Introducing Yellokake: Q&A with Michigan’s Rising Soul Singer
We recently brought you a great EP, The Batter, by a Michigan-based singer, Yellokake. We really enjoyed her voice and sense of experimentation. After reaching out, we were able to get some answers to the questions we had. From her responses, it seems this artist, who will be performing at SXSW this year, is set to make some major waves. Keep your ears open and enjoy.
soulhead: Where are you originally from?
Yellokake: Born in Akron, Ohio. Didn’t live there for long but my grandparents and a lot of my extended family is there so I call it home along with East Lansing, MI.
soulhead: How did you get into music? When did you fall in love with it?
Yellokake: I don’t remember when I haven’t been into music or been in love with it. My mother says I used to sing myself to sleep as a baby. I always had aspirations to be a professional singer except at the very beginning of college.
soulhead: What are your primary musical influences?
Yellokake: This is a hard question to answer simply because they range so much. As a product of the second hip hop generation, Lauryn Hill‘s Miseducation was the one that made me feel like I had a purpose in music. Aside from obviously having a Soul base I’m really influenced by artists who are hard to place genre-wise or folks who made their own lane. From Nina Simone to Elton John to Kelis to Fiona Apple to Queen to Erykah Badu. And then I’m jazz trained so there is heavy influence from jazz vocal giants like Sarah Vaughn, Ella Fitzgerald, Nancy Wilson etc. But it’s hard to say who the primary influences are.
soulhead: Do you feel you are underground? Why do you think you have been able to fly under the radar for so long?
Yellocake: I’m definitely underground. For me it’s not really that I’ve been slept on, it’s really that I haven’t put out a project of my own until very recently…but it’s here now!
soulhead: Tell us about your scene.
Yellokake: I’m in this interesting place where a series of cross genre support is my main support. The majority of the shows I do out here are for hip hop audiences because that’s how I came up and the crew I’m with (The BLAT! Pack) is majority hip hop. In the Lansing area there are a few Soul based artists but the space and audience isn’t really there for them to rock. Not to say the scene isn’t there, but it’s very spread out. There’s Tunde Olaniran in Flint, L05 of Celsius Electronics in Ann Arbor, DJ Ruckus in Lansing, Atoms and Ease, L’Renee, Gwen Nation etc. in Detroit. One of the reasons I love performing in Detroit so much is that they get it. But man I love my hip hop shows. I would rather convert a hyped up hip hop crowd than perform for a candle lit, glued to their seats R&B crowd any day.
soulhead: What’s coming up for you this year?
Yellokake: I will be at SXSW in a few days, hyped up for that. I’ve got more recording to do and at least another small project before the year is through. I’m trusting in the music and the grind to take me places.
soulhead: Do you have any plans for coming to NYC?
Yellokake: At the moment, no. But if that invite gets extended, trust I will be there. Believe that.
soulhead: Ok, one last question: What’s the story behind your name?
Yellokake: It’s kind of silly. If you don’t know I’m really light skinned. My friends and family always make jokes about it. Whatever. So years ago I was joking around with an ex-boyfriend and told him to make up a rap alias for me. Being an asshole he said “Yellow Cake”. But then a year or two later when I started writing originals I decided to use it for a few reasons. 1. My actual name is really long. 2. I love to bake, so it’s fitting. 3. It’s also a reference to Yellowcake used in explosives, because I’m not always sweet as you can probably tell. In the end the name really allowed me to explore a vulnerability and creativity that my given name didn’t. Sounds weird, but it’s true. And then I spelled it crazy because I hang out with rappers.