Literally bouncing on to the music scene is the Rock ‘n’ Roll stroke Hip-Hop artist YUNGBLUD otherwise known as Dominic Harrison has unveiled his latest track ‘Psychotic Kids’. Moving from the small Northern town of Doncaster to London at the young age of 16, YUNGBLUD kick started his music career without any idea he would be where he is today at age 19. Inspiration from both the North’s Soul and Rock ‘n’ Roll scenes and London’s Reggae and Urban scenes are noticeable in both YUNGBLUD’s music and personal style which helps in creating a genre which is unique to him. Aiming to push the boundaries within the music industry and to create an important voice that other young people will listen to and be encouraged by, YUNGBLUD’s music tells real stories covering issues such as politics, social injustice, gentrification, exploitation and sexual assault.
How did you first get involved with music?
To be honest, I was always surrounded by music. It was always on in my house. It was something that was always very important in my family, like we’d be arguing over the Christmas dinner table about which artist was better this year. It was kind of really important to me from the beginning, I had a lot of energy and a lot of things to say – and a lot of people didn’t understand my energy, they just thought I was naughty – just cos I didn’t think in a certain way or act in a way that confirmed to the box of “normal”. I was considered a troublemaker and a kid that mums didn’t like and music like Alex Turner, Eminem, The Clash and stuff gave me a fire in my belly that I just fell in love with, and I was very young but music has always been important to me.
What artists have had the biggest impact on your music?
I think initially it was Alex Turner, Arctic Monkeys and Eminem. I just think Alex Turner kind of represented a place that was my childhood really. I remember first hearing “A Certain Romance” by the Arctic Monkeys and that was exactly what I was doing when I was growing up, and he really cared about his lyrics – I remember hearing “they might wear classic Reeboks / or knackered Converse / or tracky bottoms tucked in socks” and that was literally me and my mates down the park at 13 in Barnsley smoking cigarettes. The lyrics just got in my head because I was young and felt misunderstood, and everyone was being a bit of an arsehole and a bit mean to me at the time so that kinda helped me a lot. Then when I first heard “My Name Is” by Eminem, kind of between 14-16 that’s when you sort of figure out that your parents aren’t always right and that some of the stuff they say is just actually mental. Even the beats that Dr Dre would make was something that I discovered myself – hip-hop beats – and it just infected my brain, I think once you discover something yourself that’s when you take real ownership over it. When I heard Joe Strummer for the first time talking about politics in his music and he still made me wanna jump around, that always inspired me. So yeah, they’d be my top few!
How did growing up in the North have an influence on your music style?
I think there’s a big sense of community in the North, if you know what I mean? I think you’re proud of where you’re from. It’s got a fire in its belly and everyone’s got a bit of fire, so I think that kind of works its way into my music. And I think obviously my accent, you can’t really miss it.
How did moving to London at 16 have an impact on your life and your music?
It was a big impact because it forced me to grow up. I think it’s very easy to see the world through rose tinted glasses, especially when you’re living with your parents, so when I moved when I was 16 I kind of really saw the world for what it was. So I learned about what I’m talking about now, I started seeing what was wrong with the world and what I didn’t like about it. And then I kind of got massively into reggae because I started hanging out in Notting Hill and Brixton and stuff like that, where there’s a big Jamaican community. I’d never heard sounds like that and it basically kind of led me on to other things like deep dub which was sick. It was just super exciting to be in London and have that energy. It fuelled me.
Where does the name ‘YUNGBLUD’ stem from?
It’s so funny – everyone always expects me to say like “I walked under a ladder and it hit me in the face”, but it was literally what my manager used to call me because I was the youngest artist on the roster. I just thought for the music I was writing Dominic Harrison sounded a bit too polite, so I was thinking what can I call myself? And my manager just walks in like “Alright Youngblood” and I was like ding ding *lightbulbs*, but then I wrote that down on paper and I thought it still looked a bit too polite. So I just put two U’s in – double the U, double the flavour! And here we are with YUNGBLUD.
What’s the reasoning behind your signature dress; all black and pink socks?
I love light pink man. I just think it’s my favourite colour that represents my personality and my energy. I’d always wanted to do something with pink, and I just found the socks. I’d always been into socks even at school like I’d roll my trousers up and just wear a pair of fancy socks just because I thought it was cool and a good way of sparking up an ordinary uniform. After the Northern Soul movement in the between the 50s and the 90s in England, after the war, when kind of all the American guys were stationed across Europe and a lot of them were stationed in Northern England, kind of cleaning up the mess we’d all made, and they’d bring these old soul records over to North England and it sort of started a movement – all the working men’s clubs in the north and it was sort of the first opportunity for these kids to just dance on their own. We’d have to walk into the middle of the dancefloor and ask a lady for a dance, only to dance awkwardly anyway, so yeah it was the first time we could sort of dance on our own. Bruce Lee at the time was really big so boys would wear these cropped trousers to show their heels and their socks off and just dance all night. And I just thought they were cool as fuck, so I sort of just wanted to do my own take on it.
What changes would you like to see in the music industry?
I think everything’s getting so stale right now. I think a lot of lyrics don’t actually matter anymore. There’s a certain couple of people who I love, but I just think even guitar music has become you know, four idiots in leather jackets singing about nothing right now. And I think that’s just boring. I think people need to start representing something again. That’s probably why hip-hop music is really exciting me right now cos it’s representing something. Sometimes I don’t necessarily agree with everything the artists are saying because it can be quite racist or misogynistic but the artists still give me the same fire in my belly that The Clash did. I think pop/commercial music has got to start meaning something again, the lyrics have got to start meaning something again. I think if you’re not changing shit or pushing boundaries with your music then you’re not really an artist, you’re more of a singer. And I don’t want to be a singer – I want to be an artist.
Your genre is quite diverse, how would you describe it?
I just think it’s an accumulation of different genres that I love. Like hip-hop, reggae, rock n roll, scar, and I just wanna mix it all together in one mad mixing bowl. Whatever inspires me, I put into my work. I talk about issues, I talk about stuff I’m mad about, and then mix everything together with a message behind it.
What are the main messages you try to deliver through your music?
I just think, I don’t wanna tell people what to think. I don’t wanna preach to anyone, I just want people to be able to feel like they can say what they think – cos their voice is important. I want to encourage kids to always say what they think, be yourself no matter what. All you can ever be is yourself and if people don’t accept you for yourself then they’re just not meant to be in your life.
Are there any messages you have yet to cover?
Oh, so many, so so many. There’s an album coming and it’s literally like a concept record – it’s got a story, even in a world where albums are becoming an obsolete, I wanted to create this one body of work that sort of like connects together. It talks about loads of things, it talks about racism, white supremacy, gun law, homophobia, drug problems, so much stuff. I’m so excited to release it, I can’t wait.
Can you briefly describe your music-making process?
I just write about what I’m inspired by. It kind of just comes out, usually starts with lyrics. I don’t really want to put a formula on it because then I’m afraid I might lose it. It just happens! I walk into the studio, put some music on that I love, shout at my producer for five hours and we usually come out with something.
What is your favourite thing about creating and performing your own songs?
It’s just crazy to see people screaming back your lyrics that you wrote down. It’s amazing to go travel the world and go to places I never thought I’d go and spread my message as well as see the connection. And the best thing has been the connection – like even just the DMs on Instagram, I get between 100 and 150 direct messages a day from people saying they connect to my music and it’s providing them with answers, or makes them feel like they can talk. So that’s just the best thing. And that’s what Alex Turner and Eminem were like for me, so it’s so great to be able to do that for other people.
When you’re not in the studio or performing, what are you doing?
Sleeping! Where I can.. I basically gave up my flat because I’ve got so much touring on.
What songs of yours do you enjoy performing the most?
Probably ‘Poloygraph Eyes’, I think that’s so important right now and it’s such an important song to me anyway cos it talks about such an important issue. Also, ‘I Love You, Will You Marry Me’ because the crowd just go nuts.
Who has been your favourite artist to cover and why?
I don’t cover that many, but I did a Havana/New Rules cover by Camila Cabello & Dua Lipa, just because those girls are like really representing a movement of female empowerment that’s going on right now. And I think they’re both such strong women. I love how Camila is so politically driven online and Dua Lipa, she’s just such a feisty animal. Between those two and Lorde I just love what they’re doing. Plus I thought it was quite unexpected for me to do something like that, so that was fun.
What are you favourite songs to listen to at the minute?
I love some new artists and I love a lot of hip-hop right now. I love the new Diplo record with all the rappers, that’s such a cool record. I love Post Malone, I love Lorde, I love Kanye West, I love Catfish and the Bottlemen so yeah I guess that’s kinda stuff I’m listening to right now.
What are your plans for the future?
So, there is a record coming in the very near future, which I’m so excited to release, it’s kind of been a long time in the making. I don’t think people know what’s coming actually so I’m excited. I gave up my flat and I’m touring until like December, so definitely coming to a town near your soon. It’s pretty crazy – I’m tired from just looking at my travel schedule but it is so exciting. I’m loving it, and I’m really lucky to do this.