No one expected him to be a rapper headlining some of the hottest raves in Houston, least of all his parents and coaches. But his friends saw the music in him, and pretty soon, he did too.
1. For the first 15 or 16 years of your life, it was all sports, all the time, right?
Even longer, actually. I knew I wanted to play D-1 soccer, and that’s what I was aiming for, all the way through my senior year in high school. But my friends really pushed me. A lot of times, when you’re social, and you’re going out a lot, guys who love music end up trying to go ahead and give it a go, spitting off the dome, freestyling with their friends, and after a while, my friends realized there was a difference in how comfortable I was when I was rapping. They were pushing me, “Dude, you need to write something. You need to record something. You have talent.” I was still playing soccer at the time, and I was being recruited by a lot of big D-1 schools, but I figured I would give it a go and see what music was about. By the end of my senior year, I performed at my senior prom and I started to put singles out.
2. What was it like to play your own prom?
I was super nervous. Imagine all the emotions that go into a prom. It’s kind of like what all four years are leading up to… To have all that on top of my first performance -- it was a lot. But it went really well.
3. But then you went to Wright State to play soccer. So –
Yeah, as many college athletes will tell you, when you’re D-1, it’s like a full-time job, you travel a lot, but the cool part is that with traveling, you have a lot of downtime, and in that downtime, I was able to write music. And I was able to grow as an artist while I was still focusing on soccer. So really, the balance helped because I knew it wasn’t my time yet. I knew my music had to be developed for a while.
Then, my second year playing at Wright State, I got injured. And in that time period, I got a lot of opportunities back home in Houston – opportunities to open for big artists who were touring through town. The clubs in the area were showing me a lot of love, allowing me to play in front of hundreds of people. All those opportunities pointed me toward retiring, stopping soccer, coming home, and focusing on this new baby I had, this new passion I had found.
4. That’s when you transferred to University of Houston and switched your major to Business Management and Music. Did you regret the time you had devoted to soccer?
Not at all, because soccer taught me a work ethic, and a work ethic can get you anywhere. I talk about that in my song “Commas.” It’s not really about money. It’s more about going out and getting what’s yours.
I just put the work in, the same kind of work you put into getting good at a sport. The discipline. I go home, I record, I network, I try to hit the industry from all angles. I feel like I’m the manager of my own destiny. I am such a competitive person, coming from playing sports all my life, and I bring that same energy to my music. I’m always competing with myself to get better and realize my full potential.
5. Do you come from a musical family?
Not at all – not at all. When I started making music, my family denounced it. Being Turkish, there’s not much hip-hop in that culture, and my parents had a lot of preconceived ideas about the genre. So, at the beginning, my family hated it, and I had to keep it a secret for a year or two. But once I started doing shows, it was really hard to keep that secret. One time I was in the car with my mom and she saw some flyers for a show I was doing – I did a really bad job of hiding them – and she said, “Your face is on this. What do you mean, it’s not you?”
6. And you said?
I was like, “Uh, yeah, people are paying to come watch me do my songs on stage.” Now my parents are super supportive. Shout out to my mom, who comes to a lot of my shows. And my dad’s pretty cool about it too. It’s come a long way from them denouncing it to them actually realizing it’s a way I can pay my rent.
7. What do you want people to feel when they hear your music?
Sometimes there’s a message in a certain song; you know, there’s a theme or a message I want to talk about. But a lot of times, I’m just trying to bring out an energy in people. That’s why I take a lot of pride in my live performances because I really just want people to enjoy themselves, and have a smile on their faces, and just have fun.
8. OK, you get to throw a dinner party and invite anyone. Who’s coming?
I wish it could be Mac Miller, RIP, the greatest. Travis Scott, because he’s out of Houston, and he’s had such an influence on the area. Drake is a king in my books for sure. Kurt Cobain. Ozzy Osbourne is a legend. And one more -- Lionel Messi.
9. Coming back to reality, what’s your favorite lyric that you’ve written?
It’s from “I Know,” at the end of the hook. “My team is with me. Fuck doing it on my own.” It goes back to the sports -- having the right people around you, on your team and in your network, and those people who bring around good energy, who really push you to the next level. That’s how I started. I had people pushing me, and telling me, “Go ahead and start this. You should make music.” So that lyric, it’s the truth to me.
10. Where do you see yourself in ten years?
I’m living off music, man. I’m going to be playing the biggest festivals in the world. My favorite thing about this is the live performance aspect of it, it almost takes me back to game day. And the fun thing about it is, more people come to my shows than ever came to my soccer games. That’s what’s cool. I have teammates, but I don’t have coaches telling me what to do. The mic is yours. There’s no better feeling than having the crowd in your hand.
Check out Yung Turk on Quadio!