Yohannes is a high-spirited independent Brooklyn-based Hip Hop artist from Grand Rapids, Michigan. With over one million collective streams and counting, Yohannes’ artistic purpose isn’t limited to just making great music. He’s already the owner of a label and publishing company, among many other endeavors.
Epicenter sat down with the enthusiastic artist to discuss the moment he fell in love with Hip Hop, the legends that paved the way for him, and much more.
This interview has been slightly edited for clarity and conciseness.
What was your introduction to Hip Hop?
My introduction to Hip Hop is definitely “Are You That Somebody” by Aaliyah. My mom didn’t allow secular music around me as a baby, but she started loosening up a little when I was 4 years old — that’s 1998. Aaliyah’s singing, the Timbaland sound bites and the beatbox-like drum sound definitely caught my ear. I can’t remember anything about Hip-Hop before then.
Can you speak to the moment you fell in love with Hip Hop?
The moment I fell in love with Hip Hop is when “Hold You Down” by Alchemist and Nina Sky came out in 2004. I definitely fell in love with that song and the way it transitioned. That record made me think differently from that point moving forward. I heard it on a mixtape I bought from somebody in front of the hair store my mom shopped at.
When you hear the term “Hip Hop,” what does that mean to you?
Hip Hop is being on the edge of novelty and innovation while standing at the crossroad of pain and expression. Hip Hop is your life being in motion while you still have to account for stillness. Hip Hop is like a good parent.
As Hip Hop approaches 50, what do you think about how far it’s come, and where would you like to see it go?
I think that after 50 years, Hip Hop is still as pure as it was in ‘73. ‘Job well done’ to the Jedis before us – I tip my fitted cap. I’d like to see it just be. I don’t wanna put any label or term on it. I just wanna participate, let it be what it is and whatever it becomes; I know I’ll be okay with that.
What are your top five favorite Hip Hop albums of all time?
My top five favorite albums in no particular order are probably: “The Notorious L.A.D.” by La the Darkman and DJ Drama, “MTV Unplugged 2.0” by Lauryn Hill, “Yeezus” by Kanye West, “Dedication 2” by Lil Wayne and “Confessions” by Usher. Those are all defining moments in Hip Hop and outstanding musical efforts, in my opinion. (Editor’s note: “Confessions” is an R&B album, but has a heavy Hip Hop influence, so we didn’t challenge his list. Wink)
Who are your top five favorite Hip Hop artists of all time?
Yohannes – yeah I’m definitely my favorite. After that, I’d say Kanye West, Lil Wayne, early Asaad, and Young Thug for sure.
What are your top five favorite Hip Hop songs of all time?
“In da Club” by 50 Cent, “Juicy” by Biggie, “Beautiful” by Snoop Dogg, Charlie Wilson and Pharrell Williams– I think this song is generational and should be studied for eternities in reference to beauty-“Soldier” by Destiny’s Child, Lil Wayne and T.I., and “March Madness” by Future.
Yohannes is still pushing his latest album, “Die Enormous,” which dropped in late 2021. Since then, he’s dropped a handful of loosies and feature verses while he’s finishing up his next project, which he says he’ll release sometime this fall.