If you were at Nipsey Hussle’s show at The Warfield in San Francisco, chances are you saw him bring Lil Yee out to the stage (alongside fellow Bay Area rapper Prezi). Real recognize real from the Bay to LA — the cosign doesn’t get any bigger than this on the West Coast. Read more…
Beyond the love, Yee remembers Nip’s greatest advice: “treat the rap like your bitch. You gotta talk to her every day. No matter how fly you is, if you’re not consistent in talking to your girl, someone else is going to talk to her.”
Growing up on the streets of Fillmore means reeling in real-life experiences, often times attached with a rollercoaster of emotions. From pain to love to loyalty to sacrifice to success, you hear it all in his most recent project, Live 4 It, Die 4 It. In fact, it’s baffling to think real name Stacey Gilton only started rapping 3 years ago — partly due to the birth of his twin daughters.
Where do you fit in this rap game?
I fit with the real. Don’t necessarily hate on nobody with the bubblegum rapping shit, but I spit real rap. Lyrical content. I come with emotion, pain. I bring something different. I tell my life story in all my music.
You’re from Fillmore, how does that play into your life and career?
I grew up in Fillmore, the Western Addition. It’s like every hood in America. There’s nothing I didn’t get exposed to, nothing I don’t know about. Some people might see San Francisco different. Like they say, the world’s the ghetto. [laughs] Anything can happen.
What does the Hyphy movement mean to you?
I grew up on the Hyphy movement. That’s legendary. I’m a little different though, a little stirred away from the Hyphy movement. Because when you hear artists from the Bay Area, they expect a sound from us. I stirred away from that, making my own lane, my own sound.
At what point did you realize this music thing was for real?
I actually dropped a couple songs, they hit a million views. I’m like “damn, it’s happening before my eyes.” I had talks with a couple of my OGs, older people who looked out for me. They told me I got it and it’s time to take it to the next level. When I first dropped, I was streaming high, got couple million views, but I wasn’t necessarily a rapper. I was just shaking ground.
Like damn, I’m going places and people seeing me, that shit’s weird. I’ve gotten used to it in the last couple years. I conquered the Bay. You can be a star in the Bay, you know? Now, it’s time to be a star in the world. Global, universal.
When did you pick up Lil Yee?
Shit, my dad’s name is Big Yee. Y-E-E. My real name is Stacey. Yee was a name given to me being my dad’s son. Where he got it… who knows. [laughs]
You just dropped Live 4 It, Die 4 It. How has the fan reception been?
It’s been going crazy, they loving it. I got a cool fan base, I’m trying to expand and get more fans. Right now, I’m just working. Staying down for the come up. I know it’s gon’ come pretty soon. Live 4 It, Die 4 It, tune in if you don’t got it yet. Some dope shit all the way through.
I see Lil Pete on “Sacrifice.”
Lil Pete, that’s my blood cousin. We got the same last name, same grandparents.
Was he rapping before you?
He wasn’t doing it before, he wanted to do rap before me fasho. He always carried himself like he wanted to be a rapper, but we both came up together at the same time. I don’t really look at it like that, that’s my little cousin. He rap, I rap, we all rap. We come from a family with a musical background.
Pete’s another artist where he’ll drop a video and it’ll get a million views. What’s your guys’ secret? What gets people clicking?
Honestly, I really don’t know. If I knew the secret, I’d do it every time. Some people attach to different music. It’s all off yourself really. In the universe, whatever you put in is what you get out. I come with good positive vibes, strong painful music. I rap on every level. Done did Hyphy songs, all types of songs. Really try to give the world what they want and stay true to myself.
What is it that you sacrificed?
Everything. Day to day life. You go outside and can get killed. Anything can happen. Nobody knows the future, but every day’s a sacrifice really. You can sacrifice a lot of things. A lot of people sacrifice a lot of things in life.
On “Out Of Breath,” you talk about “losing focus, fuck this music shit.” Talk about the journey of an independent artist.
Aw man, it’s ups and downs. If you don’t feel like you’re the best, then I don’t know what you do it for. I feel like I’m the best. Sometimes when I hear people say “I’m better than him,” I got people in my corner that would never let that go to my head. Every time you get to quick peak, you’re like “man that shit’s watered down.” Then you go past that. At the end of the day, I had a passion for music before I was a rapper. I’m doing what I love. I could never let what someone else is doing control my destiny or mind. Or how many numbers they’re doing. I never got into the number game because my passion for music is bigger than that.
Talk about getting a verse from The Jacka. RIP.
My big cousin Boo Banga, he a Bay area legend too. He was rapping for a minute. Bang got a whole tape with The Jacka, that’s going to be legendary. He end up blessing me with that, I just took it and ran with it. It was beautiful.
What was your reaction when The Jacka passed?
He was like how Nipsey is out here. Same shit, he was one of them strong cats out the Bay. Jacka stood for a lot. He had a lot of people behind him. Strong fan base. He was ahead of his time really. You know how they say the real die young? That’s why I be trying to stay lowkey. Stay out the way for real.
What is it you want fans to get from your story?
That you’re not going through it by yourself. I know there’s people that go through way worse shit then I go through. If you can relate to my story, if you did lose somebody you love — I lost my mother. She passed away from cancer. I can relate to a lot of people who lost their mom. I rap about death a lot because I want to make you comfortable with it. It’s a part of life. In order to excel and go to the next part of life, you gotta accept that. You gotta prepare for it at all times. I rap about the pain, the struggles, just life. Not necessarily only my life, I rap about shit I seen coming up in my neighborhood.
What are some goals yourself as an artist at this point of your career?
Right now, it’s really focusing on myself and creating a whole wave. A different lane for me and the Bay Area itself. People come to the Bay and want that sound, that Hyphy, that dance. I want to show the world we got that, and we also got real artists who spit real lyrics and content. I want to give them that part. Everybody in my whole camp, including Pete, we all on the same shit.
How did you get the @yee handle?
Pops. From my dad. He’s been running around with Yee since about ‘99. [laughs] OG.
How important is social media for your career?
Honestly, I was never really been big on social media. But at this point, it runs the world. The internet runs the world right now. It’s 90% of any rapper’s career. It used to be motherfuckers get fresh, go to the block and try to show off their shit to knock a bitch. Now, it’s get fresh and go to Instagram. The whole social media runs the world so if you’re not on that, then you losing. Period. When I snapped in, I’m like “I gotta get on the Gram, I gotta get crackin’.” Gotta get my followers up, I gotta catch up.
Who’s your favorite person to follow?
I follow all type of shit. I’m a big sports head, I follow a lot of sports. As far as rappers, I fuck with Meek Mill, Nip. I fuck with motherfuckers who are pure souls. People who make that music that can touch your soul.
3 things you need in the studio?
Water, a good beat, and good energy. I like when people respond to my music in the studio with me. Let me know. I don’t want no watered down ass “oh, you just here ‘cause I got a little clout and you wanna dickride.” I ain’t with none of that. That shit ain’t sounding right, let me know. Definitely good vibes.
What’s the best encounter you had with a fan?
I signed somebody’s two shoes, titties, all type of shit one time. It was crazy. I was getting some Wingstop at 12 in the morning. It was a group of people like “oh shit, that’s Yee!” I tried to brush off, go hella quick. The girls jumped out all on me” “can we get your autograph?” I signed 4 pairs of shoes. That shit was funny as hell. At the same time, it was humbling for me like “damn, I really got fans.” My top moment as far as being a rapper fasho.