Yoh: One of music's most evocative writers is on a path of his own

“I have no taste for either poverty or honest labor, so writing is the only recourse left for me” – Yoh.

I thought it mattered. I really did. Stunned by how insignificant a last name could be, I discovered what really mattered: what made man put pen to paper. Not just any man, specifically, a blindsided mentor of mine. You never know who’s watching, but it doesn’t matter, for words get released for self and then to the pleasure of an audience. Unconventional he moved a nomadic mindset towards a goal — the goal that would push away the labor of a family business and begin a legacy of his own; honing his craft, he sculpts art with diction. He writes for self but it pleases others.

It’s 2015 and the amount of blog articles I would read were low. I would work diligently at my 9–5 and blog when I could. I began receiving emails from Z of DJBooth for a segment they were doing with artists. I would support it. Eventually, I would thoroughly indulge in reading the articles posted on the site. They were insightful and from a personal standpoint. The words were magical, from writers like: John Noire, Brent Bradley, Brendan V, Andy James, amongst other noteworthy contributors. But one writer stood out to me the most. Yoh. Simply Yoh. I didn’t bother to know his full name. The writing is all that mattered, and it’s time to make way for new legends.

Reading Yoh’s words reminds me of a boat sailing across a lake; serene but seen as impactful and the only force that holds weight in that instant— creating currents of current thoughts that reflect off the lake’s surface, surfacing words that are unheard to the blind, that compass their sight.

There’s likely always going to be that moment when you realize that “hey, I can truly do this if I put my mind to it.” For Yoh, his came in pairs.

“There’s two defining moments: 1. Was when I wrote my first op-ed in 2011. Just a small article about how hip-hop was alive and well,” Yoh said. “Typing the words felt like magic flowing from my fingers. There was a satisfaction before anyone read it. I felt like I could become a writer.

The second event was after doing my first interview. Months later. I started writing for this small blog, did my first interview, and the next day I had the worst day at my gas station job. So I decided to quit, and doing the interview felt so good that I decided to go all in as a music blogger.”

For words to touch documents in such a prolific way, I questioned if Yoh was introverted or extroverted. He met his match somewhere in the middle of both — this leads to his ambivert-like ways — neither introvert nor extrovert. Welcome to the friendly-social crossroad.

“Growing up I was definitely more introverted. Very much to myself. But as I started getting into writing and attending events, I started to develop more extroverted habits. So I would say a mixture, still more introverted, with a low social battery, but I’m much better in crowds/people now.”

Yoh writes well. This is something many know. However, there’s a certain style to his writing; flows great and descriptive like no other. Poetic and arranged so that the audience still grabs the main idea behind the piece.

“A good writer is a good reader, words inspire words” 

“It comes from reading a lot of poetry and creative writers. Poets, just like rappers showed me the color of language. Seeing how they could manipulate words and create these images inspired me to bring that color to music writing. I’m constantly reading. Especially the dead authors of past ages. I absorb what they gave the world and try to contribute my own greatness. A good writer is a good reader, words inspire words.

I believe the first 100 articles came pretty easy. After 20+ years on earth I just had a lot to write. It’s a little harder now, trying to top my past work, but doing something enough, it starts to feel second nature. I have the rhythm, the groove, now it’s just trying to push it further and continue developing.”

Continuing to push himself, there are a number of writers, poets, and art critics that help Yoh progress with his craft. Some provide inspiration, while others helped him look at “good writing” differently.

“Charles Bukowski. I probably spend more time reading Buk than any other writer or poet. His style is simple, but the words punch you in the gut. I learned style from F. Scott Fitzgerald. The books This Side Of Paradise and The Great Gatsby changed the way I look at good writing. James Baldwin as of late has been a huge source of inspiration. Elegant but powerful writer. Henry Miller, Allen Ginsburg, Jack Kerouac, all the Beat Generation writers impacted me greatly. I’m starting to get into art and culture critics like Robert Hughes, Lester Bangs, and Dave Hickey (Air Guitar is an excellent collection of essays). This past year I realized the day I was born is also the birthday of Walt Whitman so he’s the next poet on my list to really study. A lot of my inspirations source back to him so the fact we share a day is a sign I believe.”

Escaping a 9–5 to which Yoh described as a prison, is more reason to rid writer’s block. There will not be any gas station tasks, handing out wine menus at Olive Garden will not make a return neither. Only his thoughts and his ambition to keep peddling will live on.

“Writing is my only form of income. I get tired, exhausted, irritated, but I write through it”

“When writing becomes your livelihood, writer’s block doesn’t really exist. I like my lights on, I like my food warm, I like my car with at least a half of tank of gas lol. Writing is my only form of income. I get tired, exhausted, irritated, but I write through it. “Keep typing until it turns into writing” — David Carr. I bang on the keys Until it sings. Sometime it isn’t the best song, sometimes it isn’t a masterpiece, but I will bang until I’m satisfied by the song.

But if you have the luxury of not having a serious deadline take a nap, watch a movie, remove yourself from the work. Sometimes the stress and pressure you set for yourself is the wall. If you did it once, you can do it again. Have faith and make the keyboard sing.”

In the field of journalism, over grammatical errors, there remains and always will remain, integrity. Are you doing this for them or yourself? Yoh writes for self and the pen moves for self. The minute you write for “them,” that’s the moment you lose yourself. People are going to read it, regardless.

DJBooth - Kid Cudi

photo: DJBooth (Kid Cudi)

“After Kid Cudi responded to one of my pieces on DJBooth I was told by Z, “If you write it they will read it.” Of course Cudi’s negative reaction and knowing that artist will likely read what I write does add some pressure, especially when I’m a fan of their craft. But after watching the movie Almost Famous, I found my mantra that I tell myself. I try to live and die by being honest and unmerciful. But it does feel good when they respect your work. Isaiah Rashad dm’d me some props and I’d be lying if it didn’t make my day.”

I try to imagine a world where an artist is without his canvas or subject. It’s scary. But I genuinely want to know where the artist would be if the brush no longer wished to stroke. What would Yoh be doing?

“This is a good question. I just read an article written by Michael Vick where he talks about taking pride in being the quarter back of the Atlanta Falcons. I felt him, knowing how much pride I take in being a writer. So after I got over being depressed maybe a photographer. Try to stay creative.”

Yoh is gifted, no doubt about it, but his work ethic and his motivation to do better, lunges him into a different speed. Sure, we all need money to survive, but imagine letting a dream become deferred. It rots, it perishes and slips the loose grip you barely knew you held. Hold tight and never let go of your intuition and inner passion.