You might want to save this week’s The Creative Closeup so that one day you can use it as evidence when you’re telling all your friends that you knew of Yasmeen (@yasmeenx) waaaay before she was topping the Billboard lists ten weeks straight.
Yasmeen spoke with us about the challenges she has faced entering the music industry, how her Instagram has helped promote her career, and the endless grind it takes to reach the golden success at the top. She’s keeping it 100% real and is heading straight to the top of our Artists to Watch list. Keep reading for more industry insider details from
Rolling Stone The Creative Closeup interview with Yasmeen!
Yasmeen / @yasmeenx / August 3, 2018
- Age: 24, about to turn 25 in three weeks.
- Occupation: Musician. Within that umbrella, there are a few subsections. I teach, obviously. I also do sessions for other people, I arrange for other people, and I have my own projects as well.
- Ethnic Background: I am half Japanese, half Arabic and I have mixtures of Indonesian and Persian and Egyptian and Iranian…all that stuff.
- How would you describe your scope of influence?
- I would say for the most part that my influence is in relation to my work, which is the music.Um I don’t have product influence, meaning I can’t put up a post of a product and say, “I love this product buy it with my code!”. It’s not that kind of influence. It’s a different kind of influence where I get to work with like literally the top people in this industry right now, especially in the hip hop scene. And when I sit down…I would say that the most influence I have is when I’m sitting down in that room and working with those producers and projecting my ideas of what should be involved in the music. That’s when I have the most influence because it’s like a super collaborative process. It’s not like someone sits down and says come do this…I come up with my own ideas. It’s a lot of trial and error. We try things, see if it works…if it doesn’t we try something else. I would love to eventually…as I start to create my own branding of like my own artist project and I continue to get fans from there, I would want my eventual influence to go broader than just that room and just the people that are listening. Eventually, in a live setting where like someone can listen to my music and feel connected to something bigger. I also think something that is intriguing about how I try to market myself is that I like to think that I’m an attractive girl, that you know, at the same time I have something to offer the world through my talent. It’s almost like a self-aware way of saying not all pretty girls have nothing to offer. Which is like the normal thing that people think sometimes. They think, “Oh this girl is pretty, and all she can do is post pictures about how she’s pretty. And maybe here or there like work with a few brands and that’s it”. I kind of want to change that and show you can be pretty, you can be smart, you can be basically anything you want to be. Almost in a way that empowers women to have greater self-worth.
- How did you start putting yourself out there on social media?
- Basically, I was at a point…um, I had just started to do full-time music, and I had a friend actually, Kiefer, he went to UCLA with me. Instagram handle is @kiefdaddysupreme…he actually found his entire musical success off of Instagram. Which is kind of unheard of, usually Instagram is a tool to accompany other things that you have. But he was able to make Instagram his marketplace, basically, and what he would do is put up every other day like one minute of him playing over a beat he made. And he became famous! And so he was the one who sat me down and he was like you need to be doing stuff like that more often. He goes, “People expect these kind of videos from you, and also they enjoy your content and that’s why they follow you. And you kind of have to build your following from there.” So, I decided, you know, after I went full-time music that I wanted to create a brand for myself online that would reflect who I was in a lot of ways like the talent, also through the captions (I’m quite hilarious), and aesthetically something that’s fun to look at. But also try to make that person who kind of looks like a model more relatable and real. I think what ends up happening is a lot of young girls are looking at these people’s instagrams like unrealistic lives. So I post stuff on my stories like when I have $7 in my bank account, because that’s relatable. And just kind of make it a more of a real experience so whoever likes to follow my content can just feel at the end of the day we are all people. That’s kind of how I started. I had Kiefer telling me this would help my music career and I had a couple friends such as you [@tiffanie.marie], and a few other people who have found success through really starting to grow their brand on Instagram. Actually it’s interesting, Instagram has gotten me a lot of business musically. It’s like my mini portfolio of sorts…it has videos of me playing, it has pictures of me with people I’ve worked with before. So, I think in a way that I’ve been able to make Instagram a tool that really helps me for my career…it’s not just a place for my fans to look and say, “Oh, she’s a cool person”. For example, I put up a cover of me playing on top of this guy, San Holo, who’s now my friend, on top of a song that he put out, and enough of the people who followed me tagged him in it that he saw it. He called me over one day and decided to work with me and now we’re friends and I’m potentially playing his shows in LA when he comes for tour…so in that way, it has helped me. In other ways, like whenever A&R of different labels are looking at me, they look at my Instagram and they can immediately see “Oh, Yasmeen worked with Designer. Oh, Yasmeen just worked under Kanye”. Just from all these things being on my Instagram, I don’t even need to open my mouth. I think musicians aren’t really doing it enough. The ones that aren’t big yet should be doing it more because it’s helpful in every way.
- How would you describe your aesthetic.
- Talented, less slutty Kardashian. I think that’s the best way to put it in words.
- Describe your workflow process.
- I tend to want to have two photos to a video. I strive to make one video every two weeks. At one point, I was doing one video every week, but it’s very time consuming…I have to write a whole new song. So, I do like one of those and like two photos. I try to keep the photos really related to my brand in terms of I want them all to be related to music. So, I actually don’t put much about me hanging with my friends or me going to events that aren’t music related. I realize that the people who follow me are following me because they like that I’m in the music business. So, I try to do that. I also like schedule. Obviously, I try to do between 11:00 AM and 1:00 PM because that’s everyone’s lunch break. It’s the time when my followers are engaged. And, also, the day before I think of a witty caption. There are a lot of my followers who have commented that they follow me because of my captions. What I like to do with the captions is make them deprecating or self-aware. For example, yesterday I put up a picture that you [Tiffanie] took of me at the beach, looking pretty sexy. And, I wrote “Single link in bio, here’s a thirst trap to get your attention” and yeah. People appreciate that honesty. I also do like hashtags and stuff, some are hit or miss.
- What tools do you use to make your life easier?
- I don’t use any tools. I do use like the followers/unfollowers app. But that’s pretty much the only thing I use generally in relation to Instagram. There was a time when I participated in the commenting pods. When I was first starting, I would kind of start and engage in those. What would be nice is that some of these pods would get kind of close and actually there was a pod I was in for a while and we started supporting each other’s shit. Actually, a girl I met in one of my pods introduced me to a Spotify promotional campaign person. It’s cool how that actually can help.
- What is your mission statement?
- My mission statement is to leave some sort of mark before I go on this Earth. And the best way to do it is through helping someone. So, my ultimate goal in life is I have enough of a platform where my music is healing people, or at least helping people feel like they’re a part of something that is relatable. Also, eventually having a platform big enough where I actually have a completely separate dream…I’d love to open up a school for underprivileged children to learn music. Basically, I grew up watching my parents…they’ve dedicated their whole lives to helping other people and it only felt natural that I do it. But the way that my parents did it was through scientific technology and discoveries and at the end of the day I just don’t have that brain. And the only thing I was good at was music so I was trying to think in a different way… how can I use what I’m good at to help other people? I think it just comes down to the fact that music is really healing.
- What drives you?
- Knowing that I really don’t have anything else that I would do. In the sense that I have worked a full-time job before with benefits, and I can’t tell you how depressing it was. Honestly, in a selfish way, music gives me so much life. And when I come up with a beat I really like, or when I finish a product, or when I come up with an idea it literally feels like drugs. It’s just that…I’m so good at this. And I don’t mean that in an egotistical way, but it would really be a shame for me not to succeed and get to where I want to be just because I was feeling a little lazy. And what I’ve learned most is this industry is a really, really hard pill to swallow. And there’s a lot of talented people who don’t make it, and there are a lot of talentless people that do make it. The only thing that separates them is a work ethic. And it’s really like you need to be a shark if you want to make it in this. So after I’ve only really been in the industry, like for real, for a year and a half. But I’ve already developed such a thick skin. And doing music has also taught me so much about how to work with other people, and how…it feels like part of my life journey if that makes sense. I’m learning so much about myself. I’m learning how to interact with others, how to teach others, business…it just all feels like this incredible experience where you get to learn and measure your own growth and it just feels like what life should be about. If that makes sense. I don’t mean to like live a medial existence day-to-day and I don’t have like a drive. It’s rewarding. The reason that keeps me going is because what I get back from it is rewarding in so many ways.
- What has been your biggest challenge?
- Capital for sure. Just getting the financial capital to continue producing content, you know? Because content is not cheap…good content. You can get cheap content, but the quality will show. So like something as simple as like…I have a song coming out, and it’s a rule that every song coming out should pretty much have a music video to kind of follow it, or a lyric video, or an actual music video. And there are costs that come with all these things, and I eventually want to get a creative director to do like all my branding. All these things just cost so much money. That’s definitely the biggest challenge. Another thing is just keeping your head in the game. As with every other creative person there are days where you feel like you’re on top of the world and there are days where you feel like you’re not made for it, you know? And I’m really like I have a support system of like fellow creatives who are always pushing me to be better and to inspire me. There are definitely a lot of days where a lot of doors have closed on me that day or things continue to not work out the way it should. But it’s interesting because as I get older those things kind of affect you a little less because you know that it is just part of your journey…and you’re meant to go through those things. Something that is always a huge inspiration to me is Frank Ocean wrote this letter to himself and he put it online. It was like he wrote it to himself two years ago and he was like, “You’re still working at AT&T, your girlfriend is about to dump you, everything is going to suck for a while. But I don’t want to spoil it too much for you, but you’re on a plane about to go to Jay-Z’s. Things are okay”. So just remembering all these other artists I look up to immensely have gone through the same process. And it’s never…I mean in a very rare case it’s an overnight phenomenon, but it’s almost never that way. And it’s always these people working endlessly and so hard for their dreams and then they finally start to get recognized. Like SZA, last year people thought she came out of nowhere, but that women has been working seven years in the game. But no one even knew that because CTRL was the first one that kind of popped off, really. I think it differentiates the people who kinda want it from the people who really want it. And now I understand why so many people don’t make it. It’s really a matter of perseverance I think. You have to strip your pride and you really have to focus on the goal. Learn how to take critics like very objectively without personalizing them. Yeah, it comes down to like how much do you fucking want it. That’s why the people who really want it…they end up getting to where they want to be and the people who are talented but they aren’t really built for it, they don’t make it.
- Do you have a random talent?
- I don’t know if I want to use this in the interview, but I can fart on command.
- What is an interesting fact about you that most people don’t know about you?
- Umm, I was so bad at math that I would cheat on math tests and still fail. So bad. What kind of person cheats and still gets a D? I also…my brother dropped me when I was three days old and now the back of my head is like a dice. So now whenever I turn my head it kind of has like a square….if doesn’t really roll around. I can’t really roll it around it’s kind of angular.