Senior Tristan Yi has worked throughout his last years of high school and into college to create a name for himself. Working with words and creating the stage name “Tricky Adolescent”, he has done just that and sat down to discuss his process before his Studio Theatre performance.
The Knox Student: What made you want to start making music?
Tristan Yi: In ninth grade, my friends and I were sitting in English class one day, and we were talking about rap and weren’t really paying attention in class, and we were like, we should just start doing something. We couldn’t write songs, so we started writing lyrics, and it evolved from there.
TKS: When did you start performing?
TY: In high school. For a while it was just us hanging out after school, making dumb beats and sampling songs. We just kept it to ourselves, but little by little we let it slip that we were rappers and people would be like “Rap for us!” and we would be like “No,” freestyling is difficult. But then senior year of high school started, there was the Battle of the Bands, and we were like well, it’s senior year, it’s our last big hurrah. Maybe we’ll enroll and be one of the first rap groups to ever do it. So we did, and people kept on voting for us, so we performed at the Greek Theater in the final round of the Battle of the Bands. It was a good time, but we also had to play instruments, like we couldn’t just have a beat. Luckily one of my friends was already a drummer, one was a guitarist, and I play the bass. Playing the bass while rapping was a little tricky, because of the rhythmic structure. What I was doing was really basic.
TKS: So you were rapping to a rock beat?
TY: Yeah, kinda, we had guitar solos and drum fills and stuff, and we had a beat-boxer. We had a lot of fun, and we were really proud, worked hard. The energy from the crowd was great. We really liked performing, but that was our last thing, we were never like “we’re gonna make it big!” It was a fun, nice thing, a nice way to get our emotions out, get our feelings out, get our energy out. And then I started performing here [at Knox] a little bit, like in the Union Board talent show Fall term freshman year. I thought, maybe I can do this, maybe I can make friends this way, I don’t know what I was thinking. I’ve been doing that kind of low-key stuff ever since.
TKS: So you perform regularly on campus?
TY: Oh yeah, like last year at Fall Fest, last term on WVKC. One time at this event off campus, me and [senior]Matt Koester teamed up for a bit, and then [junior] Nate Smelker started drumming, so I was freestyling over his drumming, and that was a lot of fun. I really do like collaborating. I don’t get to do it often because my schedule is busy; people’s schedules are busy.
TKS: Do you still play bass, or any other instruments?
TY: No not really, I’ve gotten away from that kind of stuff. I used to be more music oriented, like in middle school I played the cello, but it didn’t really make me happy. Now I can play a fine amount of piano, and the basics of guitar, but now I’m more into theatre and rapping. I still make beats on software, but it’s different from playing. It’s more composing, I guess.
TKS: What musicians inspire you?
TY: It’s gonna sound funny, but The Beastie Boys, because they’re satirical, and I really like their energy and boisterousness. It helped me find my voice. All the normal people, like early Jay-Z, Biggie Smalls, Lupe Fiasco. He’s a lot like early Kanye was trying to be, because Lupe is actually like “I’m a nerd,” and “Kids bullied me for being a nerd of color,” but he turned it into poetry. I really looked up to him, because he has a really strong voice while also keeping it important, keeping the issues real.
TKS: What’s your favorite memory of performing?
TY: Probably when I was backstage at the Greek Theater, and I was so nervous, and the guy that was running things was like, “Remember, have fun out there, don’t even worry about the crowd because this is for you, that eight minutes is going to take like eight seconds, and then it’ll be gone and you’ll look back on it.” And I’m like, “You’re right!” And so I strode out there, and people were like, “There’s Tristan!” It felt so nice, like pleasant. There was no glory, no narcissism, it was just fun, It was nice to know that people cared. That was one of the greatest moments.
TKS: Do you ever get nervous about performing, other than the time at the Greek Theater?
TY: Oh hell yeah. That’s me any time, before any performance. But without that nervousness there’s no adrenaline, there’s no stakes. There was one time I was really relaxed, and I forgot a whole verse. I was like, that’s not good. I need the nervousness, because if it’s so important to me that I’m nervous, it’s important that I won’t forget lines or mess up.