Young Vaughn talks about new-school hip hop and trainers
Young Vaughn has ambition, we’ll give him that. While most UAE musicians record their first album in the hope of getting signed – or just making a little independent money – Dubai rapper Vaughn has bigger plans for his debut, The New School Cool: he wants to change the course of hip hop itself. ‘It’s all about trying something new,’ he says. ‘Hip hop wouldn’t sound like it does today if no one tried something different. They’d still be rapping like, “Clap your hands, everybody!” But it’s been in the same phase for the last 10 years. Nobody’s had the guts to do anything new.’
For Vaughn making something new means, in part, dismantling the old. So he’s travelled the world like a musical Frankenstein, chopping up influences from all over and stitching them together. ‘I went to Paris and discovered all the electro that they were playing there, then I went to London and heard a lot of drum ’n’ bass. So there are electro hip-hop tracks on there, lots of soul samples, some drum ’n’ bass and a heavy metal song. But it’s all positive-sounding, you know? You can sing about heartbreak and still make it sound upbeat with the right sound.’
But, as much as he took sounds and styles from his travels, Vaughn’s biggest influences aren’t musical. ‘If you put on a song to be inspired you end up writing an imitation of that song. So I find inspiration in other places. My music feeds off art, you know? And art feeds off life. I look at art pieces and even architecture and they inspire me.’
It’s not just the highbrow that stimulates him, though. ‘I get songs from everywhere. I’ll be in a club or in a mall and I’ll come up with lyrics. I came up with three songs today. But I can’t write them down – it’s like I have ADD so if I tried I’d just end up drawing stick men or something. So I walk around and mumble lyrics instead. People think I’m crazy but it’s just that I’ve got a song in my head.’
He should probably invest in a Bluetooth headset – a useful way for habitual mumblers to look like clued-up business-types and not, well, nutcases. And, while Vaughn might not actually be crazy, the long wait for the album to be mixed and mastered is driving him metaphorically nuts: ‘I’m really bored right now. It’s why I keep adding songs to the album and changing things around. I can’t just sit there waiting.’
Still, you can’t blame his producers for wanting to make it sound as good as possible – this is, after all, the first official release from The Recipe, Dubai’s own rap supergroup. They had planned to release a mix tape featuring all of their members as their first launch, but now Vaughn has been pushed to the front of the queue. He’s not nervous, though. ‘A lot of rappers say crap like, “You’re not signed so you’re not a real artist,” so I wanted to show them that I am a real rapper and that I did this for the love of it, not because a record company told me to release an album.
‘I’m really happy with what’s on there. If you’re going to come out with something you don’t think is good then what the hell, right? I know a lot of people who put out music and then they say, “I’m not comfortable with it,” and I say, “Why put it out in the first place? Just scratch it and move on to the next project.” So I set the craziest standards for myself. And if people don’t like it because it’s very weird and not full of club songs that’s fine. I’d rather be someone different than an echo of someone they’ve heard before. I’m just being me – I don’t watch movies so I can sing a song about a life I don’t live. You hear what some rappers say and you know it’s not them. But I can really do these songs in my sleep because I live this life. I love sneakers, so don’t be too surprised if I end up writing a song about sneakers.’
Ah, we heard about this footwear fetish. And Vaughn was born in Manila. Is he trying to outdo Imelda Marcos? ‘I actually know her grandkids, man! I’m not trying to be like her. She had, what, 3,000 pairs? I know if I reached a certain point I’d sell some. Some people buy and buy and buy, but I just want a nice amount, you know?’ And what would a nice amount be, we wonder? ‘Probably something like…’ he stops to think. ‘About 400.’ Well you can’t be cool without style. The New School Cool will be launched on July 31 at The Shelter. You can also download it for free from www.facebook.com/youngvaughn or www.myspace.com/youngvaughnmusic.
Photography by Zahra Soar, with thanks to Cuadro gallery. Artwork by Stash
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Andre Sep 27, 2009 12:12 am
I live in New York and I didn't even know Dubai had a Hip Hop scene until I heard about this kid.
Trust me. This kid has been mentioned around. I just googled him and saw this. Pretty surprising how he isn't signed yet.
Thurgood Marshall is funny. No comment on that.
I heard his song Right Here at a party last night. Downloaded the album this morning. Listened to it twice at work.
Just goes to show that Hip Hop has no boundaries.
Dubai needs to stop investing on crazy buildings and cars and spend their money on this kid hahaha.
Looking forward to hear more from him.
Scott Mescudi Jul 30, 2009 03:45 am
I still need to get on the remix of STILL RIGHT HERE!
- The Moon Man.
cdunone Jul 29, 2009 04:29 pm
can't wait for the new album..
last one was so sick..
got so many tight lines
with the right support and perfect marketing, can take the world by storm
actually it's very respectable to see MCs creative and skillful enough to make their own beat and do what they WANT to do as opposed to selling out to a "label's ideal" image of what hip hop and rap should be..
EASILY one of the best MCs in middle east..
so where's the bootleg? haha
thurgood marshall's just a hater craving attention..
we shud just let him talk trash, do nothing and waste his life away like kim jong il..
Stephan Wever Jul 28, 2009 03:37 pm
Thurgood who are you?
1 Clothing or Sneakers don't determine skill that's a fact, trying to look cool doesn't make you a good rapper either. But to call somebody a poser for dressing like a whole street sub-culture in the world does is stupid.
2 "Real Gansters" if you've ever been in touch with some, don't dress in pink hoodies with multicolor Jordans that you can spot from ten miles away. They stay low key and let the "real posers" pretending to be gangsters get the street cred and take the blame ...
3 Don't forget Hip Hop or music period is entertainment, the whole ganster thing is for 90% to entertain people! Only a few really live that life like and end up dead or in Jail. En most of them started it because they had to! Because they had nothing to live for and struggling!
Let me be clear I love hating on people, being criticized is only natural for what people do or if they are wack or lack skill
But try to criticize or hate if you will with a good argument. Right now you sound like a poser and I'm sure you're not!
Or maybe you are:
Thurgood Marshall is that your real name?
If not why do you use the name of, among other achievements, America's first African American member of the supreme court as an alias. I call that posing!
If this is your real name see you soon.
"MAZ" Jul 28, 2009 12:56 pm
Listened to the album 3 times and it's DOPE !!!
This boy is really talented !!
I don't want to talk a lot about Vaughn because friends can't judge each others!!
LET THE FANS JUDGE HIM !!
In Dubai or lets say the U.A.E they hate you because of your looks or race ..
If you're AMERICAN or you have a bigger population it doesn't mean you are the BEST !!
In the U.A.E there is a rapper who snitched to the police because someone dissed him on a track !! I don't know why you call yourself a rapper when you can't fight back with your rhymes !!