“See You at the Afterparty.” YOG$’ Rise to Hollywood
At The Super 8 in Detroit, YOG$ does a pan of the room. The entire top floor of the hotel has been rented out for artists, managers and their friends, including the 20-year-old hip-hop producer who’s worked with Casey Veggies, Rockie Fresh, Ricky Hil, and Niko G4. What’s more, it was arranged by his idol, Sir Michael Rocks, for whom YOG$’s been waxing to play a beat since his Bar Mitzvah. (If you don’t know, Sir Michael Rocks is one-half of The Cool Kids, and of one Chicago’s most successful hip-hop artists.)
But: “I realize in the middle of like everyone rapping, living that life, I have an exam in four hours,” remembers YOG$. “So I said ‘peace’ to everyone. I got back to school and studied for two hours and then took the test.”
On his latest track, “SnowFall”—at once soothing and rambunctious—YOG$ touches on some of the conflicts that arise from leading this double life. Bouncing back and forth between Michigan and Hollywood; going from ratchet hotels in Detroit to West Bloomfield, a cushy Detroit suburb where he grew up, dubbed “the Bubble.”
“It’s so separated from the outside world. You don’t like leave and see Detroit even,” says YOG$.
The name, YOG$ evolved in middle school, when everyone used to call him G-Money, which eventually turned into "Yo, G-Money!" It was around this time he was introduced to Fruity Loops, the free software that contributed to the first wave of MySpace artists, such as Soulja Boy, from whom YOG$ drew inspiration. During high school, YOG$ played a bit with the program Logic, didn’t like it, and settled on Reason. He also decided to get serious and add transitions to scores of 17-second beats.
“One day I put up a Freddie Gibbs-type beat on YouTube and some dude hit me up, claiming to be Freddie Gibbs’s manager,” recalls YOG$. “Obviously that never panned out, but that was one of the moments when I was like, ‘Someone’s watching.’ ”
As a senior in high school, his beats attracted the attention of the Detroit group Red Cup Life. They invited the young producer to attend studio sessions at the infamous—but now-defunct—Capital Park Studio in Detroit. Wanting to tap into “the ‘burbs,” as they put it, Red Cup Life invited YOG$ to bring in some of his homies.
YOG$ recalls ditching Homecoming to perform in front of 1,200 fans at Detroit’s St. Andrew’s Hall, vibing with other artists in Detroit such as Danny Brown and some of Big Sean’s homies.
He says he thought that “in freshman year of college, I’m going to have like half a mil and all these album placements,” says YOG$. “I didn’t know how to look at things yet.”
With pressure to go to college (from his parents, as well as his community), he enrolled at University of Michigan, where he currently studies.
“In my area it’s like, if you don’t go to college and you’re not famous, then you’re one of those kids who fell through the cracks,” he says.
But the next move for YOG$ is L.A., where most of his collaborators are based.
“I have probably like 500 songs written, 100 recorded, just waiting for the right time,” says YOG$, who’s begun to unveil his rapping chops, also, reminiscent of a young, perhaps more introspective Mac Miller.
It’s just about timing. Already he’s flown himself out there and bunked at Ricky Hil’s house, where it’s natural to bump into anybody from Dom Kennedy to Aaron Reid, son of the Epic/Def Jam/LaFace mogul. That’s also where he linked up with Casey Veggies, who literally woke up when YOG$ put his iTunes on shuffle, filtering through 1000 beats.
“I’m a break from what you see,” says YOG$. “I’m like a goofy kid. People mess with me because it’s something different.”
Center image: @sklvr