Saint - Stockholm
COLORS showcases exceptional talent from all around the globe, focused on the most distinctive new artists and original sounds.
Stockholm-based artist YASIN is moving onto a new phase in his life, one that prioritizes honesty and communication
There’s no going back, YASIN has his eyes set on the future. Raised in Rinkeby, a diverse suburb in Sweden, Yasin Mahamoud was exposed to gang activity from a young age. While in prison aged 19, he began dreaming of how music could offer him an alternative path to the one he’d set out on. Once released, he dropped two albums— ‘More To Life,’ and ‘98.01.11’—which garnered him nominations for various prestigious music awards.
Just when YASIN began making strides in hip-hop, he found himself in prison again. This time, he was inspired to make a permanent change—with a baby on the way, the artist decided it was time to leave this part of his life behind. YASIN’s latest project, ‘Pistoler Poesi och Sex’, encapsulates his new perspective. Comprising 13-tracks, the album was a chance for the artist to defend his name, and carve his new path into the future.
Following his A COLORS SHOW performance of ‘Salam’ and ‘twogunkid,’ we spoke with YASIN about the importance of family, the development of the Swedish rap scene, and how he hopes his music can be a cautionary tale for the youth.
You were raised in Rinkeby, an extremely diverse suburb in Sweden. How did growing up there influence your development as an artist?
I’ve been influenced in many ways, but mostly through growing up with a single mother, and growing up in Rinkeby. What I put weight on communicating, what I prioritize communicating, and what is important for me to communicate comes from the humble circumstances I grew up in.
You are the youngest of your 5 siblings. Do you have a different perspective of Sweden than your family, especially as the only boy?
Growing up as a boy of color, and in a socially challenging neighborhood, I saw a side of Sweden that was rough and exposed me to criminality and violence. It’s a side of the country that my siblings haven’t experienced.
Has your music informed your siblings about your experiences?
My music has started conversations at home that we didn’t have when we were younger. Before, my siblings were confused, and tried to stop me from going in the wrong direction. They would try to communicate with me, but I wouldn’t communicate back. Now, because of my music, we’re at a place where we can speak more openly.
In 2020 you released two albums. ‘98.01.11’ went platinum and garnered you nominations at the Grammis—the oldest Swedish music awards—and a win for Hip-Hop Album of the Year. What was it like to release music at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic?
COVID impacted every artist differently. I was doing time in prison just before COVID began. I wrote a lot of music during that time, and I daydreamed everyday about where it could take me. When I came out, I continued to release music, but I wasn’t able to go out and perform, and fully live the artist life that I had dreamt of. I had to be patient.
Was writing a source of inspiration while you were serving time? How did you approach the songwriting process while you were in prison?
Six years ago, Swedish rap was not in the position it is today, both economically and stylistically. When I went to prison, the genre began taking off. I saw my friends and colleagues rapping on TV all of a sudden. At first, music wasn’t a priority for me, I was caught up in my other life. After I lost my best friend and manager to gun violence, I started to take my music really seriously.
“Some people need to touch fire to feel that it hurts, others just need to see somebody else touch the fire to know not to touch it themselves.”
Your lyrics are known for being raw and honest, often speaking to the experience of being of an ethnic-minority in a Scandinavian country. What do you want your lyrics to communicate to your audience?
I feel like some people need to touch fire to feel that it hurts, while others just need to see somebody else touch the fire to know not to touch it themselves. I hope that the latter can hear my message through my music. I tell my story honestly in the hope that something positive can be taken from it. I want people to use me as a reference.
Your track ‘Sista spåret’ (2022) talks a lot about acknowledging and overcoming personal obstacles. What is the story behind this track, and why did you want to tell it?
‘Sista spåret’ means ‘the last track’. It’s not the last track of my career, but it’s the last track of an era. During COVID I was waiting to move onto the next phase of my life. I released ‘98.01.11’, started to get nominated for prizes, then went to jail again. I felt like my past had caught up with me, even though I was trying to change. My wife was pregnant at the time, and my daughter was born two weeks after I was incarcerated. She gave me the motivation to change everything. When I got out, I was determined for ‘Sista spåret’ to close one chapter so that I could move onto another.
You released your most recent album ‘Pistoler Poesi och Sex’, earlier this year. What was the inspiration behind this project?
It’s very political. When I was in jail in 2021, when I was on remand, there was a big debate about the fact that I won prizes at the P3 Gold Awards that I was nominated for before I went to jail. I was involved in a controversial case in Sweden, where almost 1,000 gang criminals were incarcerated. The award I won was government-funded: there was a lot of controversy as a lot of people didn’t feel like a criminal should win.
I won the prize for my music, but people turned me into a poster boy for gang criminality. When other gang-related cases gained attention in different cities, people would use my picture as click bait even though I had nothing to do with them. I didn’t have a chance to say anything in response because I was in prison. The album is me telling my side of the story.
“Things change. Don’t put yourself in a situation today that will follow you into your future.”
Tell us about the medley you performed for COLORS.
The first track I performed is ‘Salam’. In Somali, when you come to a realization, one that was previously obvious to others around you, people will say “salam alaykum,” as a way of saying: ‘oh, you woke up now,’ or ‘you’ve realized now’. The lyrics go: “Nobody wants to see you succeed, I know. As-salamu alaykum, my bro.”
The second song, ‘twogunkid’, is an explanation of why I used to be known as “two gun kid”. With my first case, I went to prison for being caught with two guns on two separate occasions. In the song I explain the day I got caught with the second gun.
If you could send one message to your fans right now what would it be?
In Sweden, I have a lot of young fans who come from the same type of neighborhood as me, where there’s a lot of gun violence and where young people are used for criminal activity. To them, I want to say: “stay strong and stay on the right path. Today is today. You’re young now, but you will not have the same state of mind in 5 years. Things change. Don’t put yourself in a situation today that will follow you into your future.”
YASIN is a Somali-Swedish artist based in Stockholm whose A COLORS SHOW was released on the 21st September 2023. You can watch the full performance on our YouTube channel.
Text: Katerina Lytras
Videography: Lucas Maibaum & Lucas Sanou
Video Editing: Louise Bruwer
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Saint - Stockholm
Yasin the Goat
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This is amazing!
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