Interviewed and Written by Natasha Lenart
Featured Photo Credit: Terrysgotheart
As everyone probably knows, Lollapalooza 2019 was last weekend. To no surprise, it was yet another weekend full of incredible music, amazing food, and some seriously hot weather. During the festival, I got a chance to sit down with Minnesota rapper Yung Gravy. I was so excited to chat with and get to know the infamous “Mr. Clean.” Read on for the full interview below!
GMC: What inspired your style? Where did you get the idea to mix soul with modern rap?
Yung Gravy: Soul, funk, and easy listening have always been my favorite types of music. I’ve grown up loving Frank Sinatra and Marvin Gaye, and even though their stuff was over a number of eras I loved all of that sh*t, it was all my favorite. I’m also really into rappers that are sampling stuff in their music like Action Bronson and Kanye, but none of them were doing it on trap music. Plus, they were sampling more obscure music. The idea hit me like, “What if I sampled stuff that people would actually recognize and knew?” And basically I did that and turned it into a straight banger. No one else had really done that in years, and I thought it’d be sick. I’d freestyle with my friends and always spit stupid sh*t, and it honestly fit really well with that type of beat.
GMC: Do you produce your own music?
Yung Gravy: I’ve never produced a whole beat myself, but I’m almost always in the studio with the producer. My first 10-15 songs I wasn’t really involved at all because I had no idea how to do it. Now, I know a little bit better and obviously work with the producer a lot to pick the samples, pick the sound, and piece it together to make it sound how I want. I couldn’t do it all myself, but its awesome working with a producer I know because they don’t mind me wanting to be super involved with how my music comes together. I always have to find someone that’s really down to perfect it because I can be really annoying and picky about what I release.
GMC: I love that you’re still really up close and personal with your work despite being on a big label now. It definitely seems like that kind of dedication is rare these days.
Yung Gravy: I didn’t realize there are so many different parts of production. From the arrangement to publishing, and I’ve done a lot of that sh*t myself. I’ve just been learning more to make sure that everything I release is the best that I can make it. You can’t trust anyone else to make your sh*t perfect for you. It’s different when you’re a pop-star and your song is going through so many ears and so many people tweak it here and there. At my level, I have to be the one that’s there to guarantee that it sounds exactly how I want it to.
GMC: Along those lines, how did your relationship with Republic Records begin? Why did you decide to sign with them?
Yung Gravy: I started rapping when I was in college at University of Wisconsin-Madison. During my last year of college is when my music started popping off. I started rapping junior year, but when my stuff was blowing up like a year after and labels were hitting me up. I’d have to skip class because labels were flying me to different cities to check them out. I was down for it though, you know showing up to class and saying, “Hey, sorry, Universal Music Group is flying me out,” real loud in front of the pretty girls in class. I was doing that for a few months, and they all wanted me to drop out, but I didn’t want to disappoint my mom. So I finished school, and I always thought Republic was the coolest to me, plus the employees were dope, so I signed with them.
GMC: How has signing with a big label like Republic records influenced your career?
Yung Gravy: It’s different, I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily better or worse. It’s honestly probably safer for me because I can’t put out music without it being cleared- so I can’t release stuff using samples without permission. As compared to my thought process before where I just didn’t care and a lawsuit meant more attention. Now I’m way more careful about that and I’ve learned how to do it the right away. Its dope having a lot of support, and I feel like my reach has been able to grow from like a cult following to a way wider audience. With my unique music, it kind of pushes itself, but the extra push has helped a lot.
GMC: Its awesome to know that you and your label have a really healthy and balanced relationship. Its not often you see a big business label giving an artist the respect and support they rightfully deserve.
Yung Gravy: Oh yeah, for sure. The only thing that’s hard is the legal issues. I’m always just like, “Let me be a little illegal,” but of course they say no.
GMC: So, do you have to buy the rights to songs through the label?
Yung Gravy: Yeah exactly, like for Mr. Clean in order to sample Mr. Sandman we had to go to them and show them the song we made. The worst part is going to people and asking someone who’s 70 years old, who made the song when they were younger and its their favorite thing, if we can use the sample… then showing them the song and I’m talking about f*cking their mom. It’s so hard to get the rights to the song. I’ve been denied a few times, I’m used to it now.
GMC: Any up and coming artists you’ve been into?
Yung Gravy: Artists who I’ve been working with and am probably bringing on tour include Billy Marchiafava, bbno$ of course, and my boy Trippy the Kid.
GMC: Do you have any upcoming albums or mixtapes coming out?
Yung Gravy: I have a pretty big single dropping in a few weeks on August 23rd. I’m working with a big artist from Chicago – I’m not going to reveal who it is quite yet, but we’ve been previewing it in a few of our sets. And also, me and bbno$ are dropping our next project in the fall.
GMC: Any career goals you want to accomplish this year or anytime in the future?
Yung Gravy: I really want to make a song with Young Thug. And go on a date with Sofia Vergara. I’ve been thinking about those for a while. I also want to collaborate with a food brand.
GMC: Final thoughts?
Yung Gravy: Gravy train, baby.
We want to extend a big thank you to Yung Gravy for hanging with us, and hope you guys enjoyed getting to know him. Make sure to keep an eye out on his upcoming releases and check him out on social media at the links below!