Although indie rapper Erinem carries a seven-year catalog of music, “Y.B.A.L.A.” marks her second studio album which features Bizarre of D12. The young emcee comes strong with her A-game and shows off her original style and sound that the world just can’t seem to get enough of. Before you jump in and press play, tap into our full interview below. Erinem chops it up about the concept of the EP, working alongside Bizarre, her role in Hip Hop, and so much more.
“I refuse to fit the mold that other female Hip Hop artists have created before her, or lean much into sexuality, as my brand doesn’t come off as particularly feminine.
MJ: For those who might be living under a rock and not familiar with who you are, introduce yourself to the world.
Erinem: My name is Erinem, and I’m a rapper, producer, avid lyricist, and an all-around student of the game. I write rhymes every day, always trying to keep my hand in. Hip Hop is constantly evolving and changing. Studying the art of Hip Hop is one of those things the more you learn, the less you know — because it’s just so much bigger than any one person. That’s what I love about it, though.
MJ: Share the backstory with your artist/stage name, as it holds an impact on how your music is delivered and resonates.
Erinem: People want to know if my artist name, “Erinem” has anything to do with Eminem, given how similar it is, and given how much my lyrical and vocal style align with his. But my artist name comes from a combination of my first and middle name, which is Erin Emily. It’s not like I didn’t think about the implications of having an artist name that was so like Eminem’s, especially when my music was already so similar to his. I liked the fact that Erinem was both true to my own name and true to the homage I was already paying Eminem anyway, in all the influence of his that shows up continuously in my work. I like to think of it as the kind of homage or association you can find in the A$AP prefix.
MJ: Take us into the new album from the thought process, title, production, etc.
“This album is a way of saying “I’m done trying to please the industry, to please the audience, to please the people. I’m done pursuing popularity and pleading with people to listen to what I have to say. Instead, I’m just going to say it. Why should you care that I’m not what you want me to be? You’re not listening anyway.”
Erinem: One thing I’m proud of when it comes to Y.B.A.L.A. is how planned-out it was. Down to the last detail, everything was meticulously planned and put into motion, like setting up an intricate series of dominos and trying not to knock any of them over before its time. After my last album, some opportunities I thought were in the works for me just kind of fell through. It was devastating. So, I knew I needed to throw myself into work again because, with all the time I had just lost to snakes in the grass, there was no time left to waste. So, I started planning a new album, one that I could fully creatively control and one where I was in charge of what went into it and when. That has become critical for me in these last few years. That’s really what “Y.B.A.L.A.” became about; not listening to anyone else when it comes to my own success, and not expecting anyone else to care about it the way I do. The idea for the album title came to me suddenly when I woke up one morning, and I just made some incoherent, cryptic note about it in my phone. It was something like “Idea for a 5-song EP: Called YBALA, and it stands for ‘You Bitches Ain’t Listening Anyway’ – with each song’s title being one of the words from the album title” and when I got serious about making the album, I brought it up to my producer, Guy Bartov. I was like, “Guy, man, what do you think about making this album?” Guy is an extraordinary producer and finessed those mixes down to the most minuscule detail. It was amazing to watch. As a producer myself, I learned a lot from sitting in on those sessions.
MJ: How was the experience working with Bizarre?
Erinem: Working with Bizarre was great. I met up with him in Detroit a few years ago. We went over to FBT to do some work together. It’s crazy to be there and to see how that studio has stayed true to the era it came out of. There were some dusty drum pads and stuff laying around that were still there from the D12 era. Bizarre and I got some ideas going and did some recording that day. It was his birthday coming up, and he asked me to come chill at his birthday party later that week, so I stopped by for his house party, and that was a crazy time. Afterward, I met up with Bizarre again by chance at a studio called Bravo Ocean in Atlanta. We were both there having a session, and so we hung out for a few minutes between things. It occurred to me that now would be the perfect time to release his verse because I had this idea for a song that it would be perfect on. We reworked it some, and it ended up on “Bitches” which was really the ideal place to showcase his subject matter.
MJ: What are your expectations for the project? Is there one track that you feel will echo the most with audiences/fans?
Erinem: My expectations for it are to get it out to as many ears as possible, and that people love it the way I do. I think Hip Hop is hungry for substance again, for lyricism that doesn’t lack in intelligence but also doesn’t get preachy or just bore you out of your mind. And that’s what this project delivers. For the casual listener, they’re just good tracks. But for the avid fan of lyricism, there are punchlines and references all over the place, like little easter eggs for deep divers to find. In the end, I hope that the quality and spirit of this album proves its title wrong and a little ironic; that people will be listening anyway. I didn’t title it that way hoping it would end up being inaccurate, but what started out as me being resigned to my past failures ended up being a glowing tribute to what’s yet to come. I hope others can find some inspiration in that, as I have. My favorite song from this album is definitely “Ain’t” even though it’s probably not the most commercially appealing song on the album. Still, for me, it was like a grand gesture: me, flipping off the industry-snakes who wasted a year of my life, selling me nonsense. That track feels triumphant. But honestly, to my ears, there are no skips on this album.
MJ: What’s up next for Erinem?
Erinem: Singles. I’m going to be dropping a single every month or so, and just build on the trajectory I’ve already created between my two studio albums. I’m really excited to see how everything grows and builds on itself over the next few months.
MJ: Is there anything else you would like the world of Hip Hop to know about your new album Y.B.A.L.A?
Erinem: This seems like a good place to give some credit out to the people who made this project possible. While I write all the lyrics and record all the vocals, there’s a lot more than just that going into a full-on studio album. Like I said before, a lot of what people will probably like and appreciate about this project comes down to solid mixing skills, which I owe to my producer and loyal friend Guy Bartov. I had a fantastic mastering engineer, Brian Lipski, who hustled to meet my ridiculous deadlines, so I want to give credit to him as well. The album art for this project was done by my long-time favorite artist, Elia Colombo. AnyWayWell made the beats, and he’s great at it, so, that made it easier when I was starting from good bones. I also obviously want to thank Bizarre, for being my sole feature on this project and doing such an amazing job with it. And you, of course, MJ. For taking an interest in the project and for taking the time to write about it. And thanks to everyone who supported me and uplifted me along the way. I’d be nowhere without the loyal listeners I already have now, and they all mean a lot to me. To everyone else, I hope you enjoy “Y.B.A.L.A.” as much as I enjoyed making it.
Without further ado, let’s get into the album…You sets off the 5-track EP with the perfect blend of lyricism and wordplay canvased effortlessly by complex rhymes that ultimately set the tone for the rest of the project. A relatable track that makes the hook resonate and echo in unison. Erinem describes an altercation between a couple and the antagonization involved. But at the end of the day, although she can put one of them on blast to end their world, is it even worth the time and energy. “Fuck around and show you at your worst/I could clap and collapse your universe/but I’d rather stack up a track with all this crap/then put you in a verse” There’s plenty of ironies and a bit of comic relief as well to pull from this track. “You don’t really know me, you did not just ‘bro’ me, you are not my homie, you gon’ meet the old me.”
Bizarre jumps in on Bitches, who underlines the track’s golden era of Hip Hop aesthetic. It’s evident through her intricate lyricism, Erinem’s soul also emanate through that era. “I miss when rap was bout/ drugs and bitches/ not fashion Page 2 of 5 brands, or the gram/ or your riches/ back to when thugs/ was givin’ hugs in the club/ bout to show you all how/to give bitches some love.” The track details a house party hosted by the D12 artist in Detroit. The punchlines in Bitches push the bar and is sure to have listeners going back and exhausting the repeat button. “Bitch is doing side-kicks, spastic/ In skin tight elastics/ Acting like it’s magic/ Bitch you’re like the title of M*A*S*H/ All ass-tricks! (Asterix).”
Ain’t serves as a true narrative based on an experience Erinem had in 2021 with some music execs. She holds no bars with this track to spread awareness and bring to light A&R’s, labels, and others in the music industry who mask their snake-like moves and venom. “I ain’t the one with the problem/you’re the one hollerin’/I’m bullshit intolerant” and “ask you for my split/and accuse me of entitlement/ but I ain’t the one with the loft/ this is kick off…” Although each verse begins with negativity, there is a message of triumph and adversity. Anyone branching out into the music industry, take notes while listening to this track. Both the intro and outro are sure to have listeners grip Erinem’s unfortunate experience along with her unyielding emotions.
In Listening Erinem addresses just that and the difficulty folks have with the concept of listening and actually listening. Another relatable track as we all often feel that others don’t listen to us or hear us out, professionally and personally. Erinem nailed the concept by delivering the track in two perspectives which bodies the age-old complexity of you’re not listening to me when either party is listening. Rather, they are mentally preparing a comeback instead of listening. “So I was speaking/ all freaking evening/ you didn’t hear a damn thing today/ you were daydreaming/ and missed the meaning/ you don’t hear a damn thing I say…” The frustration of not being heard is echoed by Erinem’s use of potent punchlines that allow audiences to envision the narrative loud and clear.
Erinem concludes the EP with empowerment and dream chasing in Anyway. She transcends us back to teenage years where the want and desire to achieve or conquer something is overbearing, in an exciting fashion. “I have heard so many say/ they don’t think there’s any way/ dreams that we just throw away/ feelings I can’t downplay/ feeling like a runaway/ in my room I hideaway/ hoping for some better days/ I go on anyway.” Erinem also points out some of life’s contradictions. At early ages we are encouraged to live out our dreams and that we can be whatever we want to be. Yet as maturity kicks in that narrative seems to shift to what others and society deem fitting. That might resemble a cookie-cutter life of working a 9-5, raising a family, and becoming stuck in daily routines. To the naysayers, Erinem proclaims “Sometimes I don’t know/ how I’ll even get by/ on my wits I rely/ it’s a wonder why I try/ when it didn’t work the first/ or the nine-hundredth time/ let’s just call it well rehearsed/ guess conviction is a crime.” The track is bittersweet, yet through Erinem’s poignantly polished lyrics those naysayers are sure to take a seat on the sideline.
“You Bitches Ain’t Listening Anyway” sheds light on personal experiences that display Erinem’s ability to hold her own and stand strong as a pillar on and off the mic. Her knack for blending infectious rhyme schemes and quotable punchlines can’t be matched and ultimately drive her to reign in any era of Hip Hop. Get your copy of the project and connect with Erinem below.
Presave “Y.B.A.L.A.” pre-save page – bit.ly/YBALA-drop
Connect with Erinem
Instagram and Twitter @erinem_official
@Er1nem on Facebook