Upon seeing the title for this project, I immediately asked myself some burning questions. Was Uptown’s YAW Geez saying we all are welcome into his home, his life and his story? Or was he exhibiting a bit of ego? The music is so good the people didn’t even need to say thank you, he already knows. Both?
Per comments from the creator himself, it turns out many engineers he worked with would thank him post-recording for being a fresh sound in a world of repetition and mumbling. This was his ode to them. However, the beauty of art is interpreting it however you see fit. Whatever the case may be, You’re All Welcome.
Though an age some would call “seasoned” per doing the math after hearing the “11.04.1981 Freestyle” exclusive to Soundcloud, the Ghanaian poet’s sound is far from dated. Though it is clear his taste in haymaker-like production and evergreen lyricism come from growing up in the 80s and 90s, YAW simultaneously creates very modern auras and forges his own niche within the popular trap ecosystem.
One of YAW’s biggest strengths is his descriptiveness and vivid imagery in storytelling. There are no wasted bars on this nine-song, 24-minute jog through the Big Apple. Every line helps paint a picture so you can literally see what he’s rapping about and feel present. Not to mention Snack King Cole (per his Twitter) packs in multiple different meanings playing off of sports, music, pop culture or food references.
“Crushed Grapes” is the song to go-to for all of my drinkers. There’s nothing like a guy describing what his liquor cabinet consists of so you can get suggestions, and doubling that track to also be the perfect background sounds for fraternizing with a beautiful lady. He cleverly lays the blueprint. It’s like taking an open book exam, but your notes take up over 50 pages. That’s a lot of flips.
He opens with the iconic “Good Morning Vietnam!” snippet from the film of the same name, then he gets right to the shits. “Good Morning” is audacious and the essence of boom-bap. “No shade, y’all don’t want none of son/sun cause y’all afraid” is a bar fully worthy of the Lebron Instagram story face when he’s bumping in the car. I hope YAW got the project over to the Los Angeles Lakers. After all, he did make “Lake Show Flow” back in October, which found its way to a segment on Access Sportsnet during a Lakers game.
It’s a fascinating coincidence the first song is named “Good Morning,” as this project feels like the transition between day and night for me. From there he goes to “What Up Tho!” which feels like the daytime linkup with the homies. “Big spendin, spliff blended with OG Kush or Piff in it/The loud got me noise complaints from pissed tenants” is not only a sharp double entendre but a common reality for a New Yorker. Haters gon’ hate when their ~loud~ is silent.
The Scott Van Pelt shoutout at the end likely made up a bit for the last few (read: several) Knicks seasons. YAW has accepted that aspect of his life where losses come in bunches, with “The only time losing crosses my mind is when I’m wearing my Knicks fitted.” He drops one of his coolest lines earlier, “They try to compare me to the stars but son/sun better.” He’s really pushing this daylight concept.
Daytime turns to dusk and we get the first official feature in Harlem’s hidden gem Nic Earley for “Crusin‘.” The Covina-born vocal powerhouse barely tips the iceberg of his true talents, but the soothing melody in the hook is more than enough. The title doesn’t lie, this is a song meant to be driven to with windows down or a completely missing roof. Just like Earley’s EP For Everything I’ve Done.
There’s a richness to YAW’s voice in his opening ad-libs as well as the verses. It slightly reminds me of the Spice Adams laugh. Only rather than giggles, he’s priming listeners for three minutes and 5 seconds of smooth tremors.
One thing I admire most is how much effort YAW puts into articulating every detail of the women. You will hear about silky smooth skin and heavenly sets of breast. The five-year-old in me offers a high five for him saving a milk-chocolate woman in his phone under Yoo-hoo.
My personal favorite track would be the tenebrous “Train of Thought” featuring the scrappy Grizzy Roe. Hailing from the 6 line, he’s got a motor you have to first hear. You’ll wonder if it can be replicated in person. Then you see it live and still can’t believe it. He’s someone to watch out for.
Following up the Statz-assisted “Preview,” YAW kicks off the trap jam in his typical cool, calm and collected mode. The duo spends their Wednesday nights in Washington Heights at El Jefe. After high-level wordplay in “Dominican mami, Chanel shades/I gave her wewe/oui oui to her French braids” he breaks into a two-pocket barrage full of the first three letters of the word “barrage.”
A selfless servant, he courts his lady and quickly introduces his producer-friend Sice into the mix. His pick for the evening brought her own crew along so it’s perfect. If YAW’s verse is a systematic dissection of an opponent in a boxing match, Grizz is a tireless jab thrower in his follow-up. The impressive aspect of the hard-nosed lyricist is that his voice lends itself to forming some subtle melodies. Grizzy Roe’s verses feel easy to sing along to but also worth sitting down and truly analyzing.
“And she know I’m boo’d up, draft night KP/But she still tryna creep, TLC/I can’t blame her I’m the man, Black Dominicano too smooth/So by her playin’ cool she just blow me like a fan.” The “Revenge Muzik” artist goes on to outline how he smashed before the follow back. Now she’s getting lobbed to the team, and the “Thanksgiving with the yams” line is chef’s kiss-worthy. The verse feels like a freestyle, but the complexities say otherwise unless he’s just that good. There’s also fun, competitive energy in this track that the rap game is missing.
You get 3:00 AM introspective songs like the closer “Jayda (RIP)” where he reflects on learning his close personal friend had cancer. YAW hands us puzzle piece after puzzle piece. He describes the relationship, conversations about her haunting reality, and her hopes for his life after she goes.
Though a very composed wordsmith, he emotionally recounts her optimism that they’ll be back together again. At the bar watching the game over margaritas and wings as if none of it happened. She humorously deflects his use of what some would deem a Tumblr quote.
There’s a moment of cheer in learning she’s cancer-free. He quickly snips our heartstrings with “But like the weather, things in life can always change so drastically/Rainbows and the hurricane done came back, Jayda called me and told me ‘The cancer came back.'” It’s an emotional record. A powerful way to close things off and leave us reeling.
It doesn’t sound like he himself is reeling though. That shines through this entire project. The 37-year old is comfortable. Though I see a clear evolution in sound from 2014’s Hump Day to You’re All Welcome, nothing is unnatural.
There are no tracks that sound forced or targeting any specific listener. YAW’s superpower is his expansive relatability. It’s why people still post songs from Hump Day on their Instagram stories to this day. When you make music people connect to, it never gets old.
YAW programs his words into your brain because his brain functions the same way ours does. He doesn’t convey otherwise. An unreal lyricist with a common demeanor and timeless music that appeals to the sense. You can’t top it. “African boy but I’m cut from a whole different kente.”
I’ll be the first to say thank you, YAW. And his response? Probably “C’mon, baby, you know the vibes.” We’re welcome.