Not many creatives have hit the ground running like Hugo, the New Zealand-based artist who is more commonly known as Yuki. However, those who do are rarely 17 when they gain traction, a feat that this hip-hop artist was able to achieve.
His breakout work began with his contributions to Jaden Smith’s sophomore album ERYS in 2019. In which, he provided instrumentation for the track NOIZE, featuring Tyler, The Creator, a cut which was later chosen by the NBA for their official intros to the Playoffs.
We had a chance to speak with Yuki, here is what he had to say...
What first got you into music production?
Learning the guitar! I was really into Jimi Hendrix and all, but I was getting sick of just learning songs; I wanted to make my own! So, I taught myself how to use Garage Band and it progressed from there.
What was it like to touch down in LA after spending your childhood over in New Zealand?
Intense and exciting and later on scary! It was a huge moment for me and I’m so glad I pushed myself to do it. I wouldn’t be where I am today, I think, if I didn’t take that leap. It was like the intro to my life movie.
As someone who had to start fresh, meet new people and network, what's your advice for those looking to put themselves out there?
Don’t be afraid to just make friends and meet your friends’ friends! Go to events, don’t overthink it. If you go into a crowd in Los Angeles thinking, “who can I make contacts with here,” you’re going to stick out like crazy. I got my best friends and best contacts from just being myself, and not making everything so business-y all the time! People will notice if you’re not there genuinely.
If you could collaborate with anyone, who would it be and why?
Ezra Koenig from Vampire Weekend! I’m super inspired by him, not only with his songwriting, but his endeavors outside of music, like with Netflix, etc. Or A$AP Rocky; Testing is a 10/10 album for me!
What has been your proudest career moment and why?
I think it was when Jaden Smith came to Auckland, New Zealand. I hadn’t hung out with him in a minute so it was super nice being with the team again. The first night he came, he had a show opening for Post Malone.
He performed a song off of ERYS I produced that wasn’t out yet, and it was just so crazy for me being backstage, hearing this song that I had made in my bedroom on my laptop, being played to thousands of people in my home country. Also, no one knew at that time, so it was my own special moment. Crazy!!
Which song of yours has the most meaning to you and why?
The song “Darling,” the outro on my album. It’s like a letter to my future self/freedom itself. I wrote it like me sending away my troubles and understanding that things will be okay in the end! It’s not written super intricately or anything, but it hits me hard because of the moments attached to it.
Who or what is your biggest source of inspiration?
The phases in my life and my friends! I constantly go through these phases that I can break down into segments, almost like seasons on a show. I’m constantly looking back into those windows and drawing experiences to write about. Also, all of my friends' music is inspiring; it always pushes me to create.
What's your plan for 2020?
It’s already been such a crazy, unpredictable year so really who knows!? Maybe next week an alien spacecraft will come down and abduct me. If that doesn’t happen, then I’ll mostly be working on finishing my visa; I’m like 17 months in and nearly finished, so hopefully I’ll be going back to Los Angeles permanently soon!
How do you go about creating an album?
I’m constantly coming up with concepts, album names, or tracklists, but I think the music has to find its place in me on its own. Really, I usually just make a bunch of music and slowly start to build a world around them and see what happens.
What feeling do you get after releasing a project like your latest album, Be Free?
Relief and, honestly, I feel really proud. This is the first time I think I can really stand by the end product and appreciate it for what it is, which is hard for me because I’m always so critical of my work.
What is your favourite aspect of the music industry?
I think it’s the random encounters and connections, whether it’s meeting an artist and their team, or just being in a studio session and someone randomly walking through the door! I don’t know another environment that allows for that kind of interaction without it feeling forced or unnatural.
Alternatively, what's your least favourite aspect of the industry?
The business and legal side of it. It’s ridiculously confusing and, for me, it sucks all the fun and creativity out of it. Also, people on the business side are often super scary and intimidating for no reason.