First impressions account for a great deal in the rap game. When you first hear the latest MC spit you’re looking to have your expectations met. It’s an all or nothing situation for the you the listener. Wether you follow their career or not could hang on 16 to 32 bars. Does what they say connect with you on a personal level or not? Is it a verse you want to rewind and analyse to catch the metaphors or underlying themes? Or is it that it was a fucking fire verse of utter brilliance? That’s the criteria that I use. I guess as a fan of the music since the late 80’s I’ve built up tastes that must be met. Eff Yoo delivers on all those previously mentioned aspects. He is a real MC. A real MC entertains and educates. A real MC puts it all out for the listener to truly understand the man and his music. My first experience was the video for “Fire Escape Life”. It was one of my videos of the year when it dropped. It showed me something that I’d felt was missing from rap: Honesty. It told a story. It told me all I needed to know. From that moment forward I was a fan.
So as you can imagine I’m very happy to be interviewing the man we know as Eff Yoo.
Q) Can you give me a brief run down of where your from, childhood/family etc.
A) First off, thanks for that incredible Intro, I’m humbled. I’m actually a Peruvian immigrant, my family moved to Corona Queens when I was 5 and pretty much moved all around NY my whole life, did a couple years in Washington heights, a stretch on Bushwick, but Queens is where we mostly stayed and where I call home.
Q) When did you first become introduced to Hip Hop culture? Who introduced you to it?
A) When we first moved to corona from Peru, we lived in a three bedroom apartment with 7 other family members, my uncle, who had grown up in queens since birth, was a graff writer and DJ, he would take me into the tunnels with him on his shoulders and teach me how to head spin back in 87. Haven’t looked back since, although I do love all types of music.
Q) Which aspect was the young Eff most drawn to?
A) I’m a huge fan of lyricism, in any type of music I listen to, wether it be rock, salsa, hip hop whatever, the lyrics are what always get me, that’s why I always try to weave triple and quadruple entendres and hidden meanings into every time I write, so I guess MC’ing.
Q) Who was the biggest influence back then on your MC’ing?
A) My earliest influences include Kool G Rap and Slick Rick, of course Rakim, KRS One, LL Cool J. When I started coming of age Nas, MF Doom &Thirstin howl definitely.
Q) Were your circle of friends into the scene culture? You strike me as a individual person so I imagine you had no issues with going in your own direction so to speak. Would that be fair to say?
A) I always did whatever I wanted and still maintained popularity in all circles. I guess it’s just the way I am. My core group of friends were like me, stick up kids, into hip hop who also played video games and stole comics.
Q) As a teen what was it like growing up in Corona Queens? Do you think the experiences of the time shape the man you are today? Any specific moments you recall?
A) I reckon growing up in NYC back in the early to late 90’s very different from any other place on earth. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I couldn’t help but be shaped by the times. Not to sound the crunchy old guy, but it was just a different era. I remember being schooled by some of the OG’s trying to get us kids to pull crimes for them and shit, I distinctly remember riding my BMX for Corona to Bushwick and Cornelia in Brooklyn to buy a QP of chocolate weed, and riding back without a care in the world hahaha.
Q) Would you say that the NYC of your youth has gone? I ask because you paint such vivid images with your words. For an outsider like myself its cinematic at times.
A) The NYC I grew up in is very different from the New York I walk around in now, but that’s to be expected with gentrification and growth in population, the New York I grew up in was probably drastically different from New York in the 60’s and 70’s, so it’s not necessarily a bad thing, I can’t paint a different picture though, you know?
Q) You mentioned pulling crimes for some of the OG’s. Did that side of things appear alluring to you?
A) As far back as I can remember people always wanted to aspire to be the adults they saw living good and making paper. As a youth I didn’t know the consequences, cause until 18 it was mostly a slap on the wrist, so yeah it was definitely alluring. I wanted to be fly and have paper like the OG’s. By the time I realised that what I had to do to get it was wrong it was too late.
Q) Talk about your educational background, what were your school years like? Good student? I ask because your lyrics show a deep understanding of many subjects while still keeping a strong street element.
A) I was always considered a kind of “peoples champ” in school, nobody to fuck around with. I was always part of the “cool” crowd, cutting school, getting high and drunk at hookie parties. The nerds would always come to me for protection cause we could kick it about comics or star wars and shit but I’d still make sure nobody fucked around you know? Even though I was always cutting class and chilling I woukd always show up during tests and be the first to finish and get the best grade in class. I guess thats because I loved to read and kind of educate myself ever since i was young.
Q) When did you decided to take emceeing to the next level? Was there a moment in particular?
A) When I was 18-19 I worked on the street team for Rawkus Records and we would battle other street teams we’d meet like bad boy and sony. Everybody always feared us. I mean we were trained by Pharoahe Monch and Mos Def and shit. Thats when I first started to get into street cyphers around the city and sign up for open mics and test my skills. I went out on the road with a couple of acts but i was still on that bullshit. I wasn’t ready to be serious about it. Then I took up dj’ing and had a couple of local gigs around the city. I had kind of given up on mc’ing after a couple of years of that. It was honestly hanging out at Goblin Studios in 2010 to 2013 or so that really got me back into mc’ing. I mean the aura in that studio was incredible from being around legends like The Beatnuts and Tragedy Khadafi to kicking it and rhyming with future legends like Spit Gemz and Starvin B. Everybody would come around to that studio around that time from Action Bronson, Maffew Ragazino etc. The energy was electric. You couldn’t help but become enamoured with Hip Hop again. It was actually Gemz that first put me on a record and his encouragement pushed me to record the thoughts running through my mind. He is one of the few in my inner circle who encourages me to this day.
Q) So Spit Gemz pushed you on to record. That must’ve been inspiring as he’s a real talented dude. What was that first verse?
A) It was my verse on “trained assassins” from his Welcome to Hellszgate album.
Q) What happened after that? How was the response?
A) After that it was all systems go. The team was really strong. Everybody sharpened everybody else in the click and even inspired some veterans and other cats coming up.
Q) ‘Legend of The Gnome Sword’ came next right? What was running through your mind at this time? How did you connect with Golden Child the producer?
A) Golden Child had come to Goblins a few times and produced a couple of tracks. I went to his studio to record and while being high and drunk. We named one of his letter openers a gnome sword cause of the way it looked and from then on the recordings we made at grand staff studios. That’s where Golden Child records from and became the Gnome Sword sessions and “legend was born”.
Q) How was the project received by your peers and the blogs? Did you have any personal goals for the album? If so were they met?
A) This album was a labour of love. it was an album I felt had to be made. The only way to define wether or not it was a success is if people liked it. Critically, it was acclaimed. Financially it was bootlegged more than downloaded but I guess The real question lies in you, the writers, bloggers & fans etc. Did you like it?
Q) I dug it 100% but I didn’t hear it until after I heard ‘Fire Escape Life’ so I had to go backwards to catch it. You mentioned bootlegging. Truthfully how does that make you feel when it happens? I think its disrespectful to the artist like yourself.
A) On one hand, it means a lot of people are digging it and wanting to listen. On the other hand its money out my pocket. So double edged sword, you feel me?
Q) How did you feel going into your second project ‘Bodega Business Man’? What was your mindset with that album? I personally think its how I really began to understand the kind of artist you are, agree or disagree?
A) So far I have looked at every release with a topic in mind. Gnome Sword was my first and very mythical, dungeons and dragons style. Bodega was more the street tales, Donald Goines type record. Papa Dios is self explanatory. The artist I am is really a mixture of the three as I hope to portray in my next work
Q) I want to go back to ‘Fire Escape Life’. To me its one of the greatest rap records of my life, hands down incredible. It hits me on so many levels as its very personal to who you are. Can you explain the thought process that went into its creation? It’s the song I use when I introduce your work to people.
A) Fire Escape Life is an auto biography, everything I say in the song is from my real life and my daughter is the little girl in the video. I try to sprinkle a bit of my real life in all I do, but have yet to write another record that’s 100% personal as fire escape life was. I will though. The record was actually written in under an hour, on my kitchen table and if you notice the rhyme scheme is throughout the entire verse. Respectively, its just what happens when you have a story to tell, it flows naturally.
Q) How did the project with Godilla come to fruition? It’s a great album, sounds organic. Will you be working together again?
A) Illa hit me up for a feature on his album. We did it, then we did another feature together for a DJ. Then I asked him for a feature for my joint. He’s such a good dude and we had such a good time writing and chilling we decided to keep going. Before we knew it we had like 8 joints. We added some Collabs and intro and outro and the rest was history.
Q) As a fan I’ve noticed you don’t flood the blogs with random tracks & guest appearances unlike some other players in the game. Are you conscious of over saturation to the point where you dilute your own brand/image?
A) I just had a conversation about that when asked about why I don’t do more shows even though they’re offered to me. It’s for the same reason, I want it to be an event when I com out with something or when I show my face at a show and spit, you know? Some people might disagree but I’m an artist and I see it like that.
Q) I was incredibly impressed with Papa Dios. What was the thought process behind the album? To me its another evolution in your music.
A) The project actually started in my mind years ago. Maybe since 2011 and it was alway in the back of my mind as I collected beats and wrote verses for it. Its feature heavy by design and goes in a certain order. I’m not religious by any means, I just thought it was an album that needed to be done and it’s been pretty well received
Q) What’s up next for you in 2015 & beyond?
A) I have an album fully produced by Rediculus from Chicago called “The Eff Word” that’s done and being mixed now. I’m already gathering beats and writing new material for a project after that. I know that sounds funny after my previous statement about not flooding the market, this just happened to work out that way, hahaha.
Q) Where can people go to keep up to date with you and your craft?
A) Just spell my name eighth when you google me man hahaha! Putting Eff Yoo in any search engine will place you where you need to go. My Facebook page is effyoonyc, I’m on Twitter @ogeffyoo. Instagram, snapchat all that bullshit. The easiest way to listen to my music and see all my music pages is by downloading the Platformz app for any handheld device. That’ll show you all my Audiomack, Soundcloud and Reverb pages and all that. You know Chris I’ll be hitting you with all my exclusives, so I guess they can check the blogs you write for as well!