..."umm, I just want it to be...regular. I see artists who have collectives to boost their egos. Like, 'I'm in such and such collective, you should bow down to me'. But, with us, we're all just regular people."
Perhaps you've tuned in to TYFNS radio, bumped some of the Soundcloud playlists, or peeped one of our many video interviews with local musicians and artists. However they've hooked you, this relatively young community of writers, photographers, and various artists of virtually infinite interests have remained quiet and unassuming.
Given the community mantra, "Say Less", it makes sense. I think. Maybe. Saying less is something I battle with as a writer. In the context of a blog, however, I found the motto incredibly poignant. Though the phrase, as explained to me by Adam, was used to suggest you're already on the same page with someone (ex. "Yo, there's free Rita's in the student union" and one would respond "Say less. I been copped."), I started to imagine it in relation to the community TYFNS ultimately strives to create.
Until I realized I had little idea what TYFNS strives toward ultimately at all. If there even exists some ulterior motive...or nah? Does Yanni plan to dethrone Complex or just troll the interwebs with a merry band of anti-hipsters?
I do know TYFNS' coverage centers largely around "underground" musicians and emcees in DC, Maryland, and Virginia. I thought of "say less" as a culture of saying "no" and, if not "no", then "that's enough". It's rationing; curating your worldview with less shit that people think should be on and more shit you know should be on.
Long story short, I text Yanni (@YanniTsunami), TYFNS' founder, a couple weeks back to ask if she'd be willing to let me conduct a series of bi-weekly dialogues between TYFNS' core team and herself, and we're here.
The format is not so traditional/narrative-driven, the topics are ever-changing, and the goal is to discover, given the overwhelming (and often useless) information from television, advertisements, and the Web, ways we can create a culture of saying less and less being more.
I start with the basics: "how'd you get here?". I'm anxious and unprepared, having just finished interviews with TYFNS Creative Director, Merima, and local visual artist Saadiq Tafari.
Yanni appears out of nowhere and passes Merms an extended blunt. As when any blunt is lit, a crowd begins to form. A small circle of TYFNS members and friends kicking it outside the Emergence Community Art Collective where Novice Magazine and Filthy Rich Kids put on an art show.
I've had very few personal interactions with Yanni. On Twitter, her confident, matter-of-fact tone and genuine lack of a fuck may give her an intimidating persona. I only ever hit her for blog related things but, surrounded by all of her friends, I get a sense of her compassionate side.
Her responses to my questions are similar to our digital interactions, straight to the point and unfiltered.
"I noticed that a lot of stuff was getting put on in this area and I was just...no. So I started a blog. Kahri texts me like 'I'm 'bout to start a blog, can I use that name. And I'm like 'fuck no! We could do something together." Kahri is situated next to her in the cypher laughing nostalgically with another blunt in hand.
I prod for more, asking Yanni about her “snooping process”; how she gets herself hip to new trends and music if she no longer trusted blogs. She cites sites like Hypetrak and Junkfood, etc...and then states that she began questioning the validity of the blogs’ opinions after realizing all the blogs were playing the same music when she initially went to each one for a particular genre.
"Then, I just started following people on Soundcloud and Twitter”.
Yanni, unwittingly or not, alludes to a phenomenon ubiquitous in post-capitalistic societies; in which, given the power the internet allows for people to publish without a distributor or middle-man, larger industries no longer have the capacity to withhold or grant access to information. So she cuts out all the bullshit corporate politics of “tastemakers” and makes her own.
I notice TYFNS’ creation story seems more a happy accident than an intentionally crafted brand. I try to glean some of Yanni’s plans for growth. “I wasn’t really expecting this to grow into something big. Not in a year, at least.”
She’s only twenty years old and, I realize, I’m also twenty years old and I’m leaning on these steps, more or less smacked, interrogating a peer on business models for a blog based on episode of Aaron McGruder's The Boondocks.
If that sounds ridiculous, it is. Thankfully, Yanni has an innate ability to simplify and reduce. Devoid of pretense, every interaction with her really is just kicking it with the homie. But, dire and dramatic as is I am, I continue pushing the conversation in the direction of long-term goals.
I bring up TYFNS’ popularity and potential as not merely a hobby but a potentially self-sustaining entity and she, again, diffuses the intensity of the subject with...well, less. Not wanting to inhibit the session with a barrage of questions, I end on the topic of plans. Her plans.
“I always wanted to get into media. I majored in Mass Comm. at Delaware State and I’ve always wanted to do video stuff but it takes so much patience. But when I started this blog and realized I can do this video stuff and I could make money off of this and I don’t have to work for anybody. You’re already doing this shit, you don’t have to go to school for it’.”
That last bit may have been directed to me...or maybe the circle as a whole? Or is she talking to herself. Or you. But I'll say less.