So Yasmin is 21, beautiful and had a successful DJ career playing with the likes of Eve and N.E.R.D. But now, Yasmin Shahmir wants to sing. And rep a genre long-presumed dead. Can we really get away with tacking a ‘nu’ on trip hop in 2011?Metal did it and looked stupid. Rave did it and looked stupid. Even folk did it recently, but then, folk already looked pretty stupid. So what, if the downtempo genre that crawled out of Bristol’s underground became the progressive and credible arm of British hip-hop in the ‘90s? The genre’s trademark moodiness then took a slide into the business of limp mood-setters scoring countless home decorating TV shows and enhancing sexy bath time for philosophy students. JUKE decided to grapple with these existential concerns at the source and called up Yasmin.
Trip hop. That’s quite the sleeping giant to be waking up. How did that come about?
It came through my collaboration with (Tinie Tempah producer) Labrinth. I’d been making tracks up to that point, but with no kind of aim sonically. I knew that they were good songs, but there was something missing and I didn’t know what it was. I’ve been friends with Labrinth a while – and we did a session that became the Finish Line single. And when I heard what he’d created I was like “This is what I like. This is what I’m into!”
What is it about that sound that inspires you?
Just the mood of it. What I love about trip hop was that it sounded so British and it was such a strong scene with a real identity. Today as soon as a trip hop song gets played in a club it creates that instant sort of melancholic mood, which carries emotion. And a lot of people are now referencing my music back to Massive Attack, which is amazing. It was a great time in music, so if that’s where I fit in, then I’m kind of happy to be there.
Trip hop went a little bit ‘coffee table’ at the end of the ‘90s though, didn’t it? You had bands like Morcheeba making it a bit civilized and rubbish. I think Geoff Barrow from Portishead disowned the whole genre.
Morcheeba had some great songs though.
Looking back on it, they haven’t aged so well though. Does it bother you that people might associate your music with that end of trip hop?
No, because I think that the melodies I write over the top of that style keep it away from the coffee table. I give it a bit more substance. Yeah, they’re catchy songs but with harder production that retains the core of what that music’s about.
I actually did some research on Morcheeba and found out their name means ‘the way of cannabis’, which made me wonder when was the last time you may have smoked a bong?
I’ve never smoked a bong.
Ok. Do you own a coffee table?
Yes I do. It’s not mine though – I rent it in my apartment.
Wood or glass?
Neither, it’s white Perspex.
Glad that’s sorted. You’re quite unique as a singer in that you came from a successful DJing background. Do you find the focus on your image more intense now you’re not behind the decks?
Image is something that becomes more important to other people than it does to me. I like to wear what I like to wear. Of course I’d be lying if I said I don’t like to look nice. Everyone likes to look nice. But yes, I do sometimes feel pressure. Like every time I leave the house I have to look good. But I never rely on it. I want people to take me seriously for my music. So that’s the most important thing to me.
Is the DJing world tough for females?
Yeah, because I get stereotyped all the time. Even when I’m making music, let alone when I was DJing. People were like “Oh you only got that gig because of the way you look.” And “You only got your video on TV because of the way you look.” And it’s like no, if the song was awful then I wouldn’t be getting any of it.
But it must have advantages. You’ve done modeling too right?
I’ve done modeling as myself. Not as a normal model though. Of course, it swings in roundabouts where I have to deal with discrimination yet I also get work ahead of a lot of other people because of it. But if someone’s gonna give me a job over a male DJ because it apparently looks a bit cooler to have a girl do it, then I’m gonna take the job and make sure that when I get there, nobody can say I don’t deserve to be playing or performing you know? It’s a cutthroat world. You just have to take every opportunity.
By: Tom Hall
Photos: Cameron Alexander
Styling: Paul Joyce
[For JUKE Vol.03]