‘I think there is some fakeness that has seeped into Brooklyn from people coming in who aren’t from here, but there is some realness of course – because I’m here!’

Nick Donnelly, a music video director from the UK who has worked in New York City with Hip-Hop legends such as Method Man and Ruff Ryders, spoke to YOSHI, for Generation W as we discuss the first live music show in New York City for the British platform GW on 3rd October at Rockwood Music Hall. We talk to Yoshi about growing up in Brooklyn and the search for ballads in a crazy city and a just as crazy music industry.

GW: What was it like growing up in Brooklyn?
Yoshi: It was fun, I had a good childhood, it was a rough neighbourhood but I was in a marching band – the Jackie Robinson Steppers so I had extracurricular activities outside of school that contributed to my music career. I played the trumpet, I wasn’t that good but it was the start of music for me. We did like Madison Square Gardens, we would go to different colleges, historically Black colleges and we would watch them perform. I was like 14 when I played Madison Square Garden.

GW: Did you get nervous?
Yoshi: There were a lot of practices so we were really prepared.

GW: Did you know from that moment you wanted to be in music the rest of your life?
Yoshi: I knew that when I first heard Whitney Houston sing. My Dad gave me a recorder and a tape that had Whitney Houston on, ‘I Will Always Love You’ and I would hear that A Cappella and be like ‘what is that?’. I would tape myself over her and try to mimic that sound.

GW: Is there still ballad music still in the charts and on the radio in the US?
Yoshi: I think they still are there, but I’m not sure it’s a ballad era. I think it’s more like rachet, rap that get’s a lot of play, drill, but I do think people are looking for other sounds now. People are ready now to hear structured songs and great songwriting once more though, people are tired of the same thing and there is a shift in music that is happening.

GW: What is the live music scene like in New York now?
Yoshi: New York City is all supposed to be about live music but I don’t know what’s it like anymore. People sing cover songs…. But there are so many shows going on in New York, it’s the mecca of live music so there are things for everyone. When I perform on the 3rd I will be performing my own music that I wrote. My latest music I have written about is trying to get over relationships, and revenge.

GW: So is it hard to find love in the city?
Yoshi: Yeah I think so. It depends on where you go, I think you can find love, but you can’t find love in a club that’s for sure.

GW: Has the reputation Brooklyn has now of being gentrified affected the city?
Yoshi: I think there is some fakeness that has seeped into the city from people coming in who aren’t from here, but there is some realness of course – because I’m here!

GW: Well that’s the Brooklyn way – it’s not shy!
Yoshi: I would say I’m a little shy but I’m growing out of it.

GW: Did your mum and dad grow up in Brooklyn?
Yoshi: They are from Barbados, where Rihanna is from. My mum moved in the 70s and the 80s and met in New York City. I’ve been to England before and I couldn’t believe it, you guys really like Reggae music out there, and the caucasion women, they were really getting down!

GW: Where does the name Yoshi come from?
Yoshi: It means good luck in Japanese. It’s my middle name.

GW: Why did your parents gave you a Japanese name?
Yoshi: My mum is like the biggest Kung-Fu fan, she’s watching Kung-Fu right now. She just likes to fight me she says….

GW: How is life for you now?
Yoshi: Right now I’m going to school for vocal performance, I’m in my third year, I go to the Roc Nation school in Brooklyn. I’m doing my thing, A-B student. I’m also learning how to play the piano and producing my own songs. I am performing all over the city too but what I really want is to tour. I am waiting to put on a body of work and know where my fanbase is so I can get out there. I have seven records ready but they just got to be mixed and mastered. The artwork, the videos, that stuff costs money so it’s a process.

GW: When you could turn on a TV as a kid and see people from Brooklyn were successful did that inspire you?
Yoshi: I was too young to know where people were from on the TV. I don’t think you know where a famous person is from initially. Although I’m from Brooklyn, Motown was my biggest inspiration I think. Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, I’m a really big Michael Jackson fan. Then also I was connected to Earth, Wind & Fire, Al Green, The Bee Gees. My Mum would play this music growing up. I didn’t really understand too much about Hip-Hop until later on, I was more inspired by the divas, Mariah Carey, Diana Ross & The Supremes etc.