Meet King Yosef: Producer-Screamer on Mission to Be "the Entombed" of Underground Hip-Hop | Revolver

Meet King Yosef: Producer-Screamer on Mission to Be "the Entombed" of Underground Hip-Hop

Musician talks working with Billboard Hot 100 rappers, merging hardcore, industrial noise and brooding SoundCloud rap
kingyosef_credit_ryan_mckinnon.jpg, Ryan McKinnon
King Yosef
photograph by Ryan McKinnon

"There's a lot of Asking Alexandrias in the community right now," says Northwest-based screamer-beatmaker King Yosef of the booming world of SoundCloud rap. "I'm trying to be more of the Entombed to the Asking Alexandrias."

The music of Tayves Yosef Pelletier is more extreme and closer to the bleeding edge than most of today's internet-grown hip-hop. Though he's produced songs for Billboard Hot 100–charting rap artists like the late XXXTentacion and Ski Mask the Slump God, Yosef animates the lo-fi, blown-out brood-scuzz of SoundCloud rap with the vein-popping screams of hardcore and the mechanical noise of industrial. At 21, he's already been on a Top 40 album (XXX's 2017 mixtape Revenge) and remixed former Crystal Castles vocalist Alice Glass for a 12-inch. 

Yosef grew up in Medford, Oregon, which he describes as "a lot of people chewing tobacco and ... shooting guns. ... Southern Oregon's not very culturally thriving per se. Up until 10 years ago, it was the meth capital of the U.S. It's pretty much a Kid Rock album."

His stepfather was an aspiring MC in an Oregon rap group — Yosef says the first CD he remembers owning was Mac Dre's 2004 hyphy totem Ronald Dregan: Dreganomics — but he soon became enamored with metal. As a teenage guitarist, he cycled through metal- core and hardcore bands, tried to make EDM tracks on his laptop and skipped school to play music with older kids. He moved to Vancouver, Washington, (near Portland) shortly after his 18th birthday with the intentions of being a beatmaker.

"I honestly had kind of, like, not fallen away from hardcore by any means, but at that time, it didn't really feel like my band was doing anything," says Yosef. "Making hip-hop stuff, I didn't have to just play breakdowns on the guitar, or do vocals about who knows what. That was just, like, redundant to me at that time."

Fellow beatmaker Prxphet hipped Yosef to the rap music emerging on SoundCloud, including Swedish polymath Yung Lean and Michigan emo-rap precursor Bones — Yosef loved that Bones wore a Burzum shirt in the video for 2014's "Corduroy." "It almost felt like a sound off for, 'You're allowed to like metal music and make rap music at the same time.'" 

Prxphet offered to show Yosef "this dude who yells over rap beats," which turned out to be a 57-second scream sesh by future chart-topping rapper (and, eventually, notorious subject of domestic abuse allegations) XXXTentacion.

"I was like, 'Wow. I'm so fucking into this. This is so sick. This is carrying so much energy. It's so angry. It's so aggressive for being rap music,'" says Yosef.

He started sending XXXTentacion his beats, including what would ultimately become 2016's "Failure Is Not an Option" — a song that samples Entombed's 2007 death locomotive Serpent Saints — The Ten Amendments. That year Yosef also uploaded a track called "What" onto his SoundCloud, annotated with an apology to the producer and eventual pal prxz, whose beat he borrowed without permission. It read: "I'm not a rapper and I play in a band, so I just yelled on a beat."

Yosef offered XXXTentacion a place to crash for his Portland show, and the hospitality quickly turned into a songwriting session. During his short life (he was just 20 when he was shot to death last year), X had pronounced his love for rock bands like Papa Roach, Slipknot and the Fray, but Yosef was into the heavier stuff. "Those vocals are a first time for him," says Yosef of X's hardcore growls on "King." "It was me, for, like, 10 minutes before that, trying to show him how to breathe from his diaphragm to do traditional vocals. I was like, 'You don't yell from your throat. If it hurts, you're doing it wrong. You shouldn't be doing it that way.' And so we sat there, just 'uhh'-ing at each other for, like, 10 minutes. It's hilarious to think about now." 

Soon after, Yosef started releasing more and more of his own music, a gnashing fuzz-pound that started with him yelling over other producers' beats, and eventually settled into his current style — a mix of hardcore yowl, industrial grime and hip-hop groove. He describes his lyrics as about "self-doubt, hate, situations with shitty people" and the occasional shot at posers and bandwagon-jumpers.

"I've been playing music for 11 years of my life now, and it's frustrating for me sometimes to watch people just use and abuse things that mean so much to me," says Yosef. "I am tackling that a lot when I'm making songs ... Even as simple as the whole 'faking to like metal' thing, you know? That is so annoying to me because all those kids would have bullied me when I was in school for liking all of that type of music, and now it's cool to do it. So they pretend that they like an old Slipknot record.
"I think there's just a little bit more authentic way to blend things, and I feel like I'm really trying to do that, coming from a place of understanding both sides of music," he says. "I did make rap music for a lot of years and played hardcore for a lot of years. And I think blending those together without it being something surface level — like only knowing about A.F.I. — it's possible and that's what I'm trying to do."

Yosef has released four small releases on SoundCloud — and is expecting two more EPs in 2019 — but often tries to make the fan experience more than just clicking a stream. His merch store has offered a mysterious USB stick, a graffiti stencil and a pocketknife with "KING" written on it.

"I just thought it would be fucking sick, honestly," he says of the knife, which had an edition of 10. "There's no deeper meaning behind it. I just didn't want it to be the same thing I see everybody else selling."

For his latest release, Guilty., fans had to "confess your guilt" on a website before gaining access to single "Unshown."

"It's just little nuances like that where people feel like they have to give something to get something. I think that makes people appreciate art more," says Yosef. "It was really bizarre that people felt like they had a place where they could say a lot of those things. They felt comfortable just because I make some songs. They trusted me. It was cool that people were willing to share that enough to be able to get to a song. It just meant a lot to me to see that people were willing to give enough to get to something that was as simple as a song link."

Yosef's next two EPs are mostly completed. He says they feature more organic noises — synthesizers, guitar, field recordings from his phone — and a more multi-faceted approach.

"I guess there's still some more hardcore-style stuff, but it's just a lot more articulate songs, than just a one-stop shop for just being pissed off," says Yosef. "Which, there's definitely still a lot of those songs, but there's a lot more diversity. Like, I've been singing and just doing a lot more vocal stuff and becoming a lot more confident in that. I think it's going to be my best music yet."