Wrap Up And Watch Out: Youngman
Simon Smith Jr, known to many as Youngman, has been tearing up the airwaves this year with his latest Skream-produced track, 'Who Knows'. Not a new player in the game, Youngman has been dabbling with music since he was able to talk – not only singing, but DJing and rapping as well. The Wrap Up’s Maz Khan finds out everything you need to know about the Derby-bred artist...
The Wrap Up: What’s with the name, Youngman?
Youngman: I started DJing when I was about 6. I got into music when I was very young, so my family just started calling me Youngman from then.
TWU: What inspired you to get into music at such a young age?
Youngman: Initially, I got into jungle – which was basically like early drum and bass – it was a massive part of my upbringing. At the same time, my parents encouraged me to listen to R&B, pop, soul and jazz, and I loved Stevie Wonder, Al Green and Michael Jackson. I’ve just always been into music.
TWU: You’re signed to Digital Soundboy, right? How did that deal come about?
Youngman: I’ve been with Digital Soundboy for 18 months. I had three record deals before the situation that I’m in now. Since joining Soundboy, I’ve definitely evolved as an artist. I’ve got such a great team around me now since hooking up with Benga and Skream. I had a record called ‘One And Only’ and, at the time, I used to bump into Shy FX and would always tell him that I wanted to work with him. Ironically enough, all the while he loved ‘One And Only’, he just didn’t know it was me. I sent him a demo and, when he heard that tune on it, he called me up and was like, ‘I didn’t know that was you!’ He signed me on the phone there and then.
TWU: You’re originally from Derby, aren’t you? Are you a mini celebrity there now?
Youngman: (Laughs) There’s a lot of love in Derby. I spend a lot of time on the roads, and I have a place in London. I try and spend time in Derby with my family as much as possible, but I love London. It can be a lonely place, but so can everywhere. I love London because I’m a big believer of positive laws of attraction. The things that you see, and the things that you’re surrounded by, will motivate you to get to the next level – spiritually and psychologically. Living in a small town, you can’t really visualise being mega successful. I initially wanted to move to London so that I could see people driving Ferrari’s! You need a successful culture around you to emulate that, I think.
TWU: Cool! So, you’re currently working on your debut album. Tell us about it...
Youngman: ‘Me and My Music’ is the title of the album and it’s going really well. It’s being executively produced by Shy FX and Benga, which is amazing. It’s also got cuts from Breakage. I just did a tune with MJ Cole and Sam Frank, which I’m really excited about. The sound of the album is very versatile – I’m singing and rapping on it. It’s very cutting edge UK bass music, fused with soulful vocals and influences. At the same time, there are hard club records on there as well.
TWU: You’ve been touring all over the world. How is it going?
Youngman: I just came back from New Zealand and Australia. I love touring! But on that last tour, we worked out that we were up in the air for four entire days! That’s a lot, but we can’t complain. We played at New Zealand’s ‘Rhythm Festival’ on New Year’s Eve and we came out after Example to an audience of 35,000. It was such a wicked way to see in the New Year.
TWU: I hear you’re really into fashion…
Youngman: Yeah, I’ve got my fingers in a few pies. I love fashion, I always have. I’ve dabbled with clothes designing in the past and now I’m working on a new line to coincide with my album. So you can expect to see some Youngman clothing towards the end of the year. I will start off with menswear first – I love varsity jackets, chinos and a good shirt. I really do have a long-term goal of doing something in fashion. I mean real fashion, not just merchandise.
TWU: Looking forward to seeing your line! Alright, tell us about the ‘Music And Life’ workshops that you’re currently doing?
Youngman: I know so many kids who want to get into music, and it can be really hard to see how to get from A to Z. People can’t understand how you can make music for a living. Just because you aren’t all over the TV or radio, you can still make music for a living. So I decided to set up a scheme to give people guidance and mentoring – not only relating to music, but relating to real life. I have a Business Management degree, so it’s all about encouraging kids to stay in school and realise that they don’t have to choose, they can have both.
TWU: What a great idea! So, Youngman, how did YOU get from A to Z?
Youngman: The best advice I would give is to get yourself out there. Do as many recording sessions and talent shows that you can and get networking – just go out there and get your music heard. In time, you’ll find the right team.
TWU: Finally, what can people expect from you for the rest of the year?
Youngman: I’ve just launched my website, www.iamyoungman.com, so jump on there to see where I’m going to be touring next. My single, ‘Who Knows’, is out now and I’m also about to embark on a club tour which will be kicking off at Fabric in London on January 20. I’ll be touring with Benga on the ‘Benga Featuring Youngman’ tour, which will be a massive UK tour. In April, I’ll be supporting Example on his arena tour, too. You can also expect the debut album from me later this year, definitely before Christmas.
Stay up to date with Youngman on Twitter - www.twitter.com/YoungmanMusic
Words: Maz Khan (@MazHalima)
Online editing: Joseph 'JP' Patterson (@Jpizzledizzle)