Young Murph The Kidd (YMTK) is an artist from Oakland and Los Angeles who takes an original approach to his music. His latest album, All The Right Places, is a mix of hip-hop, electronic sounds, and even gospel. We met with him in the studio and dug deeper into his upbringing, journey, and views on the music industry. And we shared some green tea ice cream in the process.
How did you get into making music?
I started when I was in college at UC Santa Cruz with one of my homies. However, I always had an appreciation for music because my mom was a singer in church and I was raised in church singing even though I was never in a choir or anything like that.
Is this your full-time job?
I have been attempting to do music full time for a while, since I moved out here in 2007 (the interview took place in Los Angeles), but you always have side gigs and little hustles that you can do and it wasn’t until recently that I’ve been 100% really focused on music at all times. And it wasn’t until this year that I have been able to sustain my life through music, not even being rich but just live off of it.
What is the origin of your name?
Y.M.T.K. means “Young Murph The Kidd.” “Young Murph” comes from my first name. My dad’s name was Murphy and my name is Murphy, so for the longest time I was “Little Murphy.” But then I got taller than my pops so I couldn’t just be Little Murphy anymore and became “Young Murph.” “The Kidd” comes from where I grew up and from my love for basketball. I grew up in East Oakland, California and I loved Jason Kidd so I started to call myself that to align myself with him. I even went to high school where he went to high school and had his same coach there, I met him a bunch of times, and I was able to present him with an award. He was my hero.
What were your inspirations growing up?
Growing up it was really what I was exposed to. My mom had a huge influence and still has a huge influence on me as a musician, then a lot of gospel artists, Kirk Franklin, The Winans, Anita Baker, Sade, Boyz II Men, Dru Hill, 112. I wasn’t really allowed to listen to music of the world for a while. My mom and my pops only wanted me to listen to gospel music because they felt like that was the only music with a message that they wanted me to receive. As I got older, I got into Maze and Musiq Soulchild. It was a lot of R&B. I was a real big fan of new jack swing, New Edition, and stuff like that.
What are your inspirations now?
Jay-Z and Kanye West. I look up to Kanye in the creativity of his music like in life. I appreciate Kanye being transparent at all times, which is not easy but important. Hov is just smooth and he represents excellence.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Kicking it on a beach in Thailand while making music.
Who is your favorite emerging artist?
Carolina: I do know about Rexx Life Raj through you actually, so you get that credit.
YMTK: Thank you, I’ll take that credit and pleeease put that on record.
*Did that, Murph.*
What are some of the biggest struggles you are experiencing in chasing this career?
There were times when I wasn’t necessarily working a job while making music but I was able to make music because I’d have an investor. When you are doing that you are dealing with other people who are financially involved and the relationship can be a little skewed in that the roles are blurred and it can get in the way of making the art. As an artist, you have a vision and a process of how things need to get done so that can clash and all these things you have in your mind fuck up with your creativity.
We chose “My Language” as the track of the week (read our track review here). Can you tell us more about the track and the process of writing it?
I think me and my homie Choice were working on something for his album but one of the beats resonated with me, I made the melody that then became the hook in “My Language,” Choice helped me make the first half of the lyrics, I wrote the second half and it just came together, it worked.
Would you define yourself as more of an MC or a singer? In tracks like “Mystery” or “Free Up” you are rapping more so than singing, but in tracks like “My Language” and “Honesty” you are singing more so than “rapping” by definition.
At the core I’m an artist who likes to create something. I have been that way in basketball (coaches would be upset at me because I was too creative) and I have been that way in music, which is what makes me different. If I had to choose, I would say I view myself as more of a rapper than a singer, minus all the chains and stuff. I started out writing poetry and wanting to rap, but I would also sing hooks and stuff and the cats who I was doing music with would ask me to sing.
In “No Rest” you talk about the west coast and the lifestyle here. What’s your relationship with the west coast?
I have a foundation here. From San Diego to Portland, the west coast is home. When I do the travel I’m blessed to be doing, at the end of the day I’m definitely reppin’ not only Oakland where I’m from, but the whole coast. I’m from the bay area, I’ve been living in LA for so long, I’ve done so many shows grinding up and down the coast, and I got my first radio play in Seattle. I’m representing for the whole coast now, it’s not just Oakland.
We are intrigued by the style of your music in “All The Right Place,” like in other projects of yours. It sounds a bit island-ish funky, a lot of stuff going on there. What prompted this style to come along?
I love to travel, meet people of other cultures, experience other cultures. I was doing a lot of traveling while I put together “All The Right Places.” I went to Hawaii a bunch of times, to Rio for a while, so I was just in an island mood. What I was exposed to inspired me and that really came out in the music.
Since you were traveling a lot while you were working on “All The Right Places,” is there a track on this album that you can say “Oh that’s so Dubai!” or “Oh, that’s so London,” “Damn that’s definitely Rio”?
Absolutely. For example, “Gold Rush” reminds me of Vegas, and “My Language” reminds me of Rio. For “My Language,” it’s because of the language barrier I found in Rio. We were there for a while and we didn’t speak Portuguese, so we interacted with people through our vibes.
What do you think about the music scene today?
I think that it’s forever evolving and you have to evolve with it if you wanna be a part of it. I don’t get too caught up in the music industry but I try to be a forever evolving artist so that it makes sense for me to be a part of it.
*One of Murph’s producers, Zach, comes in the room and we bring him into the conversation*
A part of me thinks now it’s a good time for music, but at the same time there is some music out there that feels like it should have 2 million views, but instead it has to 200 and vice versa.
Zach: I feel like the game gets in a sad place when we judge it off of views and clicks. You’re right, some stuff sounds like it should have 2 million views but has 200, but those things don’t actually correlate. When it comes to music, there are three immediate emotions or reactions that we get: “super turnt,” “happy,” and “sad.” Usually, the tracks that get the most views are at the extreme of those feelings, whereas the more complex music that’s in between those feelings, that is really expressive of something other than that the normal stuff, tends to not get the time to get to the surface.
YMTK: That’s why I’m such a fan of Marc E. Bassy and Rexx Life Raj, because they are the perfect combination of both pop crossover, good song writing and actually communicating a message, something that’s thought provoking that makes you feel something and is entertaining at the same time.
What are the best parts of making music?
The best part is the creative process, which is challenging, but also fun. Also just making music in itself is the best part because you are making something that may not be tangible but will be there forever.
What’s the first concert you went to?
What the church used to call “Midnight Musicals.” They were midnight services but it wouldn’t be a normal service, there would be all these different choirs from different parts of the region singing two songs each.
What’s the craziest concert that you’ve been to?
Coachella with the 2Pac hologram.
What are some of the Milestones you’ve reached in your music career so far?
I think when the word “viral” started getting thrown around it’s when I realized something was happening. I made a song called “Pretty Girl” who went viral on Music.Ly and just did very well on all the streaming apps. Also, getting press from notable writers and notable sites like Fader and Pigeons and Planes with songs like “Flagrant” that I did with Elujay and “No Job.” Finally, what’s tight to me is being involved and being relevant in the music scene out here, being a representant of Oakland, and being more involved in that scene.
One thing that will make you know that you have made it?
My mom won’t be tripping on money and my brother will be able to stop working a job he doesn’t want to and work with me.
What’s your dream collab?
Me, Kanye, T Pain, Musiq Soulchild, Jay Z, Rihanna, Beyonce, Pharrell on the beat with Timbaland, Swizz Beatz, E-40, and Too $hort.
What’s your ideal scenario for a performance?
Ideally, there’s a lot of people who are hella ready to have fun and love my music.
Check out YMTK’s latest music video, “Exotic.”