GuilFest 2011 - Lineup


Aged 21, Yasmin has already crammed several successful careers into one short lifetime. International DJ, respected hip-hop club runner and sometime radio show host, she has supported N*E*R*D, toured Europe with Eve, opened Ibiza Rocks for Dizzee Rascal, played Glastonbury and had a Top 15 hit with Devlin. Now in the midst of the most exciting explosion of young British music in years , she’s about to make her mark as a recording artist in her own right. With a nod to the cooler, beat-driven pop of the 1990s but a contemporary sound that’s all her own, tracks like debut single ‘On My Own’ (made with Shy FX) and the upcoming ‘Finish Line’ (made with Labrinth) confirm the arrival of a major new talent.

Yasmin was born in Manchester to an Iranian father and a Mancunian mother, moving to Kilmacolm, near Glasgow, when she was eight-years-old. “I was a very happy child,” she considers. “I had a lovely childhood.” Music was always a big part of her life, particularly hip-hop and R&B – an oddity when all her contemporaries were into Blink-182. “I never collected vinyl, I was a bit after the vinyl craze – so it was CDs. I’d always search a little bit deeper than what was in the charts or on the radio or the TV. I did a little bit more research.” She had a natural ear for seeking out tracks, and then spotting which songs would particularly appeal to which of her friends – a talent that would later come into its own as a DJ. “I would be telling my friends, ‘I know you’d like Track 2 on that album’ or ‘I know you’d love this album’.

At 17 Yasmin had her first experience behind the decks, at the Glasgow club Kushion. “A friend of mine was a DJ there and it had this really big DJ booth, and we would go and hang out. Every time I went I’d nag him, saying ‘Play this, I know everyone is going to like it!’ or ‘Play that!’ and eventually they said ‘Do you know what? I’m going to the toilet; just play some songs that I know’ and I did and I caught the buzz.” Pretty soon she was at Kushion every week, having badgered the promoter to let her do the warm-up for the warm-up DJ in the back room. “I did that for free for a while and that’s how it took off. But I never thought it would lead to a career in music.”

Indeed, Yasmin had been all set to become a physiotherapist. Between the ages of 17 and 19 she was at university, studying. “But it was obvious I didn’t want to be a physiotherapist, I wanted to go out and do music.” Meanwhile Radio 1Xtra had put a song Yasmin had made onto one of their Homegrown slots, showcasing unsigned talent. One of the show’s producers noticed from her MySpace that she was a DJ, and invited her to do a pilot for the station. “Getting noticed by those sorts of people gave me the confidence to think ‘You know what? Maybe I could make a go of things down in London’.”

Moving to London and seeing that there was an uncatered market for the hip-hop and R&B music she loved, Yasmin made the bold move of starting her own clubnight – Bad Intentions. It immediately stood out for its freewheeling music policy, its inclusive door rules (it was free to get in) and for its ability to draw in the scene’s movers and shakers, both to the dancefloor and behind the decks. “I just don’t think it’s right to charge people to have a good time,” Yasmin says. “I never made a penny from that night.” Instead, there was much more pleasure to be gleaned from dropping a Neptunes track or Santana’s ‘Maria Maria’. “I love making people say ‘Oh my God! Do you remember that song?’ When you bring back a classic or a song that you haven’t heard in a while… for me, that’s the biggest buzz.”

Clearly Yasmin also stood out on the DJ circuit by virtue of her gender. “Obviously it’s a very male dominated area. But I’m no glamour model, nor am I a tomboy. I like dressing up and I like dressing down. I’m just a girl!” she says. “You do get stereotyped, but there’s such a sense of achievement now that I have respected hip-hop DJs that have welcomed me into their nights. That sense of accomplishment once I was recognised for my DJing was an incredible feeling.”

Yasmin built on this position with a DJ support slot for N*E*R*D– she’s friends with Shay from N*E*R*D – which then led to touring with Eve, opening for the Philadelphia rapper all around Europe. “She’s really inspiring to be around, she’s a very strong woman and she dictates her own career,” Yasmin says. “And that’s what I’m about also.” More high profile gigs would follow at the Glastonbury Festival and Ibiza Rocks.

By January 2010 the time was right for Yasmin to branch out yet again, this time to peruse her passion for songwriting. She’d always sung; and been a fan of singers. “When I was growing up I listened to a lot of big divas; Mariah, Whitney, Celine Dion. I love people that can riff and do vocal acrobatics. I’d been dabbling in a bit of music and people who heard it gave me the confidence to go forward. They said ‘Actually, you have a voice – it’s different’.”

Putting in a call to Labrinth – who Yasmin knew from the scene, but was yet to become one of 2010’s most talked-up producers, thanks to hits ‘Pass Out’ and ‘Frisky’ for Tinie Tempah, and ‘Stylo’ for Gorillaz, among others – the producer summoned Yasmin to his studio for an impromptu audition. “He took me out into the corridor where it had nice acoustics, and I was about to sing and he was, like, ‘Hold on, hold on’ – then he went and did a headstand against the wall. ‘Okay, I’m comfortable now!’ Who knows what he was doing. Labrinth is just a mad genius.” Soon the pair had written ‘Finish Line’ together. An undeniably great song, it would help bring Yasmin to the attention of the Ministry Of Sound label and EMI Publishing. “Signing with EMI was a big deal for me; my parents came along with me,” Yasmin says. “It was a real honour.” Last year’s hit with Devlin, ‘Runaway’, announced her to the Top 40 in style.

Now Yasmin’s album, approaching completion at the time of writing, is shaping up to be one of 2011’s most anticipated debuts. Mixing cutting-edge production with a knowledge of beats born from all those years working the decks, it’s contemporary British pop music at its best.  As well as recruiting the talents of hot UK producers she has also been in the US working with on of the world’s cutting edge DJs and producers Diplo (M.I.A, Kid Cudi).

Yasmin’s career to-date has proved what a potent combination talent mixed with determination can be. That’s not something that’s about to change: she shot her first video for ‘On My Own’ at her own personal cost, recruiting the talents of hot director Emil Nava (Tinchy Stryder, Jessie J) having clicked with him at the ‘Runaway’ video.   “People say ‘This is crazy, why are you spending your own money, staying up all night, why are you stressing yourself out?’ But at the end of the day, I’m not putting out work if I don’t love it, how can I convince other people to love it? I think it’s important to be 100 percent honest about everything you put out.”

And that’s Yasmin. She’s come a long way in a short time, by staying true to who she is. “Sometimes people say ‘Oh, you’ve done so well’. But I’ve never been the sort to sit down and pat myself on the back. If the pace slows down, you get a bit stagnant. And it’s not about that. I’m doing this for a lot more than me. Where I come from, DJs, we all work together. We want to move music forward as a whole. I’m happy because there’s all these great young artists coming through at the moment – this burst of energy. It’s such an honour to be part of it, you know?”

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