The NEW generation of hip hop is here. A younger demographic is taking over the world of hip hop music as we know it and revolutionary artists like Yung Menace are doing the genre justice by crafting a unique sound that old-school heads can appreciate and new-school kids can enjoy.
I got the chance to sit and chat with this talented emcee who displays a lot of potential. With a vintage sound and a captivating style, this was one opportunity I didn’t want to miss out on. Get to know this rising star and peep The Hip Hop Speakeasy interview with emcee Yung Menace.
Q: Feel free to introduce yourself.
A: “I go by the name of Yung Menace, from Flatbush, Brooklyn.“
Q: Can you tell us where that name came from?
A: “Well, basically, Yung Menace came from me not wanting to do the same thing as far as following trends. When you do something people don’t want you to do, you become a nuisance, a menace. So I was always the person to do everything my way while still bringing enlightenment. I never really cared what people had to say towards me, as long as I did what I needed to do. Also, on top of that, just to let you know, my real name is Dennis, so like Dennis the Menace – it works both ways.“
Q: Oh ok, I see. Being a rapper, you’ve probably had many inspirations over the years. Can you tell us who your biggest musical inspirations were?
A: “I feel my inspiration came from seeing different changes in music, period. There was a time when hip hop was just about wordplay and gunplay, and then there was a time when it was about hanging out, you know, just relaxing doing natural things, and then I’ve seen the era when, down South, they changed it to dancing. So music opening up and being relatable to anybody in any kind of way, it opened my eyes; it became life. Because if I can relate to somebody through my music and I can get to them, then I feel like I’m doing something positive while doing what I need to do with my music. So when I listen to different people, from listening to [Jay-Z’s] Reasonable Doubt, going all the way up and listening to Busta Rhymes – Busta Rhymes is my favorite artist, by the way – you know, listening to these guys, and then listening to these other cats from the south come up, it amazes me how far music has come. There’s no structure really and it has a really big influence on me.”
Q: Growing up, what was it that got you in to hip hop music and made you decide to become an artist? Was it somebody in particular or a certain event in your life that happened?
A: “Actually, before I started rapping, I was just writing down poems. Writing for me was an escape…not an escape, but a diary, you know what I’m saying? I feel it was my sanity. For me when I go to do things, I would write it down. So what I began to do was transform it into music. Producers would come to me and say you should put this to a beat and that’s what I really did and sometimes they would say you should freestyle and I would try to freestyle and everything would be good. It just came abruptly like that. On top of that, also listening to certain music all my life, along with that, those two things kind of put it together to seal the fate. So when things happen to me, when things happen in my life, I go to the mic, I go to my microphone and tell it how it is.”
Q: So you started writing before you actually became quote-on-quote, a “rapper.”
Q: Do you feel that has influenced your sound? Do you feel you have a certain sound because you started writing before you intentionally became a rapper?
A: “At that moment when I began [rapping], I was creating a sound. But as I grew, I kind of molded a different kind of sound through growing up and seeing, being in the streets of Brooklyn, being through hard and good times and going where I have and finding everything. Those things molded my flow, they molded my creativity, they molded my actions when I speak on a song. It’s like natural, that’s how I want you to look at it – natural.“
Q: So you were talking about molding and how it’s a different sound, you see that happening in hip hop now. There’s a lot of different acts coming out now. What do you think sets you apart from contemporary emcees coming up in the game right now? Do you feel you have any advantages or disadvantages?
A: “Besides my flow, my delivery, with the music that’s coming out nowadays, some artists have lost the concept of knowing that music is also influence. What separates me is I always tell it how it is, good or bad, I don’t care if I’m the bad guy or not, but at the end of a song, you’ll always receive something from me, whether that’s bias, knowledge… Sometimes I can hear a verse and it’s all about nothing or all about dancing; it’s a talented, creative song, but I try to make sure you always get something from my tape when you listen to it. I feel that’s what separates me, and I honestly feel like I really don’t give a fuck how people view it. If you look at me as far as too much of a positive person by trying to give a message, I wouldn’t care. If you think I cursed too much – I’m just using examples – I wouldn’t care. I say people are diffident and I don’t really give a shit. People catch feelings sometimes, but as long as I know what I’m doing and I know my message, that’s what separates me.”
Q: If you had to describe your style in like three words, what would they be?
A: “I would say three words to describe me: East Coast Ill, I’m just making that up – that’s it right there.”
Q: And why’s that?
A: “Because I’m actually being lyrical and at the same time, having a message and at the same time providing visuals to show everyone my reality of it, which is the name of my tape by the way.”
Q: Alright, alright. So you started this #MenaceMondays trend where you would release tracks every Monday, would you like to talk about that a little bit more?
A: “Yeah, no problem. #MenaceMondays – I decided that on every Monday or every other Monday, I decided to drop visuals or vlogs to show people what I’m up to or a new single, a new track, basically for people that don’t know what’s going on. For people that want to keep up with me, they’ll know #MenaceMondays they can expect something from me. You can go to my site at yungmenace.com or you can go to other links from whoever puts it up, but I keep the #MenaceMondays to let people know when Monday comes, expect something; expect something good from Menace, expect something fresh, dope, ill, and that’s how I’m going to keep doing it.”
Q: And how has the feedback been for #MenaceMondays so far, have you heard anything?
A: “The feedback has been good. I’ve managed to get a good amount of press, I gotta’ thank my publicist for that. I’ve been doing shows, a bunch of features with different artists. It’s just a circle to build networking, but it’s definitely good.“
Q: Do you have a favorite #MenaceMonday track?
A: “My favorite – ooh, that’s hard! But I really like “Super Villain.” That would be one of my favorite #MenaceMonday tracks.”
Q: Do you have any past projects that no one knows about? You did touch base on a project that’s coming up, but do you have anything in the archives that you’d consider re-releasing?
A: “Yeah, but then again no because when I write, when I do music, I try to better myself, whether it’s a flow, whether it’s a concept, I always try to better it. Sometimes I can listen to certain songs and be like, I made this? And sometimes I’ll be like, ok I can change a few things. So it depends on what I’m going for at that moment, but I’d rather just start fresh and come up with some fresh lyrics on the mic, do what I need to do.”
Q: Keeping on that, so far we’ve only heard singles from you, along with the #MenaceMondays, when can we expect an album or a mixtape at least?
A: “I have my mixtape dropping at the end of this month, actually, called The Reality of It. It’s 15 tracks; different sounds and it’s also talking about me, it’s allowing me to get to know me from the start because I want people to build with me as I progress. I don’t want them listening to my song and just say ok, but I don’t know who this guy is. I want them to know who I am, what I bring to them, that person that you can be able to listen to their tape more than once. That’s what I’m getting at with this tape, The Reality of It. It’s a pretty good tape, I got Chuck Strangers producing on there, a couple of features, I don’t want to give some away yet, but I got a good amount.”
Q: That’s a mixtape coming out, do you have any plans for an album this year?
A: “Yeah, I have plans, but right now, I’m working on getting the people to listen to hear everything, with the mixtape, and then we’re going to keep putting out visuals and different singles, freestyles and we’re going to go from there. Based on when we feel like the crowd is ready, everyone’s ready, then it’s time, but definitely look for something by the end of the summer, too, as far as my album. I’ll probably have another tape in between there. That’s my goal, my personal goal, to have another before the actual album.”
Q: Alright cool, I look forward to that. Do you have any collaborations in the works? A collaborative project or anything? You talked about collaborating with people on the tape but do you have any other collaborations you’re looking at this year?
A: I have a couple like JohnNY U., but I don’t really pick and choose, I’m more of like let’s have a cypher, let’s rap! We’re rappers, let’s rap. I like to build a vibe with the person, so I’m always somewhere else building a vibe with someone and I spontaneously attack it and do a verse right then and there. I go somewhere else and we do something, you know what I’m saying? It always happens spontaneously, so that’s how I come out with my features, but I’m just hanging out, freestyling, being at the events that I need to be at… building.”
Q: And if you could work with artist out right now, who do you think that would be?
A: “If I were to work with one artist, I would work with the people that I know are closest to me. I would work with Chuck, Joey in Pro Era. They have a kind of similar East-coast feel and we’re both from the same place, so we have a vibe that I build from, so that’s even better. Instead of just trying to pick somebody out the blue and say, maybe we can make a great track, it’s always better when it’s a person you know you build with, that you actually have a relationship with before you do the song. It lets me determine the real from the fake.”
Q: You did mention how you have a goal to get two mixtapes out before your album, but do you think you have any other music related goals or resolutions for 2013?
A: “Visuals, a lot more visuals. I’m trying to do a lot more shows because I know there’s a lot more people that want me to do more shows, so I’m trying to get more shows lined up.”
Q: Are you happy with your spot in hip hop right now, and would you change anything about it?
A: No, I wouldn’t change anything. I’m in my lane. I’m not trying to be in anybody else’s lane, I’m not trying to follow any trends, I’m trying to come up the way that I am, the way that I know, the way that people will know me for. Some people try to come in the game and they don’t think about the longevity of their careers that they’re making at the moment. With what I’m doing, I have my own trademark, you won’t be able to compare it really. When you hear it, you’ll be like, that’s Yung Menace, I already know.”
Q: Yeah, that’s cool. Now would you ever consider signing with a major label or would you rather stay independent?
A: “Right now, I’m not looking for any label deals because as far as labels and creativity rights and things they can change up without you even knowing. I’m more comfortable making it naturally and coming up through the underground. And if they hear me and if the paperwork is right and it benefits me to my creativity and what I do, that’s always good. But as far as looking for a deal from the industry, I’m not looking for a deal. Being a Menace, F- it.”
Q: [Laughs] Now what is it that you want listeners to get from your music? You said you wanted to create a type of sound that when people heard it they knew exactly who it was, that it was you. So what are you trying to get out to listeners, what do you want them to get from your music?
A: “I want them to get the reality. There’s people here that feel that sometimes things don’t go the way people feel they should or life causes different situations, but it’s reality. Out of it, I want you to get the positive message. If I can give you the message, if you can hear that message that I give you to therefore progress and go and do what you want to do the way you want to do it, that’s what I want people to get from me. That’s the biggest message of all. There’ll be times when I’ll be on a song and I might sound like I’m trying to violate something, but at the end of the day, when you listen to it, you know I’m trying to tell you something. As long as you get a message and positivity out of my music, then my work is done.”
Q: Alright, cool, cool. Why should we – as in everyone, websites, listeners – why should we be looking out for Yung Menace this year?
A: “Because it is a different look from what people have been seeing, it’s a different sound from what people have been hearing, it’s a different direction from where people have been going lately. You won’t see a similarity or a flow from previous people that have influenced me, it’s just me, the message that you get, different flows that you hear, the visuals that are combined with that. With all of that combined to create the image of “menace,” it’s a lovely feeling. And I’ll always be real, too.”
Q: Just to be interesting and have a little fun here, what is one thing that very few people know about you?
A: “There’s a lot, man. One fun thing… Oh shit, let me give you a fun answer… I like to get… well that’s kind of average, because everybody likes to get fucked up when they’re out and about. But I’m kind of like a clown, also, I’m not a serious- I don’t like to be serious. I like to be a clown and make the situation around us comfortable. Some people see me and when they listen to the music, they see the visuals, they feel like oh, he’s telling me something, he must be really serious. And then sometimes I see people and they’re nervous and I’ll be like, what’s up!? Want to chill, have a drink!? And sometimes it’s shocking and like, what? Yea!!! Let’s have a drink and put you on Instagram, post a picture, let’s do something!“
A: “It’s always a fun vibe at the same time. I try to express that to people. I’m telling you, Stone, if you chill with me, we would have 20 pictures on Instagram and not know what happened later on [laughs]!”
Q: [Laughs]! That’s funny – just to get your opinion on it, we’re coming into a new year now, I’m just curious what your opinion is on hip hop right now.
A: “From what I’m seeing, it’s going back to where it was coming from, from where it was originated. I hear sounds now with people trying to be more natural than made up, if that makes sense. Before, we were in an era where I think everything was made up or we had to learn some kind of dance. If you didn’t know that dance, you weren’t cool, you weren’t in! Coming from that and now seeing where things are, and also on the artists being able to get more exposure from them being themselves, I feel that that’s great and it’s coming back to the originality and it’s coming back to the lyrics and the lyricism. For a second I thought that was gone, also. So to see those things is a good feeling, it’s a good feeling. I’m not knocking anybody that’s making music, whatever kind of music they make, they’re in their own lane, but what I like personally and the generation that we’re going back to, which is the originality of hip hop, is good, is great, beautiful.”
Q: Yeah, yeah, I agree, definitely. We always like to ask, what is on your iPod? What is Yung Menace listening to?
A: “On my iPod I got a lot of things. I have hip hop, I have a little bit of rock, I even have a little bit of R&B because I open up my mind to different music. I’m never at a standpoint with music because it’s a beautiful world! I can’t see the world with music, I’d be bored as shit. I don’t know what I’d do! Just to hear this, sometime I hear rap, but sometimes a lot of rap can be overwhelming. Sometimes you got to listen to a little bit of R&B, sometimes I’ll listen to a little Isley Brothers. That’s how production comes up also, listening to these things, that’s another reason I expand. But I mostly have hip hop, like a whole bunch of tapes. I listen to Busta. The latest thing I can tell you I put on there is The Aprocalypse by Pro Era. What I want to put on there is that Wu-Block, I don’t know if it came out yet, but I need to find out.”
Q: Oh yeah, Wu-Block came out.
A: “Oh yeah you heard it, you like it?“
Q: Yeah, well for the site, I do the album of the week and I listen to every album that comes out and I heard it. I didn’t give it a full, sit-down listen but I heard it.
A: “Do you think it’s worth me trying to go and get? What do you think?“
Q: Yeah, yeah I think you should, I heard a lot of good things about it. From listening to it, it sounds like a classic Wu-Tang off-shoot like all the other albums.
A: “Ooh! Ok, you gave me the stamp! I gotta go get it then [laughs].“
Q: [Laughs] I hope my word’s true and it doesn’t disappoint!
Q: Alright so before we wrap it up here, are they any shout outs or last words you want to give?
A: “Yeah, man, shout out to you guys at The Hip Hop Speakeasy. Shout out to you, I appreciate you having me, speaking to me. Shout out to the people supporting me and understanding my movement. Shout out to the people going against me, because you’re making me better and I don’t give a fuck, so shout out to you anyway. Kind of sarcastic, you know [laughs].“
A: “Yeah, just shout out to everyone who’s really paying attention and not paying attention to me, just for me, but paying attention to me to maybe better themselves. If I can reach you like that, then for real, I really need to give you a shout out. And that’s about it right there.“
Q: Awesome, man, thank you again, we really appreciate it! Peace.
A: “No problem, Stone, thank you!“