The Michigan Underground: Yellowboyz
“I consider us now and forever underground rappers. Fuck the industry.”
These words belong to rapper Young Ville, an 18-year old from Philadelphia and half of the underground rap duo, the Yellowboyz. He and his counterpart, Tee, have united around past struggles — including stretches of homelessness — to develop a passionate drive for respect within the music world and an energetic sound to match. And they record their music right in the University’s backyard in Ypsilanti.
The story of the Yellowboyz begins with the members’ humble roots. When asked about his origins, Young Ville explained that he picked up a knack for wordplay at an early age, writing stories and poems to cope with surrounding familial turmoil. Eventually, he decided to couple this passion with his natural love for music, taking inspiration from artists like J. Cole, Jay Z, 2Pac, Meek Mill and Eminem. This marriage of lyricism and skillful influence is evident in Young Ville’s verses; the flow and attack with which he delivers his smooth rhymes are ear-perking. It was not until he lost some important people, about which he didn’t go into detail, that he decided to take his talents seriously and pursue music as a career.
“We’re in this for the long haul,” he said.
Tee experienced a similar start, and explained to the Daily his especially inspirational story in detail: From ages 10 to 19, Tee and his family were evicted from 8 different homes due to his mother’s drug abuse. After high school, he moved in with Young Ville only to eventually move out and live homelessly, sleeping on any floor he could find for two months. After moving in with the Yellowboyz’s current manager, Tee established a positive mindset and drive to turn his struggles into success, stating, “I don’t ever want to live like that [again].” Similarly to Young Ville, Tee decided to combine his influences, namely Denzel Curry, with his past and use music as an outlet to share and cope with his experiences.
With these beginnings, the Yellowboyz framed their content and sound. Lyrically, the duo raps about their struggles with lines like: “Can’t take bites so we hit licks / My whole life has been like this / Making livings off them scripts / Cold cuts every day we dream / Demons make you pay your fee.” Sonically, the rappers, with the help of a few third-party producers, put together undeniably hype beats (see: “shit that kills”) that, when coupled with Young Ville’s impressive flow and Tee’s wholly unique and gritty voice, make for music that deserves more than its meager average of a thousand plays on SoundCloud.
This is not underground rap like Chance the Rapper before Coloring Book. This is not underground rap like Kendrick Lamar before good kid, M.A.A.D. city. This is legitimate, little-known, one-of-a-kind, local underground — The Yellowboyz are exemplifying the side of music most of us never see or hear, and they’re doing it just 10 miles away.