featured interview

Yamin Semali Rebel Music With his latest single and video, the 'futuristic slapper' 'Never Leave', Yamin Semali celebrates his relationship-of-10-years with his MPC -'when I got you home that shit was like a honeymoon'. 28-year old Semali, also known as AmDex, and his MPC made their first public appearance on 'Strange Arrangement', the album of his crew the Vinyl Junkies (VJC). But it wasn't until one year later, that we really got into AmDex's music when he got down with DT to form the group ClanDestined and released 'ABBRACADAMN!!!' on Domination Recordings. Now -two Clan LP's and productions for Sumkid Majere, Boog Brown and Stacy Epps later- AmDex is taking on his birth name to release his solo debut 'Yamin', a 'poetic' and 'substantial' album with a cause.

In an interview from last year you guys (ClanDestined) said: 'Our reviews when we first came out said that we sounded like we didn't know who we were because we had so much going on'. So you changed your music due to those reviews?

Well, I wouldn't say reviews had much of an impact on us as much as natural change. I didn't agree with the reviews in the first place. It's one thing, though, to be able to make a great, cohesive album and be a great producer. Those two things aren't synonymous. It was our first outing, so people had to go with what we gave them. We always try to balance consistency with spontaneity. You can't please everyone and some people just like one sound throughout an LP, which is understandable. It's just not always what we want to do.

You also said: 'We're young and in the long scheme of things we wanna stretch things out. So we're just working from the hip-hop aspect.' Has the time come with your solo album to stretch things out?

I'm still 100% hip-hop and that will always be the case. But looking at my growth as an artist and what I personally like, I have the breath to be able to do songs where I'm just scratching, just singing, or just rhyming or an instrumental. On top of that, I have the ability to mix these all together. I think during that interview, I was considering the future to be one where we could do scores, poetry, and/or production for other artists outside of the hip-hop genre. With my project, I want the listener to see that music rules over any boundaries in which you try to place it.

Do you know more who you are as a solo artist now?

It's been such a fun process, though difficult at times. I'd say yes, I know more, but I don't know if I'll ever be pegged, even in my own mind.


What can we expect from your solo album?

The content is very poetic and substantial without being preachy or branded 'conscious'. I really put in work on the bars. I love the production. I did all the tracks except for two; my second video produced by Illastrate and a scratch interlude produced by Rahgroove. The sound ranges from that 90's shit people romanticize to stuff like 'Never Leave' which is that futuristic slapper music. Some instrumentals change tempo or completely. I took my time and kept it provocative.

You also sing on your album, who are some of your inspirations for singing?

As far as hip-hop artists who sing, cats say I sound like Slimkid Tre. I didn't realize at first but I can understand now. I respect guys like Mos Def, the homie Lazarus from NC and Ozy Reigns from SC.

From Slimkid to Sumkid. You produced on Sumkid Majere's LP from 2007. The press release stated it holds songs 'with a personal depth and genuine heart that most in the hip-hop industry are either too afraid to approach or completely overdo'. What's your trick to not overdo it or to be not afraid of doing it? You describe your songs as 'provocative'...

I just go, man. I have songs that won't make the album because I may share that fear of candor. I think it's good and healthy as an artist to just experiment, whether or not you release any of the outcomes. I study myself and then edit what I want to keep. Sum is one of my favorite artists of all time. He combines his personality with technique in a masterful way that I try to emulate as his little brother. (laughs)

Your latest single/video is a dedication to the MPC. You've been with 'H.E.R.' for ten years now. How would you persuade a beginning producer to buy an MPC rather than a SP12?

I wouldn't even persuade someone against an SP. I might say something about the sampling time but I'd actually encourage someone considering the SP to just get it. I'd like to work with someone who's down to teach me more about it and I could show them some things with the MPC or some software, etc.

You're using less and less samples though....

Definitely. To be real, I am starting to prefer using less samples. There's nothing like combining four or more on a single song though. That's not easy. Tribe got me hooked on that. My peeps Pudge and ID 4 Windz are kings at using synths that sound textured too. I get a different type of satisfaction with either method.

Could you explain the album cover. There's like an African flag, it says 'guerilla' and it looks like you're holding a bible.,,

That's a Guerrilla Republik flag in the background and yes, I'm holding some scriptures. I read a lot of books but that one happened to be there, so I just grabbed it. It's funny that people assume it's a bible! It could be anything but yeah, Old Testament all day. It's filled with African proverbs and I love connecting those dots.

Tell us more about Guerilla Republik...

Its mission as a non-profit organization is to counteract the corporate takeover of the culture. It's no coincidence that the biggest names in rap, who reach more urban youth than anybody else are all bought, just like civil rights activists who pacify the voiceless. Our goals involve establishing scholarships and curricula for young artists involved in the music and getting them prepared for higher education and/or business development. You can support our efforts by purchasing our gear at GuerillaRepublik.net. I am planning to produce an album for different chapters around the world. The founder, Rabb Love is like my big brother and mentor. Shout out to Iz, Alvin, Capital X, Jehuniko and all the extended fam I have yet to meet!


You're about to teach again soon...

Yeah, I work for another non-profit organization that teaches high school students digital music recording in the city of Atlanta. I focus more on the technical side, as a trade. Software and hardware concepts.

You're also studying?

Yes, I'm 40 hours away from having my BS in Electrical Engineering right now.

At the time, you met Dustin Teague from Clan Destined at Morehouse College. Were you both studying there?

Actually, I was at GSU at the time, Dustin went to Morehouse. But I DJ'ed on Morehouse campus for an event called 'Underground Live' at Kilgore Hall. Felix, an emcee from VJC, was DT's RA when he came in. We met like that.

Morehouse's also the alma mater of Martin L King, Spike Lee and Samuel L Jackson. There's something about Morehouse right?

D could probably tell you more than me but yeah, Zion from Zion I and Guru went there I believe. I remember going there as a youth with a program called TWC (The Winner's Circle) which was run by some brothers from the Nation. Some of the brightest young men in the country go and have went there. I dated some ladies at Spelman. I really ride for Morris Brown though. It's wack how they went out, because that school was started by former slaves. The AUC history is a big part of American history and shows the strength and determination of our ancestors.

How did that environment stimulate you as an artist?

It was in the middle of the ghetto but people came from all around for a piece of the American dream. It was weird. I saw a lot of positive things that far outweighed the negative. We used to hit the strip and try to get girls to the crib I stayed in on Fair St. We'd have cookouts and beat sessions. It was fun. I actually got my MPC in 2002, around that time. DT would not go to his dorm except to shower and study. All we did was dig for records, get at women and go to Austell to record when we could. That's when Ta'Raach was here and I really started stepping my beats up because he was always on me like, 'why you only got like 5 beats?' He used to encourage me in a real way. Him and John Robinson.


Lets' go back a few years to when you were 16. You met DJ X-Ro, which was the beginning of the Vinyl Junkies, later on VJC Recordings. X-Ro was a Project Blowed student. So did Project Blowed have an influence on VJC and furthermore on Clan Destined and yourself?

Most definitely. X-Ro is why I am who I am today. He doesn't like for me to say that. He says, 'Thank God, not me.' That's real, but like I was saying DT was never in his dorm. I was never at my mom's house. I would be at his sister's house learning all I could about music and annoying everybody. I always felt blessed to be the only dude in my high school who could recite 'Mixtapes' by The Nonce, tell you who Creed Taylor was, or say that I've spun records in the presence of Myka 9. I'm a big fan of L.A. hip-hop.

What disbanded the nationwide collective VJC? The distance between each other?

Yeah, you could say that. Most of us are still in touch and there's no lost love. If anybody comes to Atlanta, they know they can stay at the crib. Same goes for me. I'm proud of everyone's growth. We cut our teeth so to speak as artists and we had no famous friends. We just did what we did like a family. I'm just now getting used to people wanting to 'collab' because of what they perceive as a door-opening move. I still kinda feel like I don't really want to work with people if we never had to go looking for the crackhead who stole my shoes off the porch or got stranded in the middle of the night somewhere when the car broke down after a gig.

It's still a label right? VJC Recordings...

It's a family. 'Label' sounds so dated to me as far as VJC goes. I don't think VJC stands for the same things as most companies. In terms of business, I'm going to release my project through Yen Dollar Music, my new company. I'm not sure if Sumkid's new project will be under a label. Clan D's last album was just self-released. It's the most successful project with which I've been affiliated.

Sumkid once said about VJC Recordings: 'We think outside the box and incorporate cross-marketing and multi-media approaches to our music at the creative level. We have to start thinking that albums are more than albums and songs are more than just songs...' This makes a lot of sense right? How do you try to incorporate that yourself and for your new album?

I'm still considering some unique promotional ideas. The artwork has the potential to drive the music and vice versa. This album is unlike anything I've ever done. My audience is too intelligent to accept subpar work, so I have to take my time at the marketing level and make sure what I submit to the world is actually more than just an album. I'm three videos in and the response is decent but as a one-man operation -in contrast to an artist with a marketing group- it's hard to be heard at times. My base is in the 1000's now, so I have the potential to change my world with this release.


You did a remix on Boog Brown's 'The Brown Study remix' LP, how did you get on the project?

That's my sister. She has been a great supporter of Clan D and my work for a while now and I've always done what I could to reciprocate. She asked me to be a part and Mello Music Group was cool enough to see her vision through. She and I have unreleased material produced by Illastrate and she's also on my album.

When you do a remix, how do you approach the original song?

I listen to the original, and as a DJ, I start thinking of songs I'd play around it in a set. Then I think of other songs with the same content. That's how I ended up putting those scratches together. I might have some 'skeleton'-tracks laying around and reinterpret them around the vocals or sample a song with the same content. I always come out with something when I make a track around an acapella. That's a good catalyst when I'm feeling uninspired.

Posdnous is a fan of Clan Destined's latest 'Self Titled' album. No remix requests from De la Soul?

Man, that would be a dream come true. True story, I gave Maseo about 22 tracks on CD along with the 'Self Titled' album when he came to DJ at the High Museum. I also e-mailed them to an address Pos gave me. They tour like 8 days a week, so either they were too busy or just weren't feeling any of them. (laughs) Some of those tracks ended up on my album, including 'Never Leave' and 'What I'm Living For' which both have video's now.


Excuse us to take an exact same question you already asked Rock Most but...'Many people come to Atlanta pursuing music as a career. Why do you think this place is such a magnet for aspiring artists'?

Ahh, you do your homework. Well, since I was a child, I learned that Atlanta has a lot of dope money on the streets that needs to be laundered. That's why you have so many record labels having 'come-get-signed/networking events' and stuff like that. That's pretty much it. Not a whole lot talent-seeking, but opportunity is why people come here. If anybody tells you anything else, please ask them why you can use one hand to count the substantive artists who move units out of here in the last 10 years. People don't request trap music because they want to hear it. It's just that it's funded by that lifestyle, so now it's a popular thing. The fucked up part is that all the dope is let in by the government. You can't be a rebel if your music is subsidized by the Fed. That is some pawn shit to me.

A few days ago you were googling 'peaceful countries'. What else is in your personal googling top-5?

Well, Google is a dice-throw at times, but:
1. 'Yamin Semali' because I have to see what's going on with me.
2. 'Clan Destined' of course
3. Anything dealing with world history/history of America before colonization. I recently looked into the hantavirus.
4. Hip-hop overseas, who's selling, who's pushing boundaries, etc.
5. Good restaurants in the area.

When's the album with Methuzulah coming?

We're just getting involved again after a hiatus. Maybe Spring '13. If we survive 2012.

We were always big fans of Domination Recordings, do you have any updates on DJ Fisher?

We've been talking a lot lately. I can't speak on our plans yet, but they are looking great. He's a great person, definitely not the rule #4080 type.

What's next for Yamin?

He's going to get Yen Dollar Music running, keep the music coming, and he might become a martyr.

Oh yeah, off the record...brisket sandwich with or without sour cream?

Never heard of sour cream on brisket. I'd rather throw some curried cole slaw on that shit but I'll try it and get back to you on that!

Let us know! Thanks for the interview.

Thank you for always covering us! One love to the 8470 team.


POSTED 07|30|2012
conducted by cpf

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