In a world of increasingly monolithic rappers, Queens MC Eff Yoo is an outlier. The rugged rhymer is a throwback to a bygone era for the New York underground, where lyrical potency was the figurative membership card. That said, he’s not a bitter MC who wastes time trying to talk the industry into the state he desires. As he told me via e-mail, he’s doing his own thing with no worries, as it should be.
On his latest project The Eff Word (available at all major online retailers), he funded his own operation, including studio time, music videos and features—as is his custom. This setup allows him to keep the purity of his sound intact, and reap the lion’s share of profits. For the The Eff Word, there were no demands from greedy, out of touch label executives to dress this way or rap that way.
The independent route is more rewarding, but also an arduous grind. It requires patience, determination, and an understanding that no matter how hard you’re spitting, there will still be casual fans who pass you in the street while they rant about Kendrick Lamar being the only person with artistic integrity. It’s a humbling road to take, but perhaps the more sensible one in the long run.
Hear more about it from the man himself. The video for his introspective new single, “God Hates Me” (featuring The Audible Doctor and Airon Azure) can also be streamed after the Q&A.
Can you speak on any unfavorable/crummy situations you’ve been in dealing with people who claim to have access to the mainstream but are really schemers, ala “artist showcase” promoters?
I recently had a label owner approach me wanting to distribute my new album, he claimed to have personal relationship with sites like fader and complex, as well as relationships with promoters all over US Canada and Europe, promised a tour, as well as PR from him personally, all he wanted was 40% of the album and 1500 to make this happen, needless to say, that wasn’t gonna work, but come to find out afterward, all he had was email addresses and all he could do was ask for favors, via emails, so had I been a rube, I would’ve signed 40% of my album and paid somebody 1500 to basically send out a few emails in the hopes of getting a favorable response and if nothing happened, would have to chalk it up to the game. But these are the type of weasels that have surfaced since the Internet has made becoming an mc or producer as easy as buying software.
What’s your best advice to the MC who says they want to succeed but is purely interested in the creative aspect and could care less about building relationships or promoting their work?
Then you don’t want to succeed, you can’t take these overnight success stories and think that’s gonna be you, more than likely, the over night success story took years to cultivate, relationships and promo are key to getting ahead. If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound? Even if the tree is extremely talented? No.
What are some of the biggest mistakes you see artists making?
Definitely spamming, it’s such a bad look. As well as buying views and followers, son, 99% of the time, it’s so transparent, we all want that get rich quick scheme, that shortcut to stardom, but hard work and dedication is that tried and true formula, and it just doesn’t woke for everyone.
How do you reconcile not necessarily being as nationally known as the industries’ biggest artists but still having more creative control than most if not all of them? Do you feel like it’s either/or for most upcoming artists?
If you sign to a major, your giving them a lot of control over your music and who you are period. They are investing in you, and will do what it takes to make that investment pay off, and expect you to do the same. If that means dressing you in leopard tights and auto tuning the shit out of your lyrics, you either do it it pay them back the money they invested while your career stumbles and dies. I’m bitter sometimes about not making as much money as some of these clowns in sun dresses, but I make music cause I have to, it comes out of my pores when I hear a beat, I don’t think it would be the same if I had deadlines and mandatory dress codes or whatever the case may be.
What are some DIY shortcuts you’ve learned along the way in terms of promotion, networking etc?
Everything I’ve done is DIY, lol, don’t get me wrong I’ve had a lot of help and advice from great people, but we all did it ourselves. My best advice would be to cultivate relationships and be a real person, understand how to read people and don’t be afraid to put yourself out there, I’m the cockiest mothafucka in the world when I have to be, but I’m mad down to earth too, that’s just me, but I’m me all the time and I try to appear everywhere I can.
A lot of fans believe J.Cole and Kendrick are the “only rappers” saying something positive or displaying dense lyricism. Their connections and marketing has made that seem the the case, but there are obviously comparable artists in the underground such as yourself. How often have you felt tempted to play “the game” for a higher profile? Do you ever get resentful of not having the biggest media avenues at your disposal?
I don’t ever feel tempted to play the game if it means changing who I am or what I do, at the end of the day, I make music I wanna make and music I like and want to keep making it, but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t all a game, there’s a way to play everything, as I said before, I get bitter at times that I’m not making the money some others do, and that maybe the success is coming slower than if I put on tights and sun hat, and spit my shit over a metro boomin sound alike, but we’re chugging along, slowly but surely, hahaha, the more fans I get, the more hands I shake, the more avenues open up.
Do you think it’s worth it to sign to a major label? In what situation would it make sense for an artist?
Right now the 360 deal is all the rage, the money isn’t even in album sales anymore, it’s all in touring and merchandise, if you can find a deal that lets you keep all or the majority of that, you’re in good shape in my opinion, why not take the deal.
Artists always talk about the importance of having a “strong team”. What specific duties/responsibilities do the people on your team handle for you?
Many people have different ideas of what a team is, from yes men to hangers on and so forth, I believe a strong team consists of individuals who are exceptional at one thing, working together to better each other, an amazing artist to do all the artwork, a great videographer, phenomenal promotion/PR, the best sound engineer to mix and master etc. producers, I’ve been fortunate to work with many talented people who have helped me for the sole fact that they believed in my talent and believed we would all thrive together. I hope to be the reason we do.
Do you know people who’ve signed to major labels and have told you about how much they regretted the situation?
I know a few, and to be honest, the stories tame from horrible to wonderful, I guess it depends on how strong your management is and how talented you truly are, if you make yourself indispensable, the label is gonna treat you as such, if you tailor your style after drake and auto tune every bar, you’re easily replaceable and will be treated as such
In what ways has the internet changed the game for you?
Holy shit, where do we start, hahaha, the Internet changed the game period, anybody with broadband or wifi, wanted to rhyme, and be that guy, and just because of the law of averages, there are some people who like it. But as much as its given nobodies a screen to hide behind and spew their pointless opinions, it’s also made it as easy a mouse click to support acts you actual like and to connect with mc’s and other talented people you may have never met, it shrunk the world and shrunk the physical work an mc has to do, I’m able to have fans in Australia and Japan buy my Cd’s and merchandise, it’s a gift and a curse.
Can you speak on your upcoming album?
I have a project [out today] called The Eff Word produced entirely by Chicago producer Rediculus, it’s a culmination of my previous Mixtapes, just a good mixture of smart raps, ignorant topics, fly shit, pimp shit, scientific shit, everything. I’m also heavily featured on the homie Cole James Cash‘s production album called Street Champion, based off the street fighter video games, and I have a web series I’m always shooting called “Don’t be a piece of shit your whole life” where I give advice, explain how to do everyday, seemingly easy shit, do reviews, and basically talk shit. You can follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, just spell the name right, you’ll get there.