Africa Rising star Yaw Tog joins Nadeska on Apple Music 1 to discuss his debut EP, ‘Time’, working with Stormzy, how Pop Smoke influenced him, and more. Plus, for Africa Month, Nadeska celebrates Umoja—the Swahili term for togetherness and unity—bringing together the best collaborations from across the continent. Emawk joins ‘R&B Now’ to talk about how his upbringing shaped him musically, why he likes to release two-packs instead of singles, and working on ‘Gone’ with Jorja Smith. Plus, Maeta joins the show to discuss her EP, Habits, challenges she’s faced, working with Kaytranada, taking pride in her accomplishments, and wanting to perform her music live.
Yaw Tog on seeing the song ‘Sore’ blow up: Yeah I was very, very happy because it was my first hit to the world. And I didn’t even imagine how the song would blow to that extent, you feel me? And I was on pressure too, you feel me? Cause, I felt like yo, let me bring more hits, more bangers to the world, you feel me?
Yaw Tog on being influenced by Pop Smoke: “The Drill in here is called Asakaa. I think early 2020 then I started doing Drill, you feel me? And there was Pop Smoke, that made me start being in Drill. I was doing um, normal Hip Hop, Afrobeats, you feel me? So when I, when I heard Pop Smoke’s song, I felt like, no this thing is hot, I need to do this Drill thing you feel me? That’s where the story came up and we did everything hot, you feel me?”The flow, how he controls the beat, how he writes on the beat yo, attitude, Everything about Pop.
Yaw Tog on Stormzy reaching out for a collab: “I was very, very, very overwhelmed. I was jumping, hearing that, I was very, very happy you see. Cause it was my first time Stormzy hits me up and I couldn’t even think of like, why Stormzy coming on my track? Cause I thought Stormzy was like, a big, big, artist and I didn’t even imagine like, yo Stormzy is coming down for me? I was very happy, very happy, big shouts out to Stormzy though.”
Yaw Tog on the support he gets from Ghana: “Everybody was supporting me, they were happy. First I’m putting my neighborhood on, I’m making my family proud so they were supporting, they really appreciate everything I’m doing.”
Emawk on how his upbringing shaped him musically: “I just listened to whatever it was my friends and family were listening to. So Sundays you go to church so gospel music was on heavy rotaion at the time this is like when I pods were still becoming the thing so like you sit next to one person on the bus, they give you an earphone and you listen to whatever it is they’re listening to. You know, and it just goes like that. You know cousins in different spots listen to different kinds of music and so it was like, it was a very nice education without even purposely being like okay we’re going to try and show you all this music. So it was just part of my life you know.”
Emawk on how he came up with his stage name: “I didn’t actually. It came up twice. Once in eighth grade uh, shout out to Joshua Burner he was like “yo, your name actually sounds pretty cool backwards.” And I was like Okay. And then happened again in 12th grade where uh another dude Luis McOley was like “yo, like your name actually sounds pretty cool backwards.” So when I was starting up like my soundcloud profile in like 2012 I was like let’s try Emok. And that was that about that.”
Emawk on his Berklee college background helping him: “It’s wow like because I mean it’s one thing to just enjoy listening to music and then it’s another to like study it where it’s like you’re going in to detail about alright this is why this works. This is why this doesn’t work. This is what most people like in certain settings. So like, for awhile like it was super just technical just trying to get technique down. Especially when I graduated like I had to just hang out with friends and get back in to that whole I pod thing and just listen to what people were listening to. To get that love back. But um, but I’ve very much appreciated the experience ’cause there’s so many talented musicians that I got to meet and some are still my friends, you know, some have made their way in to the music industry and they’re doing pretty well for themselves and it’s like, it’s cool because it’s like Ahhh I remember you from like first class you know, gear training and like now you’re like producing for so and so and it’s like wow. So, yeah I definitely appreciated the experience.”
Emawk on why he likes to release two-packs instead of singles now: “Well when I kind of made the singles you know, two I you know, it’s not like B sides, B sides aren’t a thing that people like don’t do them for whatever reason. And then like I think with both songs it’s like I liked looking at them as like two sides of the same coin. Like, this is shout out to Lupe Fiasco he did like Kick Push and Kick Push 2 and like that concept was like so cool to me and I was like yeah I’m gonna play around with that. So just the idea of that this is the more easily accessible version and then like this is like everything else that I may have wanted to say that I didn’t’ say in this one song.”
Emawk on working with Jorja Smith on the song, ‘Gone’.: I was hella nervous that session. Like, it was, it was one of those things where I was like “yo, I’m sitting here being in a suite with Jorga Smith, I’m not sure how to carry myself but like, she was mad kind. Rocky the producer was mad kind. I don’t remember the name of the engineer but he was also mad kind and they made for a really safe space in terms of just working on music. And I was, you know I found out with everybody else. I was like “oh S___” this is gonna be coming out. It’s dope. I think what makes collaboration something that I’m warming up to more, is the fact that it’s just like other people like me working on music and living life and going through their ups and downs and we just happened to come together for the period as long as we’ve come together to share ideas. That’s that’s what usually calms me down so that I can enjoy learning from everybody that I get to work with.
Maeta on the background behind her EP, ‘Habits’: “I feel like when I think about my old projects, I was like a little girl, and I think I’ve gone through so much since then. I started Habits two years ago, the whole project’s about toxicity and toxic relationships. I was in a horrible toxic relationship, I’ve started, okay, I don’t know if- if I should say that. But like, my sex life got a little crazier, and I just kind of got introduced to all those things, so all the best stuff just kind of comes out in the project, and it’s been like, honestly, therapy for me the past two years through this relationship. And, yeah, it kind of just is about all the aspects of relationships, like there’s songs about happiness, sex, I’m pissed in some songs, you know, just kind of everything. But, yeah.”
Maeta on the significance of her upbringing: “For sure. My parents have always let all of me and my siblings do whatever we wanted in life. I’ve been singing my whole life. Like, that’s always been a story. I saw some videos recently of my family, we did like a fake band, and I would not get out of the front. Everyone was cussing me out, because I just wanted all the attention And I guess I still am the same way, but I’ve always wanted to be a singer, I’ve never had a plan B, and my parents kind of just like sacrificed a lot and paid for so many plane tickets and took me to so many meetings or whatever, to get here, and thank God I never gave up, because I’m- I’m starting to make my way, I feel like? But, yeah, I mean, I’ve always been the singer, even at school, I was always known as the girl that’s just always singing.”
Maeta on the challenges she’s faced: “Honestly, I don’t think I realized how hard it was gonna be. Like, this has been my dream since I was so little so that’s like honestly all I care about, so I was willing to leave everything I knew and move to LA. But when I got here, I was in a super small apartment in Koreatown, I had no friends, barely any money, so it was really hard and really depressing, to be honest. And it’s been really hard to find friends in LA, but I feel like I’m starting to make my way. But it was really, really tough. I’m grateful that I did it, and I encourage people to take that risk if they have their dreams they wanna follow. You have to be uncomfortable to grow and excel.”
Maeta on the pride she takes in her accomplishments: “I think that I’m seeing the work kind of pay off. sometimes the work doesn’t feel like anything’s happening, but right now, it’s like it feels so good to make my people from Indiana proud. I feel like I’ve been working but they haven’t really seen it, and now it’s kind of like they can see what I’ve been doing since I left home, because I- I think people kind of feel like I disappeared. But I have a lot of messages of people from Indiana being like, “We’re so proud of you, you make us proud,” all that stuff, so it feels really good. I feel like my work is paying off, and I’m kind of seeing it, you know? You know what I’m saying?”
Maeta on the experience working with Keytranada: “The beat was done, I got in with a writer named Rook Monroe, I was in a lot of stuff with him, and we just kind of talked about Indiana, it’s a- that song’s about leaving home, like leaving the teen scene behind, I guess, that’s the lyrics. But- so we just talked about my life, and then, yeah, it was all really smooth. It all happened during COVID, so I never got to meet KAYTRANADA, I still haven’t met him yet. Everything was just sent over emails and stuff. And then, somebody on my team had the idea to get Buddy on it, and then I got with Buddy, and that happened. So it- it was a process, each step happened like separately, it kind of took a few months, but it ended up amazing, I love it so much, everybody loves it, I love the video, and I’m- I’m really proud of that song.”
On wanting to perform her music live: “Okay. If touring is a thing ever again- I would love to open up for somebody. I’ve never really gotten to perform my songs live, because right when that s- kind of started, COVID happened and everything just got shut down. So, I’m just- I just wanna tour and perform. I’ve been wor- rehearsing a lot, and I have my band, and I’m just excited to actually do it in front of people. So, yeah, I wanna just tour. That’s- that’s what I’m looking forward to.”