Sebastian Carandang, better known as Yeek, is a Filipino-American indie artist who is breaking lots of ground in the experimental R&B, hip hop, and punk circuit. I first found out about Yeek earlier this year after reading his interview with i-D magazine. Whether he's moshing in a backyard or skateboarding while singing about Emo Nite, he has quite a distinct POV on living in Los Angeles that's depicted in his music and visuals. Rolling with the likes of Duckwrth and Sports, Yeek also collaborates with a very creative circle in the indie scene.
As someone who is pushing the boundaries on what it means to be an independent artist in LA, Yeek's unique style intrigued me to find out more about him. I got in touch with Yeek over email, and he was very down to talk about his influences and his latest album Sebastian that came out in April. Here's the Q&A interview below!
How would you describe your sound to someone who’s never listened to your music before?
It's always hard to explain my sound to someone, but I always end up explaining it roughly as an R&B soul style of singing accompanied with indie-rock, & jazz influenced guitar riffs.
Tell me about your experience growing up and your heritage. How would you describe your family and your upbringing as a whole?
My parents moved here from the Philippines in their mid-twenties & we lived in a low income New Jersey neighborhood when I was a kid but then my parents found better jobs that eventually helped us move to a nicer middle class neighborhood... But it never stopped my parents from disciplining us as opposed to spoiling us with nice things that they could technically afford. They always taught my brothers & I to work hard to get the things we want. I was raised on principles but also being passionate.
What was your parents’ reaction when you told them that you wanted to pursue music?
They weren't always supportive of my music career until I proved to them that it could work.. Now they have more faith in my music than I do & I couldn't be more grateful.
What types of challenges have you encountered because of your ethnicity? Have you experienced any struggles to combat any Asian stereotypes in your career?
Can't really think of any struggles in particular in terms of pursuing my career.. More so in my upbringing, living in the south.
Are there any other PoC musicians, bands, producers, etc. who you’re a fan of and how do they inspire you?
Sure, there are a lot actually.. Most of them are my friends, & just talking to them or seeing the moves they make motivates me to work on my shit even more. Their individual character & taste for things inspire me a lot.
What was your creative process while writing “$even”?
A lot of people tell me the song is like hearing 3 songs in one & that's exactly what the process of making it was. I was basically creating 3 songs in one session then combining them all in the end. I feel that my sound is just a melting pot of genres I enjoy the most & I feel like $even was my song to express that.
How do you go about planning the visuals and music videos for your songs? Overall, what’s the inspiration behind your aesthetic?
I work a lot with my friend Christian Long on most of my videos. If it's not with him, I sometimes control the direction of how a whole video will be, then collaborate with my other talented friends to help me execute my ideas. The aesthetic in the visuals are simply inspired by my personal lifestyle, colors schemes I find visually appealing, & my favorite films.
Just a couple months ago, you came out with your album Sebastian. What are your plans in the coming year?
Basically to keep pushing the album & see how long it can last by creating non-stop, new content surrounding it, whether it be through visuals, photos, animations, short films, clothes, etc.
Do you have any advice for aspiring creatives of color?
Never feel the need to give into a certain stereotype based on your skin color. Be who you are, whatever that entails. Embrace it all. It's okay to be vulnerable & honest through creativity.
Last, but not least, what is your favorite Drake song?
Right now it's BLEM & Nothings Into Somethings.... Of all time? I could go all day lol.
When "Signs" debuted during Louis Vuitton's Spring-Summer 2018 Fashion Show, it surprised me that Drake and Louis Vuitton were even in the same sentence together. No offense to the 6 God, but I wouldn't consider his brand to be synonymous with high fashion. I usually leave that to the likes of Kanye West and A$AP Rocky. Nonetheless, the song itself oozes with the blasé, blasé tone of the rich and successful who can afford weekend getaways to Saint-Tropez.
Drake sings about drinking champagne for breakfast, taking it easy, and everything that goes hand in hand with targeting the elite demographic of the 1% who can comfortably afford Louis Vuitton. The song's melody is mellow enough for the models to strut to it on the runway, at the very least. Production-wise, the beat in "Signs" sounds like the cousin of "Too Good" and "Passionfruit." Therefore, my head has been bobbing uncontrollably to it while on repeat for the past few days.
Even though I've been waiting for Drake to come out with a banger like "0-100" or 2015's tour de force "Back to Back," this song is a refreshing one that kind of washes over you upon first listen. In the context of a song intended to paint a fantasy lifestyle to sell resort wear, I think it achieves its goal. For the rest of the hoi polloi like myself, I can appreciate that it is a quintessential Jamaican Drake song with island vibes that possess the healing powers of aloe vera on sunburnt skin. The intentional laziness in Drake's vocals spreads calm throughout my inner psyche. My favorite lines are the following ones from the second verse:
"Playin' it right, playin' it perfect
Laughin' it off but I know you're hurtin'
Signs of the times
I say all the time"
It might be because I'm a Harry Styles stan and I want someone to do a mash-up of "Signs" and "Sign of the Times" (I'M DROPPING HINTS THAT I WANT A MASH-UP OF "SIGNS" & "SIGN OF THE TIMES!") but I like the idea that this song is about keeping up appearances. Drake is very cognizant that this girl might be playing him, but he struggles between completely letting go and potentially getting his feelings hurt in this fling. Ahhh, emo Drake is my favorite Drake!
You can watch the debut below and see/hear the Drake x Louis Vuitton collab starting at the 3m 33s mark for yourself!
If you didn't already know, I've spent a majority of the last month having solo Studio Ghibli marathons while simultaneously crying and live-tweeting about it. This time around, I watched an NHK documentary about the studio's co-founder, Hayao Miyazaki. It's called Never-Ending Man: Hayao Miyazaki and it details the legendary anime director's life after announcing his retirement in 2013 and (surprise, surprise!) how he comes out of it. It's a fascinating documentary and humbling to watch Miyazaki, a master of his craft, learn how to embrace CGI to help execute the vision for his upcoming Boro the Caterpillar film. Even as he faces challenges along the way, Miyazaki provides the following words of wisdom about perseverance:
"I never want to regret not trying something. It's better to try and fail. I believe that. I really do."
Miyakazi has always been unrelenting when it comes to his artistry. He himself acknowledges that was part of Studio Ghibli's success and ultimately, its demise. I highly recommend watching the whole video below. As Miyazaki talks about his colleagues passing away and his own heart condition, the central theme of the documentary is the shortness of time. As a man in his seventies, he accepts old age as a sad truth, and mortality a reality. Miyazaki later says that he'd rather die with having something to look forward to than die while doing nothing at all; and no matter how old or young you are, there's a lot of merit in this way of living your life.
Of all the style icons out there, I think the most influential one to me is my dad. I've pretty much stolen out of his closet more times than I can count. If you've seen me wear vintage Guess shirts or oversized Levi's denim jackets, they're all copped from my dad's clothing collection. I was digging through old photo albums and my dads' signature looks during the late 80s got me so s h o o k.
From rocking Ray Bans better than Tom Cruise in Risky Business to practically pioneering athleisure, my dad was ahead of his time in the fashion department. For some OOTD inspiration, you can take a peek at some of my dad's most iconic fits. Shouts out to all the dads rocking their polos and cargo shorts with their fanny packs, but my dad definitely served the iciest looks back then (and he still does!). Love you, Dad! Thanks for being so extra! Now I know where I get it from. ;)
Have you ever wondered what songs embody the spirit of summer, sunshine, and freedom? À la Cobra Starship and Leighton Meester's "Good Girls Go Bad" banger back in middle school? Out of my own curiosity, I've asked the people closest to me about their seasonal favorites. Throughout the next couple of months, I'll be compiling a playlist of my friends' songs of the summer, which you can follow here on Spotify.
I'm stoked to share Savannah's pick: "Garden (Say It Like Dat)" by SZA. Here's why she chose this song!
Sometimes the best things are discovered by accident and that’s exactly how I found out about Mr Jukes’ existence. Mr Jukes is a soul, funk, and jazz artist and none other than Bombay Bicycle Club's frontman Jack Steadman! *GASP* After meandering on my SoundCloud stream and doing some research, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Mr Jukes is Steadman's latest solo endeavor. Since Bombay Bicycle Club announced their hiatus last year, Steadman has been hard at work on his new album God First that comes out on July 14th. He's even collaborated with the likes of BJ The Chicago Kid and Alexandria for it.
The "Grant Green" music video, which features vocals from the legendary Charles Bradley, is a trip to watch and a delight to listen to. The animated music video oozes with the nostalgia of 70s funk and its colorful visuals reminded me of John Wilson's work for the opening credits of Grease. At first, Mr Jukes is unrecognizable from his indie roots (not to mention, he looks like a green Moby reincarnate). The video starts off in a salon and then continues into an eclectic array of razors and cocktails morphing into dancers partying with Steadman and Bradley. The three minutes and 26 seconds of its duration is a very psychedelic experience. Each sequence feels like a vibrant Picasso painting come to life and the antithesis of Arctic Monkey's dark and moody "Do I Wanna Know?" music video.
Mr Jukes's existence is one of the best things I've come across in the past two weeks. Honestly, I cannot wait for his debut solo album to come out next month. In the meantime, go ahead and watch the music video below!
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As a singer, songwriter, and producer from Los Angeles, Vincent Coleman is a jack of all trades whose talents stem from a very musical family. If you're searching for an artist that encapsulates new wave, soul-enriching R&B, look no further. I recently discovered his latest gem of a single, "Purify Me" while scrolling through my SoundCloud stream and it's the kind of song that is rejuvenating to listen to on any given day. While Vincent's amazing falsetto could rival the likes of Gallant and Khalid, Vincent Coleman's sound is all his own.
In addition, Vincent is no stranger to talking about social issues through poetry and his mini YouTube series called Can We Talk About It. After reaching out via email, Vincent was open to talk over the phone and share a little more about his musical influences, his experiences as a PoC, and his thoughts on black masculinity. Feel free to check out our Q&A below!
How would you describe your sound to someone who's never listened to your music before?
Alternative soul. It's definitely got some kind of indie influence. Vocally, I'm soul and R&B first. I really enjoy taking the experimental sound from my influences and throwing soul and R&B vocals over it.
Tell me a little about your experience growing up and your upbringing. How would you describe your family?
I grew up in LA in an area called Ladera Heights, which is predominantly black. It's an interesting mix because it's right on the top of a lower income community. It's an area where you get lower class, middle class, and upper class black people. It gave me an opportunity to grow up and identify with a lot of different people.
I have two little brothers, my mom, and my dad. My whole family is pretty musical and that helped me love singing and writing. They laid the foundation for me and having this gift of singing is something I don't take for granted. I'm really thankful for it. My family taught me a lot in regards to being humble and loving the gift that I have. I use it to the best that I can, not just for myself, but for other people.
How did your parents react when you first told them that you wanted to pursue music?
My parents were actually really cool about it. I think it's because we have a lot of musicians in the family. My aunt is a singer who was one of the main singers on Dancing with the Stars for a long time. She wrote theme songs in the early 90s for shows like Moesha and Sister, Sister. Growing up, my mom knew from when I was a little kid that I loved singing. My whole family has always been very supportive.
What type so challenges have you encountered because of your race? Have you had to combat any form of stereotypes in your career?
One of the biggest things I've come up against as a black artist is being put into boxes. Growing up, I was influenced by Grace Jones, Nine Inch Nails, Incubus, but I was also inspired by D'Angelo, Jill Scott, and Alicia Keys. These different artists brought so many things to the table and that has really shown itself in the way that I create music. I've gone through times where I've been asked to be like a Chris Brown or a Ne-Yo. And not that there's anything wrong with those artists, but sometimes I feel like we can be pigeonholed into a particular idea of what we as black artists create. It's shifted a lot when you think about musicians like Sampha and Tyler the Creator breaking out of that mold. I respect and appreciate these artists for challenging that stereotype that artists in the past had to give over to in order to find themselves. Whereas now, we've grown so much and I think there's more space for people to be themselves as opposed to feeling like they have to be a certain way because of the color of their skin.
Speaking about Tyler, he had his Golf Wang fashion show last year and he had great commentary on masculinity especially has a black male. Even with as much progress as there is now, there is definitely more dialogue to have and a different spectrum of issues we don't always get to hear about.
Oh yeah, 100%. I really like artists like Dev Hynes aka Blood Orange and artists who like to challenge masculinity and don't particularly like the idea of limiting sexuality for individuals. It's very powerful. There are so many expectations outside the black community that are placed on us. It's nice when we can challenge that from the inside, so that it can affect the outside.
In your YouTube video series Can We Talk About It, you talk about politics, slut culture, and sexual racism. Is there any other topic you wish people talked about more?
I like the idea of challenging masculinity. In my opinion, masculinity is a societal construct and I don't think it particularly matters. It's something that was created that can hinder men and women from being able to express themselves the way they want to. I like that we're having more conversations about masculinity, especially within the black community because there's a different expectation on masculinity in this space. I think you can see the ramifications of being boxed into this idea of masculinity. Even within the gay community, there is a struggle of wanting to appear masculine because of being afraid of expressing themselves in any other way that isn't masculine. Breaking down these barriers is something that's very important.
Are there any other PoC bands, musicians, and producers that you are a fan of and personally inspire you?
I really love D∆WN. I think she's amazing. I respect her hustle and she's been doing her own thing independently for a very long time. I'm an independent artist as of right now and it's a hard struggle. You are a business person, a creator, an entrepreneur, a marketer, a publisher. There are so many hats that you wear and I appreciate it because you learn so much. Like I said before, I love Dev Hynes and the message he stands for. I love Sampha's pure, authentic creativity. I'm also a big fan of Miguel vocally and I think that he has beautiful vocals. I like artists who are rebellious and not necessarily in the sense of causing trouble, but that they go against the grain.
On May 26th, you dropped your latest single called "Purify Me." What was your creative process while writing this song?
"Purify Me" was really fun to write. It was actually one of the first songs that I wrote in 10 minutes. I sat down and started playing the keys, and the religious idea of baptism and renewal came to me. I started thinking about my own relationship and how being in it has made me feel happy and baptized in a way. When I started thinking about these images, it all started flowing. I created a demo and brought it to my friend Kevin who produced the song. We sat down for a couple weeks and went back and forth coming up with ideas. I'm really proud of the way it turned out. I wanted to create a song that celebrates love in its purest form when it's healthy and authentic.
What are your plans for the coming year?
I plan on releasing more singles. I've released an EP in the past and as much as I enjoy releasing EPs, I want to challenge myself to create individual songs that are the best songs that I can make. It's kind of nice because it's freed me from having to think about the writing process in the form of an EP. It's given me the freedom to individually release these songs and allow people to connect to them. It's like having a diverse group of friends and each single represents an individual group of them. Besides music, I also create a lot of poetry and a lot of my songs start off as poems. I just finished my first book and I'm super excited about it. I'm in the process of talking to different people about what my options are right now to get it published.
Do you have any advice for aspiring creatives of color?
Stay authentic. You are going to come up against challenges and sometimes we have to recognize that not all those challenges have to do with race. My mom has always talked to me about being who I am and being authentic to that. We need to allow people to be themselves and to promote creating from a real place, as opposed to creating from something someone else has created for you.
Last but not least, what is your favorite Drake song?
I really like "Passionfruit," but my favorite Drake song is "Take Care" with Rihanna. I love the production on that song and I'm a big fan of Rihanna. I appreciate Drake because he challenges masculinity too in the way that he's emotional.
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Ever since Hasan Minhaj: Homecoming King came out on Netflix on May 23rd, I haven't been able to stop thinking about it. This stand-up special showcases Minjhaj's profound ability to talk honestly (and with good humor) about the struggles of being a minority growing up in a white-majority town like Davis, CA, and having immigrant parents. From the beginning to the end, Minhaj's piquant way of addressing serious topic matter like the aftermath of 9/11 for his Muslim family and the difficulties that come with an interfaith marriage, hit home. It's the kind of stand-up that transcends conventional punchlines concerning cringe-worthy first dates and one-night stands.
One of the greatest highlights of the special is when Minhaj recounts one of his first loves, Bethany Reed and her parents' opposition to Minhaj taking their daughter to prom because of the color of his skin. Minhaj does a fantastic job of articulating the insidious power of microaggressions. I like to think of microaggressions as instances in which another person makes you feel lesser than them, but in not-so-obvious ways. This form of discrimination isn't as direct as a slap in the face. It's hard to put your finger on it, but Minhaj hits the nail on the head when it comes to describing his own experience saying, "I didn't know people could be bigoted even as they were smiling at you." Coming from a place of empathy, Minhaj acknowledges the importance for those who've come across a Bethany Reed in their own lives to take the high road.
Overall, Minhaj's come up story is one for the books and strikes a chord with first-generation PoC. Identity is a complex matter when you're born in America and it's impossible to completely claim your parents' motherland as your own. Minhaj tackles this topic with such a no holds barred approach, that I laughed and I cried so hard throughout it all. As a successful comedian and Daily Show Senior Correspondent, Minhaj champions the cause of #NewBrownAmerica, a generation of PoC who aren't afraid to forge their own paths.
Hasan Minhaj: Homecoming King is a triumph for kids of immigrants trying to find themselves in this country and make it. If you have a Netflix account (or you mooch off of your sister's ex-boyfriend's brother's best friend's account), please do yourself a favor and watch this special here!
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After watching Cherry Bomb: The Documentary a couple weeks ago, I was really inspired by Tyler the Creator's creative vision behind his 2015 album and the artists that collaborated with him on it. In the film, director Mikey Alfred captures the recording process, which includes how Lil Wayne and Kayne West came up with their verses on "Smuckers." Lil Wayne's views on Tyler and how they worked together in the studio are definitely worth watching. In the segment, the rapper echoes the overarching theme from the his 2011 single featuring Bruno Mars and delivers the following words of wisdom:
“Work hard. Be somebody. Be something more than what you see in the mirror. Let the world be your mirror. Don’t let them judge you 'cause the mirror can’t judge you. You judge what you see in the mirror.”
Watch the video below to hear this advice from the legend himself!
Have you ever wondered what songs embody the spirit of summer, sunshine, and freedom? À la Boys Like Girls' "Thunder" jam back in middle school? Out of my own curiosity, I've asked the people closest to me about their seasonal favorites. Throughout the next couple of months, I'll be compiling a playlist of my friends' songs of the summer, which you can follow here on Spotify.
I'm more than happy to share Karis' pick: "call the police" by LCD Soundsystem. Here's why she chose this song in particular!