The first time Clash meets YADi, it’s oddly reminiscent of that bit in Sister Act 2 where Sister Mary Robert walks in on a young Lauryn Hill singing ‘His Eye Is On The Sparrow’ at a piano. Unexpected and special - the kind of moment where you don’t realise you’re holding your breath until after it’s done; and inside the cozy darkness of Downtown Records’ recording studios, metres away from the bitterly cold New York City streets, that moment was waiting. Clash opened the door to reveal the stripped-back sound of a grand piano playing an old Isley Brothers sample (the same one used by J Dilla in ‘So Far To Go’) and YADi, eyes closed, adlibbing over the top of the notes with such ease it felt as though she’d been momentarily possessed by the soul of an artist much older.
This is her first time in New York and she’s here working with one half of Chiddy Bang, Noah Beresin, on some new tracks - including the aforementioned R&B-infused slow jam. Nodding enthusiastically to himself, Noah spent his time whilst Clash were present repeatedly tweaking the beat over the studio speakers, openly playing with levels and asking the opinion of others in the room. Booked up with daily studio sessions, YADi “didn’t really get to see much of New York… but I got to see all the local spots which is the best thing about it really - I just kind of soaked up the people more than the place.”
Sounding like the lovechild of Kate Bush and Jessie Ware, YADi’s voice easily commands her brand of syncopated, percussion-heavy soul pop. She can really sing, and never is this more apparent than when she performs live. Reeling off a genre-breaking list of influences, she sums it up with: “I love Prince, and just great singers, really.” With a seemingly endless ceiling to her vocal range, YADi’s young back-catalogue leaps across various keys and octaves, building and releasing pressure whilst fooling you into thinking it might be easy to sing along to... Freshly released debut single ‘The Blow’ is a prime example, and the accompanying video seems to carry a little more personality than being just a pretty visual: “We filmed it out in Casablanca and there’s loads of kids in the video who I became really good buddies with, I’m really looking forward to them seeing it! I’m also looking to do some touring in North Africa as well, There’s a real little hub of youth culture in Casablanca and there’s lots of kids who are into their fashion and music who’ve started these really cool blogs and there just seems to be a little bit of a buzz going on there so I’d really like to go.”
We’re back in London now, YADi at her kitchen table, hair tied up and adorned with flowers like Frida Kahlo. She looks like spring as she sips tea between sentences, talking about her last night in NYC. “I just met Chris Baio from Vampire Weekend; he came to the Brooklyn Bowl, which was cool - he’s just done a remix of ‘Unbreakable’ for me… And then [Hot Chip’s] Joe Goddard’s done a remix of ‘The Blow’ and he was playing just down the road from me, at the same time as me in Brooklyn, so it was really weird…”
With well-respected musicians flocking around to remix her tracks and heading out into the snow to watch her perform live, it’s pretty much a given that this girl has more substance than most. She’s playing it cool though: “I still obviously need to, you know, break London first...”
Words And Photography: Hayley Louisa Brown