Jamming unlooked-for venues with hundreds of people, week upon week, the rhythms of Homo Hop are loud and strong in Toronto, Canada. One of the city’s hottest groups, Yes Yes Y’all (or YYY for short), is barely two years old and has already grown a wide and diverse following. Featuring members Sammy D, Hollyrock, Elle Nino, Stunts, and J-ill, this group enthrals crowds with old school hip hop revivals, baile funk, and dancehall.
The performances that Yes Yes Y’all put on provide a queer-positive and straight-inclusive space, meshing together members from different cliques and musical tastes through their fierce vibes. Soaked in sweat, my friends and I emerged from a Yes Yes Y’all show a month ago, flooded with memories of one hell of a good time. I decided then to interview this group and do what I could to get them some (much-deserved) praise.
Nicholas Miniaci: How did the members of YYY meet?
YYY: We were always the ones standing around waiting to catch a glimpse of some hip hop or reggae at queer jams in Toronto. We all had the same idea/dream and that was to create a party where we no longer had to stand around and wait for a DJ to play music we wanted to hear. We just did it ourselves.
NM: What other artists does YYY collaborate with the most?
YYY: We will occasionally bring in guest DJs to play the night but it’s mainly the 5 of us that hold it down. We had Bonjay come in and play our NYE party and they smashed it. We’ve also had DJ/producer Tom Wrecks play the night as well.
NM: YYY often performs in venues outside of the Toronto’s “Gay Village”. Metaphorically, this reflects the unique identity that your group holds within Queer culture. Is this done on purpose?
YYY: It’s definitely not easy to find a venue in Toronto on a weekend that can accommodate our numbers. Initially we wanted to find a space that was centrally located. Close enough to the village but not too far east of the Queen Street West crowd. We thought it would be rad to be able to bring both scenes together in one space and feel comfortable in a spot that wasn’t too far east or too far west.
NM: Is there an element of activism in your music?
YYY: We like to play jams that, when people hear them, probably think….”oh man, that was MY jam when I was 14″ but along with that it’s been really important to us to create a space that is safe and supportive for queers and allies but also intentionally open to straight people. No homophobia is tolerated and we make it our business to be approachable to our attendees for any kind of back up they need in regards to any feeling of unsafeness. We have also teamed up with the 88 Days Crew (a group of multi talented performers and promoters in Toronto) a few times to bridge communities interested in hip hop and dancing it out. Bridging communities is very important to us, which is evident in who attends our parties; they are totally gender, racially, sexually, age etc diverse.
NM: What was your first official show together like?
YYY: It was nerve-wracking/sooooooo amazing. We threw it at a spot called Global Village Backpackers Hostel. It’s basically a hostel in downtown Toronto that has a little bar/hall inside of it. We did everything ourselves as far as set up went. Set up the sound, had our friends set up and work a coat check, hand bombed flyers all across Toronto and made it free for whoever wanted to come. I just remember all of us standing around nervously asking each other, “Is anyone gonna show?” Doors were at 10pm. By 11, there was a lineup out through the hostel lobby wrapping wayyyy down King St. and then down Spadina. People ended up staying into the wee hours, dancing on speakers, slapping walls and grinding in dark corners.
NM: Has the fan base YYY accumulated been what you anticipated at the onset, or has it reached crowds that you didn’t expect you would reach?
YYY: To be honest, none of us thought it would turn into what it has become. We started this party to have a spot where people could just come and hear music that for the most part in Toronto doesn’t get all night play at parties. You might hear a DJ play a quick little hip hop set or toss in a dancehall tune, but our format was to have these types of music playing all night long. If you take a look at all of our party pictures, you can get a pretty solid feel for the diversity of our crowd and that’s what attracts people to YYY.
NM: Would you say groups such as yourselves and Big Primpin carved out a new niche in Canada’s Queer community, or does your music cater to a pre-existing demand?
YYY: Big Primpin was around long before YYY. Holly Rock and Sammy D from our crew have played Big Primpin many times and we have all supported Big Primpin since the beginning. Mykel Blackcat is also a long time promoter/DJ in Toronto who has pushed this format as well. For some reason though, we seem to get crazy numbers of people. I think a lot of it also has to do with there being 5 of us in the crew, each with our own distinct reach and draw. I had a promoter friend come up to YYY from Vancouver, and she could actually not believe the amount of people that were coming out for a hip hop/dancehall/rnb party. Toronto is awesome in that it is so culturally diverse and people are really up on their music. I think they like the idea of being able to hear these types of music in a safe, open, arena.
NM: How important is social networking (esp. Facebook) in facilitating your event promotion?
YYY: It’s been extremely important. We initially started out photo copying flyers, lol, and just bombing them out by hand around the city. Facebook just takes the promotion to a whole other level. With the push of a button, we can reach all of the people in the YYY group and keep them informed on what’s going on. Plus we can post up all of the pictures from past parties which people love.
NM: The world of mainstream music can often be quite heterosexist. What is it like branching off from an already marginalized community? Does YYY even perceive itself in that manner?
YYY: We don’t consider ourselves branching off from anything necessarily. It sucks when you go out to hear music you love and want to dance with your cutie but don’t feel safe to or you go to a space that is safe but the music isn’t where you’re at. There is a stereotype that gay people only want to hear Lady Gaga and Britney Spears but our success clearly deflates that stereotype. We’ve made ourselves feel less marginalized as far as heterosexist mainstream parties go, because we are throwing a huge queer party that shows we have a thriving community.
NM: What made you all decide YYY should “be” Queer rather than perform without such a label?
YYY: From the very beginning our most fundamental mandate was that our parties be queer spaces that straight people can come to and get down to. The goal is not to isolate anyone. Making it known as a queer party is basically a disclaimer because if you come in with any B.S. it will not be tolerated if you choose to come knowing it’s queer then we assume you are lovely and will treat you as such unless you act otherwise.
NM: If the PeaceOUT World Homo Hop Festivals still existed, would YYY attend?
NM: Do you wish there were more groups such as yourselves in Toronto, or does YYY prefer the originality of being rare?
YYY: There are actually a ton of new parties popping up in Toronto that seem to be doing well. I’m not sure how rare we really are. We’re just a crew of friends who love to have a good time and play music that we love. We have just been fortunate enough to have a bunch of people that feel the same way!!! Stuff like this can happen in Toronto because of the sheer numbers of people the city has. We’re not saying we don’t have something special going on though, because we totally do.
NM: Random question; Toronto’s airport code is YYZ. Being a Torontonian group, how would YYY feel if Toronto’s airport code were YYY also?
YYY: We’d be down with it for sure… in fact…come to think of it…why the fuck haven’t they changed it to YYY already? Time to write some letters and make some phone calls.