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From "Gutta" to Glory: An Interview With Young Money Yawn

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By Justin Davis

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Virginia is a curiously disconnected area. I was born here, I grew up here, and as a music fan, I've seen that there isn’t a central identity that has set artists apart. Before you mention Pharrell Williams, remember that before him was Teddy Riley—two extremely successful producers but not the artist that went on to truly define the area. When we're talking about artists from Virginia, most of the time it's either Pusha T or Malice—and that’s it.

Now, there's 27-year old Terrion Jones, known as Young Money Yawn and he's just hoping to change that. Hampton Roads is made up of seven cities—the "757," as it's better know—and it's where Timbaland and Pharrell call home, and it's also where Young Money Yawn is trying to rise out of.

I met up with Young Money Yawn at a club in Norfolk called Lavish right before he was scheduled to open for Young Thug and Young Scooter. He looks tired, but as soon as he hears the first few chords of his new single “Waitress” hit the speakers, he's ready to go. Thug joined Yawn on stage for “Gutta Gutta,” his biggest hit yet, throwing out ad-libs and jumping around like his certified hype man. When it was all over, Yawn slipped back into his everyday quiet and reserved manner. The next afternoon, we met at a local sports bar, to talk about everything from the Hampton Roads mentality towards new music, his relationship with Pusha T, his records, and a fateful reunion with Pharrell Williams. If you haven't listened to his Lost Scriptures tape yet, you can stream and download it below:

Noisey: Let's first start off with the basics. How long have you been rapping?
Young Money Yawn: Believe it or not I started rapping probably… this month right here will be a year. The crazy thing about it is that I’ve always been around music. I’m from the 757—the Hampton Roads area of Virginia. A lot of major musicians have come out of the area—Teddy RIley, Missy, Timbaland, Pusha T, Pharrell, just to name a few. Then you got the newer people like Lex Luger, A$AP Ty and myself. Pusha T’s my best friend. Me and Pharrell have a tight relationship as well. I’m from the streets. The Clipse albums dropped around 2001, 2002 and went platinum and they’ve been out of the streets since then. But I’ve still been in the streets.

Do you feel like the lack of attention to the area made you go harder?
Absolutely, because the shit that all them niggas rapping about I really live though. So I say, shit I got a story to tell. My first record did 20,000 views and shit.

Which track was that?
“Making Of A Man.” I had a catalog of old videos and shit, of me popping bottles in the club or me in my hood. I went back and sat in the playground and spit my verse and for the b-roll I used the old footage. I always had a name in the streets…I used to throw the parties, I was always in the streets. I been shot six times before I was 21, been to jail twice before I was 21, and still graduated college at 22. That’s how determined I am. The crazy thing about it is, a lot of people that have been rapping for 10-15 years are frustrated that I been able to come in the game and take it by storm so quick.

Is that the general reception in Virginia right now?
It’s sad because most of Virginia are critics. They’re critics of themselves, and to other people. Most people in Virginia don’t want people to get ahead of them. I love Virginia, I don’t have to live here. I was just in LA with Dr. Luke, the biggest pop producer in the world. I was out there for two week sand could have stayed longer. My music has gotten me further than Virginia and I still come back. The thing about it is, I feel like between me, Lex Luger and Black Cobain, we’ll have talks daily. About how we want to shine light on Virginia and have the music scene combine as one. If you think about it — Atlanta had the wave, New York had the wave first and then LA, Miami and then Houston. It’s a lot of talent in the DMV that never gets a chance because as soon as you get a little buzz they’re knocking each other down. Or they want to sound like someone from [another city]. 

You just performed with Young Scooter and Young Thug last night so you saw the type of unity they had, is that what you want?
Young Thug sung my “Gutta Gutta” record word for word. He hopped on stage like it was his set too. That’s the love that Virginia motherfuckers dont give each other. I was able to squeeze through the cracks and overcome all of the hate.

Let's talk about where you grew up. A lot of people aren't familiar with the Hampton Roads area.
At the end of the day — we don’t have a professional basketball or football team. No Grade A/Division I college team. All we got is each other and shit. It’s a lot of frustration, there aren’t a lot of role models besides drug dealers here. Negativity. Credit card scammers you see in the Benzs and shit. You can’t just go to the Staples Center and go see Kobe Bryant. I am the hope. I just did a Christmas toy drive in my old hood, the Berkley section of Norfolk, Virginia. It was great because at the end of the day I took a lot out of my neighborhood, I took a lot out of the streets. I been shot a inch away from my spine. I’m lucky to even be on this Earth.

You have a close relationship with Pusha T. What kind of advice has he given you?
Ain't shit for free. People say “The only reason he's on any blog is because of Pusha.” Pusha didn’t give me shit but the opportunity to be around him. When you get it on your own, you appreciate it more. Business fucks up friendships and we have a genuine friendship and I’d rather keep it that way.

I hear you were in New York the night of the My Name Is My Name listening party, too.
Yeah I was there. And the thing about it was…It was so packed and I came late. Pusha was mad as shit that I couldn’t make it in on time. I was outside and 2Chainz walks up and he’s like, “Damn if you didn’t get in, I know damn well I can’t get in.” Then Pharrell walks up. At this point I haven’t seen him in years, I wasn’t even rapping. I didn’t know how he was [receiving] what I was doing at that point. He broke through the whole crowd as if I was him and he was me and was like “Yo, Yawn come here nigga, Gutta Gutta!”

You also mentioned working or meeting up with Dr. Luke, too.
I fuck with him [and his production team] hard. I was just happy that they showed interest in me. I saw what he did with Juicy J’s career. I like what they have going on at [Kemosabe Records]. And one thing I will say is that Luke [takes care of his producers and artists]. You got a nigga [on his team] on the bottom of the totem pole, and he made a million. It’s about the opportunity to get a financial ground to take care of my family and shit. We kicked it for two weeks and shit, and it was mad cool. I got with [producer] Mad Max.

We both grew up in this area, how would you describe this place to someone who isn't from around here?
A lot of people die out here. There isn’t a club night that goes by that you won’t turn on the news and someone is shot. We don’t have many clubs here besides D.C. You can’t even buy Gucci in our malls and shit. I wouldn’t take anything away from this place. You have to make fun out here. I use Virginia as work and to give back but I take my talents to South Beach like Lebron says. We got the biggest naval base in the world, a lot of colleges here. So there are a lot of people coming in and out of here that aren’t from here.

Who are some people you want to work with in the future?
A lot of times if you ask someone who they want to work with they’ll say the biggest name in the industry. That’s not what I’m about, I want to work with someone that’s hungry who has their area on lock.

Like a Young Thug
Yeah, like a Young Thug or Omelly who has Philly. Or Ty Dolla $ign who has his [movement] in LA. And the reason I say that is because those people aren’t big enough where I can’t check their background. I like to fuck with genuine people. When someone is hungry like you, they won’t let anyone stop them, and I won’t let anyone stop me.

Watch live footage from Young Money Yawn's performance with Young Thug and Young Scooter last weekend:

Justin Davis is on Twitter. He's loud as hell, but follow him - @OGJohnny5

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