Young Leaf Interview By Lissa Alica
Young Leaf is a 23-year-old Philadelphia born and raised rapper. His first mixtape, “A Grandparent’s Favorite Rapper”, dropped in Autumn of 2012. Along with familiar instrumentals, one can hear a classic influence in his beat selection. Socially aware lyrics and ideas make Young Leaf an exotic fish in a sea of dull guppies.
Lissa Alicia: Tell us a little about your background.
Young Leaf: I am from North Philadelphia, 25th and Allegheny, born in a rough neighborhood. I’ve been through a lot of drama in my life with people who I knew around the way. Been through a struggle with my family; my mom. She was on drugs. I had to get away from that. When I was about 8-years-old, I left her and came home to my grandma in North Philly. And, I’ve been there since then.
Lissa: When and why did you start doing music?
Young Leaf: Music was my thing since I was a youngbull. Basically, it was my mom. She was always listening to old music. That’s what really influenced me. She would just stay in the house, blast music every day, every hour on the hour. And, when I was there, I was always listening to it. I say about when I was in the 7th grade, I was in a music group called Common Boyz. We were all singers. There were three of us. I was, like, “Singing is not really for me”, so I switched it up to rapping. I started really rapping when I was in the 10th grade. That’s when I started going to studios. There was this lady who was my drama teacher and her name was Tiffany Baker. She put me in the studio and I recorded at least three songs from there. But, then again, I was slacking with school, so I fell back from the music stuff and got back into my education. After I graduated high school, I waited for like a year then I got back into the music game.
Lissa: How would you describe your musical style?
Young Leaf: I’m not really an Old School rapper, but I like to listen to old stuff and put that in my raps.
Lissa: What was the concept of your mixtape, “A Grandparent’s Favorite Rapper”?
Young Leaf: There was one old lady who got on the bus, who asked me if I was a rapper. She told me that her grandson listens to me and that she liked my music. That’s how I came up with it. I know if that one old lady likes my music, who[ever] else that’s old out here likes to listen to my music.
Lissa: Have your grandparents heard any of your music?
Young Leaf: My grandma stay listening to my stuff. She has a Facebook, so whenever I post something on my page, she always listens to it. She always gives me some type of feedback like, “I don’t like this. It’s too much cursing. Do something positive”. So that’s when I did a song called “Mama Said”. Once I did that song, she was going crazy. She was like, “Oh, I like this song! Keep on doing songs like this and then you will go somewhere far.”
Lissa: What is “Mama Said” about?
Young Leaf: It’s a message to the young people, like “Don’t do dumb stuff”. Let God get into your future and you will be good. Mama told you this, mama told you that. Stay strong. Stay focused. Drop the guns. Don’t do drugs. That’s what the whole song is about.
Lissa: As a young black male in Philadelphia, what are some of the struggles that you face?
Young Leaf: Not being able to find a job. Drama in the neighborhood. A lot of family crisis. And, going through stuff with my mom. Especially since it’s a recession. You don’t got no type of money; you trying to make money the positive way, instead of just doing stuff out of pocket that will get you locked up or in jail.
Lissa: What is something that you find rewarding about being a black man in Philly?
Young Leaf: Just being heard by Philly people. The support system.
Lissa: What changes would you like to see in Philly?
Young Leaf: I hate violence and I want to talk against it. Gun violence is high as crap in Philly and I want to put the message out there to young people to not do it. My EP “Stop the Violence” will be dropping in the end of January. During the Put the Guns Down School Tour, we will hit different high schools and colleges, and have different types of artists or dancers (or whatever the case may be) to put the message out there to younger folks, so they can understand that gun violence is not the way to solve anybody’s problem. You can always solve your problems without violence or fighting. Always talk things out to people. Because, when you talk it out, it is always more respectful.
Lissa: Do you have any New Year’s resolutions?
Young Leaf: Well yeah, my New Year’s resolution is to stay focused and do what I got to do; to get my family up and connect as a family more.
Lissa: Are there any side projects that you are part of?
Young Leaf: I am actually with this group, Heat Wave. I did a couple [of] collaborations with other people, like Reese Rell, Haddy Mack, Brick Man; all types of people, because Philly gotta support Philly.
Lissa: Can you tell us about your track “Don’t Get Burned Out”?
Young Leaf: It was all about Miss K. She was telling me about how she was coming out with an event called “Don’t Get Burned Out”. She was looking for artists to do a song about it. I don’t know how many she asked, but I know she asked me. And, she used my song because, well, I think it was nice. I was putting the message out there that people gotta get tested. You don’t want to lose your life over something nasty. You always gotta get tested or stay protected. You gotta get that message out there so people can start being safe. Big ups to Miss K and Brother Tommy, too, for putting me on to that event, so can express how I feel.
Lissa: What can we expect musically from Young Leaf in 2013 and beyond?
Young Leaf: You are going to hear a lot. Sometime in May , I’ll be dropping a new mixtape; “A Grandparents Anthem II”. That mixtape is going to be live. The school tour and getting that done. The “Stop the Violence” EP. I was actually talking to my manager about a movie; I want to shoot a mini movie called “House Party 5”. I’m just trying to stay focused through the whole year.
Philly gotta support Philly. I want to thank everybody for taking their time to listen to me. Big ups to my manager. Big ups to my fans. This year is going to be crazy.
To reach Young Leaf and hear his music check out his multiple social media platforms.