For this week's edition of Music Monday, we reached out to Yury Merman. Known to the music community as simply Yury, he has defined his career from making left-field choices as a musician allowing him to stand out at a time where the amount of newcomers with each passing day becomes overwhelming. Infusing his own experimental influences into hip-hop, Yury continues to bend the rules of composition which has allowed him to become one of the hottest up and coming indie producers in the music industry. In anticipation of his upcoming debut at Brooklyn's Knitting Factory on June 24, we sat down to talk to this emerging artist.
First, tell us a bit about yourself. Where did you grow up? What inspired you to pursue music?
I was born in Belarus, moved to Israel, then Toronto, Canada for most of my childhood. I then lived in Little Rock, Arkansas for a few years before landing in Pittsburgh, PA two weeks before my freshman year of high school. I just moved to New York City three months ago to pursue the music more intensely.
I’ve honestly always loved music ever since I was a kid. So it was honestly a very natural progression. I remember buying movie soundtracks as a kid; Spawn was one of the first ones I remember, actually.
In the span of 5 years, you’ve managed to accomplish a lot. You’ve worked with artists like Wiz Khalifa, released 7 albums, and managed to crack the top 10 most downloaded albums list on Amazon. That’s insane - especially for an artist whose music continuously blurs the lines between hip-hop and other genres. What’s your secret?
Consistency and perseverance. Everyone has talent to some degree. It takes less time for some, longer for others. I guess I’ve accomplished a decent amount, but I’m not necessarily content, so maybe that’s my secret. Being jaded beyond a doubt. I’m only half-kidding.
How do you keep yourself grounded amid so much success so early in your career?
Being grateful for what I’ve accomplished, but also being aware of where I want to be. Having both long-term and short-term goals is key. If I ever get down on myself for certain timelines of long-term goals, I take a step back and look at what I’ve accomplished, maybe this week, or even just today.
You have Knitting Factory right around the corner where you’re preparing to perform a live set. At a time when the music industry seems to lean more towards DJ sets, especially in electronic music, this is an incredibly noble feat. What brought you to wanting to perform this way?
I love both “genres.” And I use quotes because in a sense, without sounding too cliché, music is music. So that’s fine that people define it in certain terms, but to me it’s quite seamless. It’d be like asking a guitarist why he wants to sing vocals over his strumming.
Do you feel that your merging of live hip-hop elements and dance music elements is what sets you apart the most from other young musicians in the rap game?
That and just being genuine about it. It wasn’t a conscious decision, it was more of making the music I wanted to make, and then adding a label to it afterwards.
From the looks of things, it seems like you keep trying to find new barriers to break down. What’s the next big thing you think you are going to achieve?
I’m just hoping to take it to the next tier. More musical growth, more exposure, more shows. I love what I do, so I just want to keep everything growing, organically.
Let’s talk about your fanbase and where you categorize yourself. Especially in rap music, there’s a divide: there’s Top 40 hip-hop which has been growing increasingly trap heavy; nerd and blogger rap like MF Doom and Run the Jewels; and hip-hop which is much more soulful and almost classical in its composition. Where do you like to think you align yourself? Where do you feel your fanbase fits in? Or is there even a divide anymore - is it all just make believe?
It’s all absolutely make believe. I consider my fans to be more aware, but at the same time, I don’t ask for a specific type of fan. If there’s someone who just loves the music and couldn’t care less about lyrics, that’s cool. Vice-versa as well. I feel like people who like RTJ and people who like Drake can find something to associate with. My next album will have beats that I could see a wide spectrum of people on. I struggle to define it, which I don’t find to be a bad thing.
What is the biggest struggle, do you think, for up and coming artists who have a unique vision like yours?
Finding your lane and pushing through with it. For example, when Kanye started, people were like, “A producer who raps?,” but we all know how that’s going for him. So it’s about taking risks - and finding people who adapt and understand your vision. I’m not here to reinvent the wheel, but I am here to create what I hope to be timeless music.
With over 5 years under your belt, what’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned? Any advice you can give to young artists looking to live their art?
Consistency and perseverance. All else will come. Don’t get too down on yourself, and don’t ever coast along the way. I read an article recently about two violinists that were both first-chair. The top two violinists of their orchestra. They found that one of the two had to practice literally twenty times as much. But they got to the same spot. And what I also took away from that is, essentially, if the violinist who needed to practice 20 times less practiced as much as the other violinist, they’d be twenty times ahead of them, aka four hundred times better. I’m sure there’s a curve on the rate of return, but you get the gist of it. So that goes to show talent is important, but getting to your craft, whatever it may be, and just working on it is how you yield results.
Below you'll find Yury's playlist of tracks he's currently inspired by as well as a few select tracks of his own. Make sure to follow him on social media.