1883 Magazine

Born-and-raised in London is producer Yogi. From a young age he started getting into DJ-ing and then transcended more into the production-side of music. Very soon he started getting major recognition and went on to produce Wretch 32’s smash hit ‘Traktor’ ft. L Marshall which reached Nr 2 in the UK Official Charts .

It wasn’t long until Yogi signed his first deal with the record label Interscope and got introduced to and collaborated with the legendary rapper and producer Dr.Dre. This led to the Londoner taking the leap to move to Los Angeles in order to take music production to the next level – and his journey has been incredibly inspiring ever since with production credits including Skrillex, Rita Ora, Stormzy or Santigold – to name but a few.

His latest single ‘Baby’ featuring London’s one and only Ray BLK, Afrobeats sensation Maleek Berry and Los Angeles representative Kid Ink – is a brilliant blend of refreshing UK talent and summery vibes from the sunny state of California.

We sat down with Yogi and talked about London, getting into producing and working with Dr Dre.

Tell me about your story, how did you get into producing in the first place?

I was DJ-ing when I was very young, I was a DJ in the clubs. So it kinda started like that. My dad was a distributor in the UK so I had access to all sorts of record stores. I would go there and listen to music and get free records. My cousins were the first Asian promoters of Universities in the late nineties, so they would give me slots in all the clubs. When I was 14,15 I was just doing warm-up sets and when I left school I focused more on the producing side. I learned the mixing side first and eventually I had my own studio set up at home. I started making beats and also did a few for recording artist Bashy. The UK Urban scene was having another resurgence of the sonic, there was a bit of a gap – it was pre-Grime. I did this beat which my manager took to Wretch 32 and that song became his single ‘Traktor’. I made it in my house by just messing around a little and then after that we were introduced to Amy Thompson who managed Swedish House Mafia. She introduced me to Interscope and then I did my first deal with Interscope. They then introduced me to Dr Dre, at the same time he took my music to Skrillex and that’s when I did my first collaboration with him.

How was working with Dre?

It was amazing. It was an opportunity for me to go back to Los Angeles so as soon as that happened I called my wife to quit her job because we would move to LA. So she quit her job and we moved. It was an amazing opportunity.

That is such an incredible opportunity indeed. Did you find it difficult getting settled in LA at first?

Yes, because at that time it was 2013,2014 – that’s when the song I did for Pusha T was picked up in the club scene. I started getting bookings so I had to finish an EP, do sets and deliver music to Dre at the same time. It was hard in the beginning due to all the pressure. Just doing everything was hard in the first months. It was a learning curve!

What would you say is the biggest difference between London and LA?

There are so many more people in America, or Los Angeles. The music is at a bigger stage. Also the politics are different, just like the personality it’s the same with music. LA is completely different.

How do you approach producing a new song? What is your creative process?

I listen to a lot of music and try and make it sound like it was in 1990/2000 combined with a wave of today. I like when music is based on something real, it makes me want to listen to it – rather than making something and getting used to it. I know my references are what keeps me cool and grounded. I always look at the references and make sure it is real to me.

So how would you describe your signature sound?

I don’t think I have one, my song structure is my signature I think. Also the way, the respect I have for the process and how much I am behind it.

Which artists/producers did you grow up listening to and still draw influence from?

A lot of Dre, Daft Punk, Timbaland. I love 70’s music, I love MJ, James Brown. Very varied.

Obviously you collaborated with a decent amount of artists so far, which have been your favourite collaboration so far?

They are all different, I learned from every single one. Skrillex was a learning process to see how he makes music and how he approaches it. Working with Stargate recently is interesting to see where they make music. And with AlunaGeorge it’s a certain tone. Every session I go in is just learning the vibe, it’s all different.

Before you are collaborating with someone – do you approach your collaborators or do they approach you?

I reach out to people who I think would be suitable for me, the person I can hear on a track I reach out to. That’s more natural and helps me more to finish the process. When someone reaches out to me it’s more risky. I don’t want to offend nobody.

Do you have a dream collaboration?

At the moment it is Skepta. I think that would make a lot of sense for me and my journey. If I can make that happen it would be great. But also SZA, Jay – Z, there’s a lot of good ones. I want to represent London culture and don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of amazing people here but he comes from the same area as me in London, in the North circuit.

Might as well make that happen! Speaking of London, you now have a new single which features London talents Ray BLK and Maleek Berry - but also Kid Ink. It’s got such a summery vibe. Although, how did you know this combination would work so well?

I think it represents my journey right now. Kid Ink is from LA where I live at the moment, Ray BLK is a Londoner so represents the city and Maleek Berry is the sound of what is happening in urban culture right now. Afrobeats is booming. So I think it’s a good representation of what is going on.

How did it come about, did you all meet in the studio to record?

I met Kid Ink in LA, I’ve known him for a few years. He’s the nicest guy. Ray BLK came out to LA and recorded her part. And I came to London and she also recorded here. Maleek, we sent it to him and he sent it back. I also met him after and it was great. We could have met him for recording but he was on tour in Amsterdam or something. It all came together naturally though. It worked out well.

That’s amazing. How long does it usually take you to finish a song and get it ready?

A year, maybe longer. I just spend a lot of time on it, and it always changes throughout the process. I’m always perfecting it, it always changes and never finishes. Until the day before I keep changing it.

Wow, that must require a lot of patience.

Oh yes! I used to be like “nah I can’t listen to this song anymore” but now I can just tolerate it, and go with it. I pick up what needs to be changed and try work something out and get back to it.

What can we look forward to hear from you next then?

The album is a driving album. It’s me driving in London and LA, combining both cities. There will be US features and UK features. Everything is gonna have that influence. I need to make sure it’s right.

Sounds exciting! So when you’re not in the studio, what else do you enjoy doing?

I spend a lot of time driving, I go to Malibu a lot and go to clubs and see what’s going on. Also keeping an eye on the fashion scene to see what’s happening.

Follow Yogi via @yogitrf

Interview Antonia Künzel

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