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An afternoon with Lyor Cohen and Mane Yousuf

Three things I learned as an emerging artist.

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For as long as I can remember, music has brought me joy. And luckily for me, my dad has always encouraged me to pursue my passion. I started actively posting on my YouTube channel at the end of 2019, just before the pandemic — taking viral songs to the streets and filming live reactions. These videos have been a way for me to showcase my love for music while spreading positive energy to the world.

In 2022, I had the opportunity to join the first cohort of Canada’s Black Voices Fund program and take my channel to the next level. Later this year I hope to pursue music full-time, but first, I’m upping my game and getting all the wisdom I can from industry legends.

That’s why I jumped at the chance to spend an afternoon with Lyor Cohen while he was in town for the Juno Awards last month. We took to the streets of downtown Edmonton — we walked and talked (and froze), and even busted out a few moves.

Here are three things I learned:

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  1. It is still possible to make a timeless classic like Purple Rain or Abbey Road. In Lyor’s words, “It’s critical and possible. But right now there are so many records, and so many artists. And the only way to cut through the clutter is by making the most incredible music and dedicating all effort to the craft. Artists have to get back to making incredible music and finding incredible songs, and not worrying about subscribers, or likes. Cutting through the clutter should only be about the music.”

  2. Taking risks, and seizing the opportunities in front of you can yield big returns. While jamming to Fat Lip on the streets of Edmonton, I learned that Sum 41 was the first Rock band that Lyor signed when he sold Def Jam to Universal. He shares that if he hadn’t signed them, The Killers would never have signed. If that’s not an iconic music deal…

  3. Nowadays, local artists can more easily break into the global consciousness with open social platforms. Lyor introduced me to a Montreal artist that he’s paying attention to lately named Chiiild. Lyor tells me that local artists can now find their fans in every corner of the world, who can follow their journey and build an authentic relationship on places like YouTube.

A huge thank you to Lyor for taking the time on his trip to Canada. I’m grateful for Lyor’s gems and I’ll be looking to implement his wisdom as often as possible in my own career. Until then, you can catch the full video here.