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Yazzavelli on being an entertainer and a literal human onion

Yasmin Mbadiwe, popularly known as Yazzavelli is a rapper, musician, songwriter, and all-round entertainer. She is known for her play with words, confidence, liberated lyrics, bars, and even lifestyle. 

Since her debut 5-track EP Velli, released in 2020, Yaz has honed her songwriting style as well as her understanding of the industry. This and more we talk about in our conversation with her. 

It’s a sunny Friday morning in Lagos, and Yaz feels pretty good! 

Hi Yaz, how has your day been?

I’m such a morning person so usually once I’m up I’m on GO!  I spend my mornings meditating or at the gym. Today is pretty chill tho, though I have a studio session later and then dinner with some friends.

Going from photography to filmmaking and now music, what experiences or inspiration would you say added up to the creativity you have now?  

I’m always looking for new ways to express what goes on in my mind and I love to do that through different mediums. In a way, I feel like my curiosity about creating is what led me to music.

I come from a very academic family (all lawyers) so being on the creative side was never encouraged but I ended up here because I feel like it’s where I’m supposed to be. I would say my confidence in going after what I want is what has gotten me this far. I’m very proactive when it comes to my craft, I’m eager to share my work and put myself out there. I talk about my goals a lot and I feel like other people feel that positive energy from me and those who are supposed to be a part of my journey find me and help me get there.

That’s awesome. With all the hustle and bustle of being in the music industry, can you tell us about the mental and physical strain it can have on you and how have you been able to stay grounded and keep your creative juices flowing?

Making music is the easy part. Understanding the music industry is a whole different ball game and I’m still learning how not to fumble. I think people assume that being an artist is easy and all fun but the amount of work, funds, and time all with limited resources as an independent artist can be mentally and physically draining.

I’ve felt stuck many times with my music because I always want to do and be better but I will say there is a lot of help out there, there is a network to tap into, you just have to know how to ask for what you want and find people that believe in your sound and want to offer you that help, after all, it takes a village to raise an artist. No one is self-made.

How have you as a strong-willed woman with unwavering opinions navigated the challenges and closed opportunities in your field, especially ones based on your gender?

Women in any field face challenges, unfortunately, but imagine what that’s like as a female rapper/artist in Lagos. The challenges never stop and as a woman, you have to be extra guarded in a male-dominated industry. When it comes to my music I don’t focus on the rejections I focus on doing my best and trusting that what is for me will eventually come to me. The law of attraction is a principle I live by!

Do you think of a 5-year/10-year plan for your career? And do you think it’s possible to get bored with music and songwriting?

Music is a stepping stone for me, it’s a piece of my puzzle, I will continue to find different ways to tell my stories. I’m literally a human onion, there are layers to me and I will eventually show all of them. When you’re doing something you love it’s hard to get bored of it, as long as I can continue to have fun with it I’ll never be done with it.

You mentioned in one of your interviews that you do not have a specific songwriting process, has that changed? And what do you do when you’re stuck?

Ah yes! My process has changed a lot, I used to be shy when it came to writing raps/songs and I’d want to go home and write something by myself, I guess that was me being shy.

Being in the studio more strengthened my pen quickly, now I can write a song in a few minutes. I feel a lot more confident so I’m able to play around a bit more and explore my sound. 

Once I feel stuck it means I’m more in my head than I should be, music should come from a free place so it’s about tapping back into the fun and then it eventually comes to me.

How has technology influenced your music?

I think there’s a bigger demand for Africans making music now and this has been influenced a lot by technology. As an independent artist, you’re able to share and monetize your work with your phone. Platforms like TikTok, Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube, etc, allow you to manage your music without necessarily being signed to a label and I think that’s pretty dope!

What do you think will be revolutionary for women like you working in your industry right now?

Seeing more African female rappers on bigger stages would be revolutionary, the new wave of female MCs haven’t been given big enough platforms to make history I want to see more of us recognized in a big way.

On a scale of 1-10, how accommodating has the entertainment industry been to the growth of women in it? 

I’d say a solid 7! Female musicians are definitely embraced by the audiences. There are people that want to hear what we have to say, I just feel like we need more platforms that encourage, respect, and promote our sound correctly.

Omotola Saba
Omotola Saba