Belgian artist YellowStraps has a unique approach to songwriting. His deft neo-soul fusion has attracted a raft of guest collaborators, melding together murky hip-hop beats with some scintillating electronics.
Open to collaboration, he sings from the heart, his message enrapturing all who hear it. New album ‘tentcacle’ is out now, constructed by all manner of voices – but the one that rings out purest of all is YellowStraps’ own.
Material that dissects “the paradox of love”, he goes a little deeper with his lyricism. “You know it’s beautiful and amazing but you also know it can be a struggle and be painful at the same time. That’s what the whole album depicts.”
Recent single ‘flowin’ boasts a guest spot from London underground rap guru Sam Wise, while ‘MERCI’ affords space to Roméo Elvis and Swing, fellow luminaries from Belgium’s rap scene.
Honduran producer Trooko infuses ‘clouds’ with some Latin swing, while French pianist Sofiane Pamart illuminates ‘blue’.
In this exclusive track-by-track guide, YellowStraps breaks down the complexities of his new album.
This it the first song that led me into discovering a new vibe that I never tried before! It actually opened my mind and helped me to be more creative and try new stuff! I remember we were in the Redbull Studio in Berlin and one morning when we arrived in the studio i started jamming on their huge marimba and I instantly played that melody that we actually recorded with a phone. I thought it was nice then I recorded vocals and for me the way everything matched together was pretty magical.
The creation of that song was quite spontaneous too! I was home with my bass player Victor Defoort and a friend of ours (keyboard player) called Elvin Galland. I had in my mind this kind of vibe and they got the idea real quickly! Reason why it was really comfortable for me to write the song! Vibe is pretty deep mysterious and a little bit dark. To fit the general theme of the album i wrote a song about trying everything you can to save your relationship but you keep on facing your own thoughts until you have no clue what to do next.
MERCI (feat. Roméo Elvis & Swing)
I don’t usually write in French but since it was a collaboration with friends of mine Roméo Elvis & Swing, I thought it was the right moment to do it. This one is about love but in a different way! It’s about us, as musicians, keeping on doing what we love and loving what we do even though you can burn your wings if you push it too far
This song is the one that definitely settled the main vibe and the sound of the album!
It was also the first time we did a song in the studio together with my manager Jad El Alam! Something special happened! I remember I was really excited to create more after that one!
It talks about a relationship that has fallen apart for a while and one of them realise it’s just because they took everything backwards…
CLOUDS (feat. Trooko)
This is definitely the song I struggled the most with! It took me so much time to find the right top-line, to find a melody I was happy with! I really wanted to have that one on the album because it was the first time I tried that kind of vibe! I loved that beat from Trooko so much that i really needed to find something!
This one talks about how toxic it could be to live through your partner instead of just being you and stay true to who you really are.
This one was the very last song I wrote for the album! We created that one again together with my manager Jad when we were supposed to finish the album. We were quite late to finish the whole songs but this one was definitely needful for the album! I found the toplines and some of the lyrics in a hotel room in Paris during a live residency and I finished writing the song in Seoul! I love its pureness, its intensity and for me it depicts perfectly the paradox of love.
SMOOVE SHIT (interlude)
This interlude is a beat my brother started making few years ago and Victor joined on the bass with a groove that perfectly fit the laidback vibe! Really felt for me as nice ‘pause’ on the album when you listen to it from the start! The couple argue sound in the background was added later to fit the main subject of the album.
This is probably the most hybrid song i’ve ever made! We had that idea in the studio together with Jad to have something more deep and powerful than usual using those distorted heavy synths as the main melody! This one talks about suicidal thoughts that you can sometimes have while you’re struggling with life and you’re going through hard times! Feelings that shouldn’t feel right but i felt it was important to talk about it
BLUE (feat. Sofiane Pamart)
This is the first song I ever did entirely in French! I think this one describes the most the paradox of love! It’s pretty chill easy and fluent when there’s any feelings involved but it becomes stressful and messy as soon as there’s feelings and love! Which for me should be the opposite
I felt that I had a lot of deep songs on the album talking about struggles etc and I wanted to have a more chill vibe too! This one talks about someone being in love with someone else for a while but never had the courage to make a move. Suddenly he feels that it’s the moment to tell his feelings to that person! He feels that it’s tonight or never…
WRITER’S BLOCK (feat. Blu Samu)
We made this song during lockdown with Blu Samu and she was going through emotional struggles at that time facing break up issues! The song talks about having a writer’s block and you still stuck because you think too much about the person you’re breaking up with! I remember it was really intense and she cried while recording the song and after I recorded my part I felt exactly the same without even being in that situation.
‘Headown’ is a song that talks about someone trying to live with the remorse of adultery! He knows he acted like that because his relation was going bad and he asks himself if he should keep his head down or just live with it and move forward.
FLOWIN (feat. Sam Wise)
I feel like this one particularly ends up the album pretty well! The lyrics of the chorus are: “Love is a torture, you keep on flowing until you’re lost, I lost my love…”
If I have to summarise the album in only one sentence I would say:
Love is a torture, but I still love…