The Chicago born MC talks music, hoops and kicks.
by Peter Walsh / @goinginsquad
Rapper YP (short for Your Problem) hopes to be the next MC to make noise out of the Windy City. YP, who has a record deal with Universal, has a grind that will help propel him to the top. The young spitter lives and breathes hip-hop and based on his mixtape titles—Still Awake, Sleep Walking and No Doz—doesn’t have much time for sleep as he chases his dream.
YP recently stopped by the SLAM Dome and sat down to talk about his own basketball career, Chicago’s recent rise, his immaculate sneaker collection and his latest project, No Doz.
SLAM: Coming from Chicago, did you play against or with anyone that’s in the league now?
YP: I came out in ‘04 so I played with guys like Shaun Livingston, Jeremy Pargo and Iman Shumpert–who is a friend of mine. Chicago is a very close knit community when it comes to basketball so everyone knows each other or you cross paths with someone in some kind of way.
Mike used to be at open gyms and play at certain parks around Chicago. Around 5,6,7 in the morning you would see guys like him, Scottie Pippen and Charles Oakley playing outside. Of course you couldn’t get on the court with them but they’d be there.
SLAM: It’s been crazy to see the rise of Chicago in both hip-hop and basketball…
YP: It’s real cool to be from Chicago right now. Some of the Bulls fuck with the hip-hop scene in Chicago. Me and Taj Gibson are cool, you see Derrick Rose out at the club sometimes or they may Tweet that they’re listening to someone from the city’s music.
It’s deep and it’s rich and it’s young and it’s poppin’ so everyone wants to know what’s going on and be a part of it. We know that’s going on and we’re conscience of it so when we go out and see each other, there’s always mutual respect.
SLAM: When you were growing up, who were some of the players you looked up to? Or was it all Jordan and the Bulls?
YP: It was pretty Mike or nothing but I also always liked the new skinny dude since I was always little. I used to rock with Penny Hardaway or I rocked with Damon Stoudamire, I always liked the fast dudes that can really score and fill it up. As I got older, I really rocked with shooters because I was a shooter.
I was a big ass Salim Stoudamire fan! He was fearless, he would just come down past halfcourt and just take the team on by himself. He would drop 30 while shooting fifty feet from the basket.
YP: My kick game is nuts, man! I got my song “Kick Game“, (rapping)“I remember when XVII Low’s came out in lightning…” and people don’t even know what XVII Low’s look like!
The Infrared VI’s are my favorite…or the first Retro VI’s that came out in ‘01. Anyone who rocks kicks knows that the retros that have been coming out, the quality went down a little bit which is why everyone is into OG’s.
Where I’m from, people just love to rock Mike’s. People call ‘em J’s and Jordans but we just call ‘em Mike’s. I’ve been wearing them since I was knee-high to a duck’s ass and I damn near put people in the poor house to go get them.
The sneaker game shit is real in Chicago, man. You can get your head blown off for a pair of Cool Grey XI’s, seriously. There’s sort of an aura–you know Charlie Murphy said Rick James had an aura around him–you get that aura when you put on a pair of fresh Mike’s, especially if you wear them before they actually come out. Chicks will be like, “Oh shit! Where’d you get them from?” and you’re just the man.
SLAM: For the common folk like myself, I can’t wait on line for a week for a pair of shoes! It’s too crazy…
YP: For the Doernbecher IV’s that came out, the line at the Niketown in Chicago was around the block, like two blocks down. The homeless people will see what’s going on and the smart thing to do is just pay them to stand in line for you.
(Laughs) I saw some people in LA waiting in line for the Olympic VII’s not long ago. I was driving by the store and saw the line but had forgotten that the sneaker’s were coming out the next day since I had them already.
I rolled down the window and asked, “What’s everybody waiting for?” and they said, “Man, the Olympic VII’s are coming out tomorrow!” So I pulled the shoe off my foot and said, “Oh, you mean like this one?” and someone on line was like, “Fuck you!” (laughs).
The kick game is definitely not what it used to be, but I’m the type of dude that will wear my sneakers, nothing deadstock. Everything is damn near ran through, all my sneakers look like little kids shoes.
SLAM: You’re on the NBA Live ‘13 soundtrack, how did that come about?
YP: An E-mail one day, just random that said, ‘Hey man, we want to use this for Live ‘13”. I thought it was a joke. I grew up playing Live ‘95 on Super Nintendo so it’s crazy for me to pop in Live now and hear one of my songs.
SLAM: Could you have ever envisioned that happening?
YP: You always want to envision yourself succeeding but when it does happen sometimes it’s surreal. For me to be sitting here talking to SLAM is crazy as hell, I remember when you put Sebastian Telfair on the cover.
It’s always a surreal moment but you never get starstruck or stop and think because there’s always more stuff to come. You just take it for what it’s worth.
SLAM: As far as the current hip-hop scene in Chicago, there’s artists like you who are more lyrical but then there’s a guy like Chief Keef. Do you think there’s any longevity in the scene?
YP: Personally, the way I look at it, there’s longevity in the scene of Chicago because we’ve been waiting on it for so long. Now we all got our mind frame right to make sure things stay this way as opposed to becoming some has-been’s you talk about four years later, like, ‘man, remember when Chicago was doing this?’
We’ve been waiting so long to have this moment that we don’t ever want it to go away. Whatever we have to do in our power as artists, producers, party promoters in the Chicago music scene to come together and make sure the light stays on us.
SLAM: So you feel like everyone is in it together?
YP: Yeah, it’s us against the world. It’s just been so many years that we’ve felt like we’ve been overlooked. Now, with all this shit going on back at the crib, it’s looked at as overnight success but it’s not like that.
I’ve driven 19 hours to Austin, Texas for SXSW just to do one show. I’ve went to A3C and tried to get in CMJ or I’ve performed at a party in Chicago with only 10 people in the crowd just to get people to understand and know that there’s real material out here. It’s something people can adapt to. I know I’m going to continue to do my part so we just need everyone else to step out and do their part.
SLAM: You just dropped No Doz, can you talk about that project a little bit?
YP: People gotta understand that I follow the motto “No sleep”. No dreams can get accomplished when your eyelids are closed, you can see them in your dreams, but they’ll never be a reality if all you do is sleep.
My grind isn’t even 25/8, it’s 27 and 10 and there ain’t nothin but seven days in a week. No Doz gives you a glance into my everyday life and what I go through everyday. It features only one rapper, Raekwon and a couple singers. I worked with Hit Boy, Cardo, Don Cannon, El-P from Chicago, Low Key from Chicago. It’s a complete body of work that really puts together who I am.
SLAM: You’ve been bubbling for a minute, do you think this is the project that’s going to take you to that next level?
YP: I feel like the more work you put into a project, the more people gravitate towards it. I put months and months on end into doing this. There’s been a couple songs that I’ve redone two or three times because they give me a certain feeling when they’re right. I had to make sure everything was right and after I did that, I was confident in the project and put it out. The reception so far has been overwhelming. People are gravitating towards it and the content and realizing that it’s quality over quantity.
For more from YP, follow on him on Twitter at @YP27.