Yoshi Flower’s latest mixtape, “AMERICAN RAVER,” conjures up a dim world blackened by drug addiction, depression, and celebrity narcissism.
While Yoshi intends for his music to blast out of stadium-sized speakers, AMERICAN RAVER does more than supply trap music for partiers everywhere: it is brash reflection of the problems that plague modern day America.
What does a raver look like? According to Yoshi, it is a working-class man with cigarettes and a cloudy sack of pills peeking out of his back pocket. But underneath the irreverent attitude of AMERICAN RAVER’s artwork lies a subversive message.
Blue jeans paired with a white shirt and a belt reminds us of the blue-collar man, a popular archetype portrayed many times by actors like James Dean and Marlon Brando. Growing up in the Detroit, a landmark of American industry, it is not a surprise that Yoshi decided to exploit this trope. By placing this clichéd image before a rainbow flag, a symbol of queerness and the vibrant aesthetic of rave culture, Yoshi creates a stark contrast that whittles down our ingrained perceptions of what manhood is and can be. Identity and satire are imperatives for Yoshi, something he made clear in an interesting profile with OnestoWatch:
“America, just like a rave, is built and thrown on beautiful principles.” explains Yoshi Flower, who just dropped his debut mixtape AMERICAN RAVER via GRDN/Interscope Records. “Those values have warped, the ‘dance-o-cracy’ seems stacked, forcing us to pick scripts that clash with our true selves in hopes for prosperity, survival and acceptance. Should we leave the party if we don’t fit in? Or can we re-build as a collective of individuals free to express ourselves authentically? We grew up being taught someone else’s version of what is, now we’re creating our own versions of what could be.”
You might also recognize how closely AMERICAN RAVER echoes Bruce Springstein’s Born in the U.S.A., a seminal album in the working-class canon. So is Yoshi burning the old ways in effigy with his reimagining of the artwork? Or is he merely restructuring Bruce’s elegy to America in a way that accommodates new narratives? What is Yoshi really after? It is probably too early to tell, AMERICAN RAVER sets an intriguing tone that has us excited to see what he will deliver next.
Go check out our interview with the AMERICAN RAVER himself below.
American Raver came out last week on October 12th. Available on Apple Music.
The Knockturnal: Take me back to the beginning. When did you realize that you were destined to become Yoshi Flower?
Yoshi Flower: I have always had an inclination that I would make music. But growing up in Detroit, I didn’t always overtly have the ambition to make a living as a musician. My dad worked in the local music scene and he exposed me to a ton of working musicians, so I didn’t really go to festivals or arena-shows because they were mad expensive and sh*t. I always admired working musicians, and I guess I was really drawn to the grit. I would always spend all day at school with my headphones in. I was, am, still obsessed with music. I don’t remember a time when music wasn’t on my mind.
The Knockturnal: Who were the artists you grew up with, how do they still inform your craft today?
Yoshi Flower: When I was young, my heroes were Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley, Bob Dylan. I listened to artists my mom and dad loved like Marvin Gaye, Linda Ronsandt. Really people that shifted the paradigm. It gave me these really broad impressions of what music could be. I think one of the biggest artists for me growing up that changed it was Travis Scott. The earliest sh*t that really killed me, when I was mad young, were The Strokes and Arctic Monkeys and Bloc Party. But when Days Before Rodeo dropped, that was when everything changed. I think it was a mix of listening that and Bon Iver and his first album. His new album is fire too, but I just remember Days Before Rodeo and Bon Iver being the same playlist for me, and it being weird that they played back to back. I think that really is a good example of who I am. I am drawn to extremes really heavily. I don’t have fear of amalgamating anything with anything. I don’t think anyone should, but I think you can get caught up in that hesitancy.
The Knockturnal: I grew up in Malibu, which is pretty close where you live now: Topanga Canyon. What drove you to live there, and does the rustic setting provide a certain quiet solitude that fuels your work; or do you prefer working in noisier environments?
Yoshi Flower: Yeah, I mean, so again, it is just a crazy example of those extremes in my life, being within the proximity of Los Angeles, that creative industry environment, and then being on the outskirts of Topanga. I just moved a few days ago, but everything that has been coming out has been more about the writing. Sometimes, I’ll be writing in my bedroom, in the woods, and then go out and just fucking stay out in LA., living out those crazy extremes of solitude and exaggeration. I remember one composition that I made, like, I was writing it on my acoustic guitar and it was mad quiet at night. It was probably 1 a.m., and I was writing it, and it was super chill. It was just me and my acoustic guitar, and then my homie hit me up and said, “Yo, let’s get f***ed up with Drake’s dad.” And I’m like, “Alright.” So we went out and partied with all these people starting at 2 a.m., and then I came back, and it was, like, 4, 5, 6 a.m., and I totally changed up the composition to be a turn up. I feel that when you are an artist, you are very permeable. Anything can change in a moment’s notice.
The Knockturnal: Does art help you overcome any mental struggles? What memories are you pulling from when you write your music and lyrics?
Yoshi Flower: Not to get into any specifics, but growing up in the Midwest, in the middle of the country, in a middle class upbringing, I was exposed to some amazing beauty at points, but also crippling despair. Being young, even before I smoked pot, around when I was 11 or 12, I remember sitting with a nylon string guitar and playing the worst sh*t ever, but it felt like everything was ok. I don’t even know why, but at a young age, I was like, holy f***, the world is sometimes so messed up. I just really started using it as my first drug. It is like having the truth come out with alcohol or ecstasy. For me, art really really began and continued to be a way to cope. If I didn’t do music, I probably would just die. I think a lot of stuff I am drawn to is really dark and true to my experiences growing up.
The Knockturnal: Your music has this very melancholic tone to it. It deals with a lot of issues too––drug addiction, co-dependency. How do you go about making your music a conduit of your subjective experiences, of your pain?
Yoshi Flower: For me, I find that it is really just about getting to a certain point where I am overflowing with an emotion. I don’t really even think about what I am going to make before I make it, you know, unless it is for a specific purpose. I wrote a song for my parent’s anniversary and sat down and wanted to make a story of their love. There are moments like that, but 99% of the time…I am sitting down to make music and there is no pretense to it at all.
The Knockturnal: Do you intended for your music to be escapism, or the direct opposite–– songs that compel listeners to confront their own inner demons?
Yoshi Flower: Those concepts are kind of one in the same in my approach. I just want it to be something that helps somebody feel something. It is so easy to numb out. Even on the journey of finding your true self, you are escaping in a way.