Yatta Bandz is willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for his fans. On an individual level, the importance of writing while healing is cathartic for the Bay Area product. Themes of self-loathing and the roots of Yatta’s vulnerability echo throughout the music, but his toothy grin over Zoom tells a different story.
“I’m a different type of person when it comes to tapping into my emotions,” he tells Dirty Glove Bastard. “That’s the only way I can make it real – if I relive the moments that I feel like hurt me.” The average person might not agree with Yatta’s approach, but his words make you stop and listen. When the young scribe sings, his melodic delivery leaves a lasting impression. He envelops listeners with ultra-relatable songwriting, and his latest offering Tuff Luv, out now, is a rich tapestry of emotions that pierces through the center of heartbreak.
Each revisit to his traumatic past unlocks a deeper understanding of the impermanence of love. Every attempt brings him closer to unraveling the complicated feelings he tries so hard to make sense of. In that delicate dance, Yatta finds solace in knowing that his music helps people heal. Even if that means repeating the same mistake over and over again, slipping into those dark corners of his mind, an unbreakable smile makes it clear that he welcomes the pain: “If I gotta open up my wound a little bit and give a piece of myself so you can start healing yours, ‘cause it’s still open, I love doing that.”
Ahead of Yatta’s latest album, DGB spoke to the heartbreak hero about growing up in the Bay Area, the first time his heart was broken, the meaning behind Tuff Luv, the need for vulnerability in his music, and more.
DGB: For starters, talk to me about life in the Bay Area. What was it like growing up?
Yatta Bandz: I grew up in Hayward, California. For the most part, when I was younger, we was bouncing around the Bay, staying all over. Staying with family members and shit. That’s when life was hard, though. I wanna say the Bay Area definitely made me the kind of person that I am today. Everything that I went through… I feel like the Bay is a big part of the reason why I’m like this. I got it in me.
DGB: Can you recall the moment you were first introduced to hip-hop?
Yatta Bandz: A big moment for me was one day when we had just stopped living with my grandma. Right when we moved to Hayward and started staying at our new place… I just remember hearing hella screaming coming from where my parents room was. I heard choppy yelling and I creeped into the room – I remember seeing my pops and my uncles surrounding this one mic, making a whole ass song. That’s before I knew what an adlib was. I just thought they were sitting there yelling and shit. Right then, at that moment, I wanted to do music.
DGB: How old were you at that time?
Yatta Bandz: I think I was like seven.
DGB: Did you grow up in a musical family?
Yatta Bandz: Them weekends at nana’s she used to have me up in the morning helping her clean. She would always have the oldies on. My pops was always playing old school jams. Especially when it came to the new rap, that’s how I started getting into Lil Wayne, Gucci Mane, T.I. A lot of songs I feel like people my age might not know, I feel like I know because of my family.
DGB: Outside of your immediate family, were Lil Wayne, Gucci Mane and some of the other artists you mentioned who influenced you to make music?
Yatta Bandz: Definitely Lil Wayne, but his influence on me was more so about writing. When I would hear how he used wordplay, I’ve never heard anyone use words like that so I always want to incorporate that into my music. Drake, I feel like he had one of the biggest influences on me because he uses certain melodies on certain beats and how he can navigate his way through songs. Make different types of songs and stay versatile. I feel like [Drake] has a blueprint when it comes to how to navigate the industry shit.
DGB: For you, how important is melody in hip-hop?
Yatta Bandz: It’s not everything but melodies play a big part in music. You can hear someone humming something and you’ll feel it. You don’t even gotta say words.
DGB: What is your favorite part about making music? Is it writing the hook, coming up with the melody – what makes it fun for you?
Yatta Bandz: I think the melody part, because once I get to humming (finding where to go through the beat), I get so happy. [Laughs] I ain’t gon’ lie.
DGB: When it comes to creating, have you perfected your process at this point?
Yatta Bandz: I wouldn’t even say I’ve perfected it yet because I still surprise myself. I’m still learning as I go. Definitely feel like I’m getting better.
DGB: Another thing you’re learning on the fly is how to love, and what that looks like for you. Do you remember the first time your heart was broken?
Yatta Bandz: First time I was heartbroken, I ain’t gon’ lie, I feel like it was middle school. I just wanna say, this was a girl I really cared about. You know when you’re young, you find someone and wish that it would last forever, like puppy love. I put my all into her at that very young age and it definitely didn’t go the way I thought it would. It left me in a very sad place. I just used it as motivation to write songs. I couldn’t just sit around and be sad about the shit.
DGB: I would ask how that experience changed you but it sounds like it’s part of your origin story as an artist.
Yatta Bandz: I seen a lot of people get heartbroken about something that could really tear their whole world down. I want people to know: life gon’ get hard, and things gon’ happen, but it’s not only happening to you. Why let that negative thing drag your life down when you can use that for something positive. I feel like changing your perspective can help you a lot in life.
DGB: Is that the overarching theme with your most recent project, Tuff Luv? Learning how to deal with life when things don’t go as planned.
Yatta Bandz: Most definitely. It’s gon’ get tough but love is still gon’ be love. It’s about how you navigate through those emotions and still be the best version of yourself.
DGB: Why is [love] so important to you? That’s a common interest across your catalog – the desire for a meaningful connection with someone else.
Yatta Bandz: Love is one of the craziest things I’ve ever heard of. Love can make someone do things they never thought. You can know someone for years and think they’d never do one thing, they fall in love and the next thing you know they do it. I feel like love just changes your perspective on a lot of things. It could be a positive change or a very negative change, it just depends on your experience. That right there, love, is something that we all have in common as people. Love, pain, all those things bring us closer together – and that’s what I’m tryna do with my music.
DGB: Is it hard for you to balance being vulnerable with complete strangers and knowing when to keep certain things to yourself?
Yatta Bandz: It’s draining but when I’m writing, I’m usually by myself. That’s when I’m in my own zone. Usually, when I’m out, I don’t look depressed or sad all the time. When it comes to my music and I get in my zone, that’s where I let all of it out, so I can be cool when I’m in other places. When I’m writing, it gets dark.
DGB: When it gets dark, do you tap into another version of yourself?
Yatta Bandz: I wouldn’t say it’s another personality, but I’m a different type of person when it comes to tapping into my emotions. That’s the only way I can make it real – if I relive moments that I feel like hurt me. The moments I can look back on that made me, I can’t run from it. Why not face it head on and help other people when they listen to my music. It’s like we all healing together.
DGB: What keeps you going back to your dark days? It’s like you’re peeling the band-aid off and poking at the wound for fun.
Yatta Bandz: What motivates me is that I want people to know it’s possible to do that. If you go through shit and you’re sad, and you wanna make heartbreaking music, you can do that. You don’t have to be a sad person and live in that realm. For me, it’s about tryna influence others. My motivation lies in tryna get others to see what I’m doing. Especially when I read fans’ comments and they tell me, ‘Your music has helped me through this,’ those [messages] really hit ‘cause when you’re listening to my music, it’s making you a better person. If I gotta open up my wound a little bit and give a piece of myself so you can start healing yours, ‘cause it’s still open, I love doing that.
DGB: Is that what makes the journey worthwhile for you? Knowing that you’re helping other people by telling your story, and healing together.
Yatta Bandz: By the time I leave this earth, I want people to remember me in a way where it’s like… they always gon’ carry a piece of me (and a piece of my music) because I was able to help them. I feel like that’s the most powerful effect you can have on a person.