Your Weekend Playlist, Courtesy of YUMI
Entering the ever-evolving music space is no easy feat, even if you come from quite an impressive family tree. Despite being the niece to both an iconic fashion model, Devon Aoki, and world-renowned DJ/producer/label head Steve Aoki, YUMI is set out to emboss a name of her own in all of our minds and hearts. Her debut EP, entitled Ego Boost (out now via Dim Mak), captures a kaleidoscope of emotions atop a blend of sultry R&B beats and soul-stirring vocals (the Ego Boost remixes are also out now – give them a listen here). When the budding songbird isn’t blowing us away by her seraphic pipes, she’s stealing the spotlight with her stunning beauty as a model signed to Wilhelmina. Really, the world is YUMI’s oyster and we’re just fortunate enough to watch the stream of success play out.
We’ve teamed up with YUMI for this weekend’s chill AF playlist. Her eclectic taste in genres goes far beyond her playlist choices and into the music she herself writes – harmonious hints of electronic and R&B fuse together seamlessly. Give the playlist a listen and scroll down to check out our chat with YUMI.
What was your favorite part of the process in creating this debut EP, Ego Boost?
A lot of the songs were written a long time ago, like in 2015. I kind of kept them in a capsule until I saw the right producer to bring them to life. I think my favorite part was hearing something that I kept for so long come to life in a different, but fresh way.
I love the elements that you’ve included. You have R&B and electronic. So, working with a producer, did that present a challenge?
Thank you! I’ve worked with a bunch of Soundcloud producers just collaborating and practicing writing, but this EP was my first time creating with a person with a purpose. Kayhan [Ahmadi] produced my EP. I think we clicked really well. I think when you’re producing with someone long distance it’s hard because you can’t really have that dialogue of what you want. This was solely my project, so I feel like it was a very freeing process for me to be able to have control and input things. I have no complaints. The process was really fun and amazing. I also think it’s about who you work with. I’m lucky to have a great team.
That’s awesome. I’m glad you were able to have a good experience working with that producer. One thing that I really appreciate about the EP is the honesty in the lyrics – from the title track to “Two Way Street” and just throughout the project. What emotional place were you at when you wrote this EP?
For me, it’s really easy to write when I’m heartbroken. It’s actually hard for me to write when I’m happy, which I’m getting better at. I’m a happy person. Ego Boost is about my best friend’s relationship. So, I think partially the EP comes from a place of empathy because I watched her go through this toxic relationship and being an ego boost to someone and really feeling everything that she felt. “Sincerely Me” came from a place of self-confidence and trying to be unwavering in a world that wants you to waver. “Two Way Street”, “Careless” and “With You With Me” come from relationships, love and heartbreak. I was at many different places when I wrote those songs because some were earlier, and some were later. I was in a journey of finding myself and becoming more of an adult and maturing.
You touched on something that I was thinking about. You mentioned that writing this was a journey. What have you learned about yourself?
I think I learned how to be confident in myself. I started that project in August 2016 and it was right after had this body confidence revelation and just really getting to know myself and love myself and letting go society’s standards. Though I don’t write about that specific experience in this project, I think overall, I became more confident with who I was in my voice with what I want to say.
You’re signed with Wilhelmina, correct?
With having body confidence, how do you feel like modeling has helped in embracing who you are? Was this ever even a challenge?
I feel like the industry has evolved so much. My agency was one of the first to get in on the plus size model movement and that was in 2010. I think that Wilhelmina has always been supportive of showing diversity and being inclusive when no one else wanted to hop on that train. Now it’s crazy, like if you’re not on that train it’s hard to progress and be popular because people crave inclusivity. People want to see what looks like them and different races. Even when I hated myself and I didn’t want photos of me taken – being a model is very hard – my agents always told me that I was beautiful, worthy and that I was fine that way I am. I was 16 at the time. I still have the same agents. Seeing how they encouraged me then and how they encourage me now, it’s the same and though the body positivity movement has blown up, Wilhelmina has always been pushing that dialogue for me even when I didn’t believe it.
Sixteen is a tough age.
Oh my gosh! Yeah.
You’re going through changes and figuring yourself out. I can only imagine!
Yeah, high school is really difficult.
You’re a Jill-of-all-trades. You’re a singer-songwriter, a model and also really involved with YouTube. Was a career in music and modeling what you always set out to do? Were these paths something that found you instead?
My aunt Devon [Aoki] has been a model for a long time. We have other relatives that were modeling. My mom was a commercial model and my grandma was a model. I was a baby model. So, modeling came really early to me. I think I got found when I was 12. I’ve been in the industry for a long time. I sought out to do that when I think I was in middle school. So, I guess I pushed for that. I think music was a natural thing for me. I remember when I was seven my parents gave me this boombox and Now 7 CD and I’d perform it for them. I took lessons and that’s always been ingrained in who I am and what I’ve wanted to do. When you’re young and you’re asked what you want to be, I just always wanted to do music.
So, what music did you grow up on?
My dad would always play house and R&B. He’s a big fan of Jill Scott, Maxwell and lots of mixes. My mom liked U2 and Smashing Pumpkins. So, very different music tastes, but I was always towards my dad’s tastes. So, I’m influenced by a lot of R&B styles and flavors, but I think I’m incorporating my own style as pop. So, it’s kind of like a blend now.
You can definitely hear those influences on Ego Boost.
YAY! That makes me happy.
For the listener, what key takeaway do you want them to experience from listening to your EP?
I just want people to use my music as an outlet for their pain or for whatever they’re going through in their journey. I listen to my favorite artists and I find music as a way of therapy. So, if I can just affect one person and help them get through something, that’s all I could hope for.
Featured image courtesy of Margaret Bienart
Stay tuned to Milk for more Friday playlists.