Breaking the mould
meet Yungen

It’s been a busy few years for South London rapper Yungen. Alongside going platinum with his 2017 single ‘Bestie’, which features Yxng Bane, Yungen signed to Sony and has embarked on numerous tours and live shows. Several years in the making, Yungen has shared his second mixtape, ‘Project Purple’, demonstrating that the South Londoner’s sound and lyrics have honed in and matured over the years.

Performing the infectious club track ‘Myself feat. Angel’ off his latest release, Yungen has collaborated with the iconic footwear brand Timberland as part of label’s ‘The Green Room’ campaign. As well as celebrating the launch of their new Brooklyn range, Timberland and Yungen have come together to honour the importance of the green spaces in London; creating a video located within the conservatories of The Barbican Centre.

The location presents a playful contrast between the iconic Brutalist architecture and the lush flora within, whilst dually showcasing Yungen, an advocate for green spaces in London. “Having these amazing green spaces across our city give[s] us the space to be free,” Yungen explains, “we’re lucky to have them.”

Timberland is not the only major collaboration Yungen has under his belt as of late. Yungen has worked with veteran R&B singer Craig David for a standalone single, ‘Intimate’, and Dappy on ‘Comfortable’, a track from his latest mixtape. After ‘Comfortable’ recently broke the UK top 40, he reflects on his track with Dappy. “You know what, yeah?” Yungen begins smilingly, “I’ve been a fan of Dappy since I used to watch him on Channel U, and I was just like ‘this guy is talented’. He’s always been someone I’ve wanted to work with. I basically was starting to make this record and Dappy [was] the perfect fit for it. […] I sent it to him and he just sent it back within like a day.”

Riffing on Craig David’s infamous music video for ‘7 Days’, Yungen worked on his own video with the singer. Considering it a favourite track of his own catalogue, Yungen explains how the collaboration with Craig David came about. “I feel like a lot of times when you grow up,” he begins, “and you’re a fan of someone and you make a song with them you kinda have to act like you’re on the same level. I was like ‘no way am I doing this with Craig David, I’m literally just going to be a fan.’” He recalls how he approached David. “‘Look, I wanna recreate the ‘7 Days’ video. I remember watching you in the barbershop and I think it’d be amazing if we did it years ahead. You’re the barber now and I’m coming to the barbershop like the young Craig David.’ He was totally up for it, man! I got my friend Michael Dapaah in it, which was amazing. I think he’s like the funniest guy in the world.”

 

As well as his impressive set of collaborations on both ‘Project Purple’ and his previous ‘Project Black and Red’, Yungen’s very self-aware of his progression as a rapper. For him ‘Project Purple’ is designed to evidence this evolution before he releases a full album. “I’ve been working on Project Purple for a while now,” Yungen explains, “I just wanted to show the evolution of my last project. I’ve just been […] experimenting and trying to find my specific sound that I want[ed] to put together for an album.”

He goes into details regarding the concept behind the titles of his releases. “My last project was called ‘[Project] Black and Red’. I was in a totally different stage when I’d done Black and Red. I base the projects off the colours of my moods. So [with] black there’s like a proper dark side of my life right now, there’s also red [which represents] love and passion. That’s why I called it ‘Black and Red’. With ‘Purple’ I think in the last four years I’ve been blessed like to be at peace, and I know that purple represents peace. I’ve come into wealth when I’ve come from nothing. I knew straight away that I was going to call it ‘Purple’. I’ve made this music around that. It’s been my experiences of the last for years.”

 

Yungen considers an experience last year that was perhaps among those that inspired ‘Project Purple’; his headline show at Shepherd’s Bush Empire. “That was a really big moment for me. It was just off the back of me having my first hit. Literally […] the room was shaking. The whole night everything ran smoothly. I’d had a sleepless night before that praying everything went well. It was just the perfect show. […] It was sky-high.”

 

In terms of sheer dominance in the charts and its wide spread popularity, UK hip-hop and rap are largely considered to be in their second golden-age; an age which Yungen is thoroughly a part of. He considers the future of rap music, particularly where UK rap is concerned. “I think it’s only getting bigger for UK rap.” Yungen says, “I think UK rap has become popular music. I feel like it’s been that way for a long time like in America.” Reflecting on the past, he adds that “there [would] be number one records that are real rap records in America. I feel like we was compromising to get big records here. Whereas I feel like now, with stuff like social media, YouTube, etc., you can just make a rap record and the people can just choose and make a hit record. It’s amazing. I feel it’s only gonna get bigger. There are so many young and up and coming rappers that are amazing and I just think the scene’s going to get much bigger.”

 

Starting the year off with a strong release, it looks like Yungen is set to be sharing some more material which will be going towards an album. “I’m looking to put out some more singles over this summer [and] I’m looking to do a massive tour at the end of the year.” We should also be seeing more of Yungen via an upcoming music video for ‘Myself feat. Angel’, with video material shot just in Timberland’s content piece, ‘The Green Room’. With the Brooklyn range set to drop on February 18, Yungen reminisces his first memories of the brand. “I’ve been wearing Timberland since I was a young boy. I remember my first school shoes were actually a pair of Timberlands,” he laughs “so it was really good to get to work with them. […] Yeah, it was just really fun to work with them, man. Love the movement and what they’re representing.”

 

This feature was originally written for our print volume #29. You can stream Yungen’s Comfortable ft Dappy, below.

Words by George Ellerby

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