Feature Friday: Davis Yanda – Collective Founder, Rapper and Digital Artist

So in terms of art, what do you do exactly?

I do a lot. The main thing I focus on is music, I do my own music. And I like to create graphic stuff, like digital art, but that’s kind of more of a past time. Music is more like what I want to do for the rest of my life.

Could you describe your music?

I don’t know how to describe it. It’s just an expression.

And if you were to categorize it, what would it be?

If I had to categorize it, it’s rap. Some rap and some kind of new sounds, kind of new era sounds.

Do you have a particular theme for your music?

I try to keep it pretty positive, but you know, being a Gemini, I could flip a switch like *snap* that. It kind of goes in my music more than I think about it.

You were saying you do digital art. Can you talk about that a little bit?

I started doing art back in high school. I took a class and that whole year she tried to make me do assignments, but I was like ‘Nah, I’m just going to do this, like here you go, this is what I made,’ and she was cool with it. Other than that, I just loved it. I made anti-bullying campaign stuff, so that was fun.

What programs do you use to make your art?

I just use Photoshop and then I’m dipping my fingers in Illustrator a bit, but it’s tough.

Could you tell me about your process for making art, whether it’s music or digital art?

The digital art is just very conceptual; I’ll get an idea and go with it. I took old black and white pictures and then I colored them and made them look like they were made today. That was probably one of my favorite projects I’ve done. And then I’ll do remakes of album covers with different concepts, stuff like that.

Musically it’s about however I’m feeling. If I wake up feeling pissed then I’ll write about what I’m mad about, you know, I got in a fight with my ex, so that’s going in there. If I’m down or feel sad, it’s just kind of whatever I’m thinking. Of course I like to try new things, I like to experiment a lot.

Davis Art

Can you describe something that you’ve made that you’re proud of?

Do you want me to talk about both?

Sure!

Okay, well for the digital art I did that anti-bullying campaign, which I did my senior year of high school. It was pretty awesome, it’s called “Words Hurt,” and it’s up in an LGBTQ house in Carlsbad, in San Diego, which I thought was really cool. I’m glad I can make an impact.

And musically, nothing too much yet. You know, there are shows, and after every show I’m just like ‘Oh my gosh, that was the best thing in the world,’ because I love doing it, I love performing.

But I’ve met a lot of kids here who haven’t had the opportunities I’ve had. Like to have a studio in my basement, which I made, or I’ve always had a microphone with me. I started from a “Guitar Hero” mic on my bed, and now I’ve upgraded, and I’ve met kids who share that same passion and I’m like, ‘Come through, let’s make that passion a reality,’ just giving them the opportunity to express themselves just like I have.

Do you feel like you’ve made a lot of connections with people here in Chico with both forms of your art?

Not so much on the graphic side because I kind of just do that more personally, but I think musically we’re really starting to take a hold on people, and I think they’re really starting to listen to what I’m saying. ‘Cause it’s like, ‘Look, a white rapper, like who is this college kid? Why should I listen to him? He’s just going to be rapping about the same stuff,’ but I’m like, ‘Nah, I’m trying to give you a message. Listen to this song, this song is about believing in yourself. Oh, you connect to this song? It’s ‘cause you got your heart broken too? Perfect.’ You know, stuff like that.

Can you share some ways you’ve tried to connect more to campus through this, or just ways you’re involved on campus?

Well, I’m a personal trainer at the WREC. I teach a core class there, so every day I try to use that mentality to try to help them benefit themselves, better their lives, build that confidence, you know, get that summer bod they want. It’s kind of using that mentality from there that I kind of push myself too. It’s about helping them stay positive.

I get people who had never touched a weight in their life, and the reason they’d never done it was because they were afraid, they don’t want everyone staring at them. It’s hard to get past that barrier, but to have someone saying, ‘Listen, no one cares about what you’re doing. It’s fine, we’re all here for the same reason,’ helping them understand that and build that confidence up feels so good.

With your music stuff, aside from the radio show, what else do you do here in Chico?

Not too much, I just kind of do the radio, work at the gym, walk around campus.

I’m only asking because I saw you at the “I Hate Radio” show and I was wondering how you were able to get involved with that.

Well they needed some acts and they asked us, Underhouse Music. It’s a group I started here.

Could you tell me more about that?

Well, when I moved into my new house, I knew I wanted to start a little collective, like a label, not really, but it’s called Underhouse because it all happens under the house, in the basement, which is where I really started developing myself, not only as an artist, but definitely as a person. Spending hours and hours alone in a basement making music about how I feel is like having to journal every day. Under that house is who you are, it really comes out.

So I started, the concept was there, but I didn’t really have all pieces, and I wasn’t really ready to move forward because I needed artists. I needed other people like me with the same work ethic, the same passion, the same drive.

It’s funny because the first guy I met, his name’s Calex, Chris, and I was at this party and just tripped over his foot, and I was like, ‘Sorry, man,’ and I was wearing a kimono and he was like, ‘Nice jacket,” and I was like ‘Thanks, man. Hey, you rap?’ and he was like, ‘Yeah,’ and I was like, ‘Cool, come over.’ And I didn’t even know who he was, like he texted me the next day and he’s like, ‘What’s up, it’s Chris,’ and I’m like, ‘Aw shit, who’s Chris?’ and he’s like ‘You still want to make music?’ and I was like ‘Yup, let’s do it.’ And then he came, I told him about Underhouse and boom, right from there it started and it’s just come so far and it has so much more to go. I’m really excited about it.

What do you want to do when you graduate?

I want to do music. I just want to perform for the rest of my life. It’s just unbelievable, the high you get from it. I love it. It’s so fun.

I’m starting to see what I need for myself, like, what do I need to be successful? What do I need to take the next step? I put out a song, people loved it, but what’s next? What’s the next level? It’s getting to that next level that’s so difficult because you don’t know what it takes, but you do. You don’t know if what you put in is going to be good enough until something happens.

I’m kind of focusing on myself with the music industry and building my own brand up with my image, with the ‘Yandi’ thing, and I try to bring that over to Underhouse and try to help them.

When they come up, like Calex with the first song he did, I didn’t let him put it out for like a month. He came in and I was like, ‘Nah, it’s doesn’t work, you have to put in more energy,’ and he was so frustrated. So it’s me bringing my knowledge in and helping them and I think it’ll benefit all of us. Next summer I’m hoping to start touring a little bit, but you never know.

So with that story about Calex, are you sort of like the head person? I know you founded the group, so do you have a lot of control over what happens there?

It’s kind of more like a mentor, like I’m going to let them do their thing, I’m going to let them hear it, I’ll give them my input, and I’ll tell them that it could use more energy or say, ‘No, that wasn’t good. That does not sound good,’ or ‘Dude, you killed that.’

It’s just being there as a helping voice, since I didn’t have that and I wish I did. Sharing with them all that I know with what I’ve been through, like what I’ve done, I think kind of helps them. But I’m never like, ‘No, don’t put that out,’ it’s like, ‘If you want to put that out, go ahead and put it out. If you think it’s the best thing you can do, then it’s the best you can do,’ and I just put it in their hands and let them be credible for it.

So what’re your plans? Do you have any projects in the works?

Well this next month we have 3 shows. Tonight we’re playing a social over at Delta Psi, so that’ll be pretty fun. And then we have a show on September 30th and then one on October 16th, but right now it’s just about building up our library to be able to start networking ourselves out to campuses like Humboldt, Berkeley, UC Davis, just networking ourselves out slowly. We’re starting to get ourselves out there, starting to spread the message, like ‘Look what music can do for you. It can take you out of some pretty dark places.’

Listen to Yandi on SoundCloud:

Listen to Underhouse Music on SoundCloud:

Written by Christine Zuniga, “Feature Friday” writer and web editor/publisher for Chico State’s KCSC Radio.

Christine can be reached via email at czuniga10@mail.csuchico.edu or on Twitter @kissssteen.

 

 

 

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