Interview

Yung Gravy Wants to Make You Smile

By Donna-Claire Chesman on October 1, 2020

Growing up in Minnesota and going to college in Wisconsin, oddball rapper Yung Gravy exists to make you happy. The 24-year-old artist can be found skating over eccentric beats, turning jokes into dreams come true, all the while ensuring you get your fill of bars about cougars, alcohol, and good times.

Yung Gravy first broke in 2016 with his single “Mr. Clean,” went on to sign with Republic Records in 2018, and is now on the cusp of releasing his latest album, Gasanova (out Friday, October 2). Like its predecessors Snow Cougar and Sensational, Gasanova is a bawdy good time featuring off-kilter flows and Yung Gravy’s know-how for creating earworms.

Featuring Ski Mask The Slump God, Chief Keef, Young Dolph, and more, Gasanova invites each additional artist to step into Yung Gravy’s wonky and sample-filled world. No guest appearance on Gasanova fights the feeling; everyone rides the Gravy train to hilarious success. The features’ amicability is a testament to Gravy’s endearing quality. No one knew they needed Chief Keef to step into the swirling Gravy cinematic universe. But after hearing Gasanova, it’s apparent Keef belongs alongside Gravy, creating cheeky bangers in unison.

Gasanova is a great step forward for an artist relegated to being called a “meme rapper” when, in reality, Yung Gravy creates the memes; he does not chase them. Yung Gravy’s humor feels welcome in a year besotted with agony. “I’m a blonde hoe, self-made, call me Martha Stewart,” Gravy says in jest. If anything, Gasanova is sure to put a smile on your face. In 2020, that’s enough.

Gasanova, your upcoming album, is your most recent with Republic Records. What have you learned from your other releases which helped you with this drop?

In general, I learned more about production and putting music together. I took a lot more of a co-production [role] and helped with the beats, whereas in the past, I just told producers what I wanted. It’s more consistent, the sound, throughout. I was in album-mode the entire time, recording out of basically the same studio the whole time. The last [project], I was making songs as I went on the road, then picking out my favorites. [Gasanova] is more cohesive.

You have a very sample-heavy and American classic sound. Where does your love of samples come from?

That’s a good point. I haven’t thought about the American thing. Most of the samples are Motown or soul. Funk, I love a lot, too. And I love rap, but I’ve always really… If I could make soul music, I would do that. I used to just go on YouTube and [find samples]. That’s just what I listen to, and it inspires me every day. I was just listening to The Blackbyrds in the studio.

You’re obviously hilarious, and each joke lands. How do you work out your punchlines to make sure you don’t come off corny?

I don’t actively think about anything like that; it’s just the bars that come to mind. I usually write something, and then, sometimes, I’ll check back later and see if I think of anything goofy. But from the start, my brain is just set up to spit. Someone could take anything I said and try to call it corny, but when I write, I’m not trying to make a joke. It’s just what comes to mind. I’m not trying to be too conscious of [my humor].

Why was being positive on this album important, especially in 2020, when everything is embroiled in unrest?

I started working on [Gasanova] before COVID hit, in February. I was in LA, working with a lot of my friends out there. Right around March, I came home to Minneapolis, and it was awesome to be around my mom. I have an apartment now, but my mom lives pretty close by. I spent a lot of time at her house, which has this nostalgic feeling of growing up. Then, when George Floyd happened in my home city and all these protests were going on, I was like, “Wow.” I was super active, and my whole mindset was focusing on what’s going on and helping out.

[I realized] people need something. Not like I’m the saving grace, but my fans are out here and going through a ton. People need some extra positive, even from Gravy. That’s why we got the Always Sunny in Philadelphia sample to start it out. That’s about as happy as it gets.

“oops!” is the obvious standout for me. Can you walk me through that song?

The beat is not the usual type of beat I have. [At first], I was just gonna rap on this beat and spit bars, but it became the opposite. I started trying out different flows and recording, and that “oops!” part became the hook, which just came out in a freestyle. Once I finished it, I was surprised at how many people thought it was a fuckin’ bop. It’s not my normal style, but it started out as me spitting, and then I freestyled, and it wasn’t a freestyle in the end.

Your style, especially in the “yup!” video, is incredibly defined. How long did it take you to figure out who Yung Gravy was going to be?

Good question. When I first started making music, I knew what I was gonna rap about and use these samples I loved. I knew I wanted to have this trap-sample sound. The aesthetic… I’ve always loved the ‘50s pin-up style. I was just putting up these images I had on my computer, which fit the vintage feel. I liked the juxtaposition of seeing a ‘50s ad as the artwork and a song that’s trap.

Often, people call you a “meme rapper.” Do you even like that? Would you change it if you could?

I don’t know what people consider a meme rapper to be, exactly. I never paid that much attention to the internet-y stuff, and now I’m off social media. The people I associate with meme rap, a lot of them sort of based their style off what I was putting out. I’m not gonna say names, but they started using the same samples as me, and then by that happening, I got grouped in. I 100 percent say goofy shit in my music, but I have never made a song to try to get attention on the internet. Some of the meme rappers are just saying ignorant shit to get noticed, and I don’t like that.

You’re just yourself.

Everything about my music, the production and lyrics, the thought and effort put into it… If someone gets the music, they’ll see that and be able to appreciate that instead of just writing it off. That filters out the wack people because, at my shows, the fans are always dope. I haven’t had many issues with weird fans. I really dig that.

Photos by Jabari Jacobs.

InterviewYung GravyMinneapolisHip Hop