always have your Andre 3000’s, Nas’, Commons, and Talib Kwelis. Hip-Hop, music in general, is voiced by the youth of the nation when you think about it, so just because all the 12-25 year olds wanna hear more commercial stuff, doesn’t mean hip hop is lost, which I hear a lot of.
What’s next for You Know?
YK: Whatever tomorrow brings, hoping to fly down to the GA, get together with the Counsel and do an album, put together this group up here in Detroit, and do a solo album. Lots on my “To Do” list.
How can other artists and your fans get at you?
What advice do you have for your fellow underground artists who are trying to break into the music business?
YK: Just do it cus you love music. I’m in no rush trying to get famous; I don’t think anyone should, cus that could be the real end of hip hop there. And network, I think the only way to ever succeed at anything is to network like crazy, meet as many people as you can and work with them, and eat your vegetables.
If you could describe your music in one word, what would that word be?