On Thursday, Sept. 26, NC State University Libraries put on the second State of Sound: Stories event of the fall semester in the Fishbowl Forum at D.H. Hill Library. The guest speaker was Durham-born rapper G Yamazawa, who has been an influential force in the North Carolina hip-hop community over the last several years. Alex Valencia and Jason Groth, both librarians at D.H. Hill Library, hosted the event. Valencia spoke with Yamazawa about topics ranging from his childhood to what’s next for his career.
The talk began with laughs and banter between Valencia, Yamazawa and the crowd. Yamazawa and Valencia then exchanged stories about their familial backgrounds, both being children of immigrants from Asian countries. Yamazawa spoke about his father’s journey to becoming a chef and opening a restaurant, Yamazushi, in Durham. They then showed the music video for Yamazawa’s song “Dining Room,” which was filmed in the restaurant. Yamazawa explained his earliest interests in art and creative expression.
“It was visual art for a long time, and graffiti really influenced me a lot at the time,” Yamazawa said. “[But] the first arts community that I really felt I was a part of was ... when I was about 17, and that was the poetry community.”
After playing a video of a poem Yamazawa performed about his grandmother, he explained how he felt that poetry aided him in his foray into rap.
“It allowed me to not be afraid of silence, which I’ve learned as I’ve gotten into the music game is that is like an advantage that I have,” Yamazawa said. “I’m not afraid of dead silence; I’m not afraid of looking someone in the eye; I'm not afraid of really addressing the soul of a person when I perform.”
Yamazawa then played an unreleased track for the audience from an upcoming mixtape that will be premiered at his birthday show on Nov. 15 at Motorco in Durham. He explained his origins with music and hip hop to the crowd.
“I started making music when I was 16, and this was when I really still wanted to rap heavy, and this is before I found poetry,” Yamazawa said.
Yamazawa talked about how initially he was hesitant to truly pursue rap, and that poetry became his main focus for a few years. In 2014 he finally had the confidence to become fully devoted to rap.
“I realized I was too afraid to rap…” Yamazawa said. “Being an Asian artist, I think I just never had the confidence to do it, but after spending so much time in the poetry realm ... I found my voice.”
The conversation eventually moved to Yamazawa’s breakout 2017 hit “North Cack.” They played the music video and discussed the process of creating the video and how “North Cack” impacted Yamazawa’s career. He touched on the struggles that come with getting the sudden attention and success of a hit song, explaining that to him it was more about wondering how long that moment was going to last, and how far it would actually take him.
Yamazawa talked about the process of meeting with top record labels and the excitement he felt in the moment and then the eventual sobering realization that he couldn’t rest on his laurels as an artist.
After the event, Yamazawa spoke about being able to tell his story at State of Sound.
“You generally get contacted about performing, so it was really awesome and kind of cool to get reached out to about just sort of sharing my story and having an evening to just kind of share about it all in front of students,” Yamazawa said.
Valencia gave his thoughts on why he wanted G Yamazawa to come and speak at one of the State of Sound Events.
“With him being from Durham, him being local, and with the content that he comes out with, from his poetry to his music, it had a message, and that’s what we look for ... and he’s made a career out of it.” Alex said. “At State of Sound, we look for people who have made a career out of sound, whether in front of the microphone or behind in the production or in management.”