​Yibby and a black panther
Yibby and a tattoo he got from a Phat Judah pop-up
Australia Today

Eating Kitfo With Yibby at His Favourite Ethiopian Joint

The rising Sydney rapper talks us through the Australian music hustle, why he can't take TikTok seriously and how to eat Ethiopian food.

Sydney-based rapper Yibby is already at the restaurant when I turn up 5 minutes late on a Thursday night. He appears somewhere from the back, in a black tee and a cap, stretching his arms out in greeting. I say something about making a reservation and he laughs, “Actually I’ve been coming to this place for years. The owner’s a family friend.” It explains how at ease he is walking around the tables and staff. 


We’re at Jambo Jambo Africa, an Ethiopian restaurant in the Sydney suburb of Glebe. Yibby’s choice. He’s been coming here since he was a kid, he tells me, all of his friends did. And being born in Ethiopia, the restaurant is a little nugget of connection to his heritage. For a Thursday night, the tables are full. 

Yibby out the front of Glebe's Jambo Jambo Africa

Yibby out the front of Glebe's Jambo Jambo Africa

Yibby is someone I’ve been wanting to interview for a while. From my perspective, his laid-back rap and polished production makes his tracks some of the most high-quality, easy-listening music I’ve heard from Sydney, perhaps even Australia. Even though he might deny the compliment.

His latest drop The Chubby Tape, a collaboration project between him and Sydney rapper Chub.e, is the perfect example of this. It’s an homage to their lives in Sydney that they describe as “soul food in a time where people want everything quick: quick money, quick entertainment”. It plays much like Yibby comes across in person: cool, calm, collected and considered. Perfect for late-night driving, reflection and moments to yourself.

After we find a table, situated beside a traffic barrier and the restaurant next door which plays Soulja Boy “Crank That” on blast, he tells me more about the importance of building a base in Sydney, working two jobs while pursuing a music career and the proper way to eat Ethiopian food.


VICE: So you work? And also rap on the side?

Yibby: I mean, yeah, music is my goal but like…it’s not paying the bills. I have two jobs. It's cool though in a way because it gives me the freedom to make things without the pressure of that return.

That’s some fucking hustle.

I’m trying to. 

I’ve heard a couple people talk about this place. They said it’s good.

The owner, Jo, is a family friend, and I’m Ethiopian, so it's always cool here. A lot of us – my other Ethiopian friends, who are also adopted – have been coming here for years. It just ended up becoming a spot to come and catch up.

And then you just became friends with Jo?

Yeah, we started coming here a lot. I think it’s important to have spaces for different cultures, different food, ‘cause Australia is real multicultural and we sometimes forget that.

A lot of people think Jo looks like my Dad or Uncle or some shit [laughs] and it's a bit funny because I grew up here [in Australia], I sometimes feel I'm not as invested in Ethiopian culture. I definitely appreciate it but I feel like I have my own interpretation and relationship with it. Because I was adopted it was very much an Australian household. But I feel like you find your own space to fit, you can relate but you can’t really relate in a way.

Have you been here?

Nah, I’ve never been here. 


I thought you might have stumbled past it. They should come to us but if they don’t come in a couple of minutes, I’ll order.

Sweet. Wait, what is this?

It’s a beer. 

Also this might be awkward but I’m gonna be taking photos of you on this camera. Can I?

Yeah, take a photo. You want it to be like I’m looking at you?

Either haha.

[Takes photo]

Yibby and a menu

Yibby and a menu

Do you want anything to drink? 

Yeah, maybe I’ll have that [points to beer]. 

You want to try one of these? So they import all the Ethiopian beers. St George Beer. It’s one of the oldest ones, it’s been around for about 150 years. It’s a lager. I’ll get you one.

St George Beer and Yibby

St George Beer and Yibby

Have you eaten Ethiopian at all before?

Yeah, in Melbourne, I used to go to a place in Kensington called The Abyssinian. That was really good.

I’ve only eaten Ethiopian in Melbourne in Footscray. My sister moved just near there, but I don’t know, it wasn’t hitting like Jambo haha. [Looks at menu] So how hungry are you?

I’m pretty hungry.

Do you eat meat?

I mean, I’ll eat it.

Cool. So you can do a platter, like a six dish if you want meat and vegetables, and then you pick what dishes, so I’ll just pick a few.

How hungry are you?

I’m like average, I ate not long ago but I’m going to Knucks Tonight.


I actually don’t know who that is.

Ahh, well I’m going to that, so I should probably eat a bit. If you're cool, I'll just pick some stuff. I’ll be back.

[He leaves]

[He comes back]

What did you get?

A bit of everything. It all comes out together. It’s this bread that’s like a sour pancake and then everything just comes out on top of it. It’s mad filling.

So how do you balance working two jobs and then also making music?

The music stuff is chill. I just fit it in when I’m feeling it and try and prioritise what needs to get done. 

I feel like when it comes to your music, though, you’re gaining a bit of traction. I’d say you're on everyone’s radar.

No way! I don’t feel that. That’s respect if you feel that way but the way I see it, I’m still very small and have a lot of work to do, but I think I try and always have something going so it definitely feels like there’s things happening. 

I feel like you’re in a really good community that’s really collaborative and really supportive.

I feel like Sydney is definitely becoming a nice place to work and a nice place to create ‘cause there’s so many people doing similar things and recently there’s just an attitude of people coming together and going for the same shit. I think you can feel that.

I feel like maybe the scene you’re coming up in is super new as well, like 2 or 3 years in the making?


Yeah, it’s super new. I remember a few years before that there weren't as many people doing stuff and there wasn’t that mutual respect too. 

Let me just make sure I’m recording.

Have you done that before where you’ve done a whole interview and it didn’t record.

Uhhhh, yeah. But most of the time people are pretty nice about it. You just ask them to do it again but that was back when I was super young. How old are you?

I’m 24. How long have you been writing for?

Hey, this interview is about you. How about you? How long have you been making music?

Since the end of high school. So 18, I think. That’s when I started actually doing it a bit more seriously. But a lot of people were just fucking around with it when I was younger.

Why’d you want to start making music?

I don’t know exactly, I love music of course, passionate about it, and then I had friends that were doing it and shit. Also, I wasn't necessarily into the music that was more popular at the time.  Cause that was the thing, when I was in high school in 2016, people weren’t really into the music that I liked.

What kind of music was that?

Just low-key rap and hip hop, things that weren’t really playing on the radio. 

[Waiter comes over]: Alright, we have raw beef in a lettuce leaf, it’s called Kitfo and then a sambusa stuffed with black lentils and you dip it in the organic honey.

Screen Shot 2023-02-06 at 11.02.49 am.png

Sambusa and Kitfo

Yibby: Thank you bro. Did you get that? I don’t really eat this by the way [points to Kitfo].

You don’t like it, but it’s so good though.

You like it?

Yeah, I fucking love it. You don’t like raw meat?

Not really to be honest, which is bad cause this is cuisine, this is a delicacy, but you know what I mean. I eat the meat when I come here but I love the vegetables, it’s light. It makes you feel good. It’s cool though cause there’s still not many African cuisine places in Sydney, it’s good to have something like this around. When I was growing up it was hard to get Ethiopian cuisine so to have somewhere close, it’s good.

Have you always lived in Sydney?

I was born in Ethiopia, in a town called Debre Tabor, then moved to Sydney when I was about 3. I live around here actually.

But you were 18 when you started making music?

I had like a proper bootleg logic, I would just make stuff at home at first, especially when I was hungover. It wasn’t serious.

So when did it get serious? 

Like a little bit after, maybe 2019. 

Is it something you see a future in?

Oh 100%. Yeah, that’s my shit. I’ve spent countless nights, countless hours going over the most minute details. And there’s a lot of effort I feel like I put into my releases and my art and everything to do with my music. It’s probably the shit in my life that I care about the most, after family. Does that come across?


Yeah, definitely, it does. 

But yeah, I take it super seriously. But I feel like you can’t take it too seriously. If you take it too seriously it stops becoming enjoyable, like forreal. It starts becoming a headache. 

What about the Chubby tour you just recently did? How was that?

Yeah, it was really cool. Well, we ended up doing Sydney and Melbourne. In Sydney, I think we’re definitely building a group of people that’s like, if we put on a show we can get people to come and they appreciate it, so I think Sydney’s really great. 

And then Melbourne. The pocket in Melbourne of the people that appreciate the sort of music that I do is really sick. Mammoth, Chef Chung, all the Picked Last guys, heaps of those people, it feels a little bit similar to Sydney but they also have their own thing, so when you join those two worlds together…and being out there and being in Melbourne and just really feeling it…when you're actually there and you’re in the room the energy is so tight.

So the two cities feel different?

Oh yeah, 100%. It’s still in Australia, it's not worlds apart or anything but it has its own feel. Even the characters in Melbourne, how they react to certain shit. In Sydney sometimes it’s a bit harder to win people over, if that makes sense. Melbourne people, not all of them, I can’t speak for everyone but I feel like Melbourne people they give people a chance a little bit more. Sydney can be a bit tough.


I hear that a lot. 

I think people in Sydney have become a bit more open and a bit more supportive now, but until people get to know you and understand what you’re about it can be hard to break in.

Okay I’m just gonna eat this cause I think they’re waiting for it to be gone. [Eats the Kitfo]

[Takes photo]

Yibby eating Kitfo

Yibby eating Kitfo

Wait, did you just take a photo of me while I was eating?

Yeah, of course.

Damn. Vegans are gonna be mad. 

[Waiter comes over]

Waiter: This is sourdough bread, fine grain and gluten free, we ferment it for 5 days. So that’s Shiro, chickpea, cabbage, lamb, lentils, and splitbean.

Yibby: Thank you bro, appreciate it. So what you wanna do is grab it like that. Break it off like that and then grab it. That’s it, that’s the one. Did you just take another photo?

Yep, I gotta get one with your hand in it though. One more.

Just for you I’ll do one more [laughs].

I still didn’t get it, this camera’s slow. This looks so good though.

Did you catch what he said? 

The lamb, the beans. I think I got it.

Jambo Jambo platter

Jambo Jambo platter

What’s the end goal then?

There isn’t one to be honest. I just want to be consistent with the things that I’m putting out in terms of music, in terms of everything and I think to just contribute to the community and create stuff that people appreciate. I feel like it’s a continuous thing. You probably feel the same thing about your work. You’re always just trying to do something and do it better every time.


Surely that gets tiring though?

Oh, it’s very tiring. I think it gets like that and I don’t mean it in a negative way but you could spend 6 months (I’m not saying I did) doing an amazing album. You could spend six months putting on a great festival or event and then because of where we are, the reception could be so minimal.

Like where we are…in Australia?

Yeah, because our audience is still growing. And it’s definitely growing and we’re seeing the fruits of that but it’s still quite small. So it feels like a lot of work sometimes with not as much return but that’s just the way it is. So I think, for me, I’m trying to find my own value in that in a way.

I feel like that’s the reason a lot of artists here try and break in the UK or US before Australia. Is that something you would do?

Nah, probably not. Cause it’s like, although the return isn’t necessarily massive, I would still rather slowly build it here. And just see that eventuate over time than see it happen somewhere else. Like this year I want to try and go over to the UK and build some things over there but I wouldn’t necessarily relocate.

When I was trying to move to the UK – cause obviously there’s probably more creative opportunities over there – a friend said to me, “Nah, you need to stay here and help get Australia to where other countries are at.” in relation to music and journalism and creative things.


Oh, 100%. 

Waiter [comes over]: More bread?

Yibby: Oh yes pls bro. Come on bro, get it out the basket.

Waiter: I’ve had a long day, man.

Yibby: [laughs]

Yibby eating

Yibby eating

Yeah I feel like that in itself, it also feels really good. Because of where we are and the way it is when you do do something. Even performing the other night…like a couple of years ago to just easily bring a bunch of people into a room that were like-minded and into a similar sound and supportive of something in their backyard, that feels like a win. Even though to a lot of people it’s not a massive deal. So that shit feels good.

What is the main deal, then?

The main deal is…I don’t even know how to explain it to be honest. It’s just like…there’s probably not even a place where you can reach and be like, “Okay we’ve done this.” but I think that the ecosystem here can be self-sustainable. 

When local people are putting on shows – and it’s definitely happening – where people are going there and it’s selling out straight away. That’s happening. You look at Genesis Owusu and shit like that, who’s kind of in our space, he’ll do a show and it’ll sell out. And that’s beautiful. So it’s shit like that right here, that’s homegrown. At the same time you can attribute that to some overseas factors but it’s still a step in the right direction.

So that’s more important to you than getting big overseas?


I mean I’d love that but I just want to build a foundation here first. And I want it to be solid. That’s really tight. Like even Kid Laroi, he’s gone overseas and he’s an international success and he’s super solid here. 

I don’t know why to be honest. I think to be rooted in your city first is sick. Everyone has their own shit that they’re trying to accomplish, though.

I really like that, though. I feel like not many artists in Australia feel the same way. 

Yeah, I think I care about the appetite and Australia is the shit I see. They’re the people I know, so building that appetite is really satisfying but in saying that there’s so much shit I respect internationally and even some of the stuff I’ve done. Like I’ve made connections with Lord Apex and Black Josh.

You collaborated with both of those people on your second album [“Tangent”] , didn’t you? 

Yeah, that was just from reaching out to people. The way I’ve always looked at it is who would I ideally have on this. If there was no obstacle, who would I want on this. So if I have a song or a record, and I want a person on it then I’m just gonna reach out and be like “Do you want to do this?” 

You also had Chanel Loren on there as well. 

Yeah, Chanel’s a homie. We’ve been working together for a few years. I saw her on soundcloud, it would have been 2019, so we just started working on shit and she’s doing so well now, it’s amazing. And that’s exactly the shit that I love seeing. People that have that undeniable talent and after a while they find their feet and find their position and she’s doing her thing. 


Who are some other people in the Australian music scene that you respect?

There’s a lot of people. Honestly anyone that’s doing their shit and doing it authentically. Genesis Owusu…Sampa the Great, she’s one of those people that really built herself here. So solid. When I was in Melbourne I went into one of the record stores, like tiny tiny, and they told me Sampa did her first ever show there and it was so sick to see that someone who’s big out here started there and has now gone on to have so much success, worked with amazing people, you know.

How are we doing with the food?

I’m almost full.

What? you’re wildin. There’s so much left. I told you it’s filling. 

It's always a tough one when I get asked about Sydney because I can throw names out there. Everyone I had on the tour, my homies, Chanel of course, Hamza, Isaac Puerile, Sevvy, & those guys, VV, Glo, Maina, FC, BKR, FE etc, etc haha.  There’s so much shit coming out of the city. A lot of people. Who do you like at the moment? Who are you feeling?

Damn, that’s like asking someone their favourite movie. I just blank. Okay the first people that come to mind are like…Mulalo, 1300, C.Frim.

Oh C.frim. She’s sick. I think that’s exactly the type of stuff that we need, people that just love their shit and really care about it. 

[Jo, the owner, walks over]

Jo [the owner] and Yibby

Jo [the owner] and Yibby

Jo: You guys need anything else, you all good?

Yibby: Yeah, we all good. Jo’s the boss man. [turns to Jo] We’re doing an interview.

Yibby, I’m full. When do you have to go to Knucks?

Probably soon. Knucks is good though. He’s a rapper from the UK, kinda drill, how do I explain. His most famous song is called “Home”. He’s gotten pretty big on TikTok as well.

What do you think about that…TikTok? And artists using it for virality?

It’s like any media really, but I think with TikTok there’s such a ready audience on there, it’s so easy to stumble across new shit.

Do you put your stuff up there?

Nah, I have an interesting relationship with it. I can’t take it seriously. Like I’m saying with my shit in general. I’m very serious about it and it’s what I care about. But I feel like the way the music industry is set up it doesn’t feel right to be so forced. For me personally – and full respect to people that are on TikTok and hustling – I can’t really be doing that cause it doesn’t feel natural but if you’re tryna build your audience, definitely use it.

I mean there is that thing of people restructuring their songs now just so it can be used as a viral TikTok sound.

Oh, 100%. That’s the whole shit. Promoting yourself on TikTok versus being a TikTok artist feels different to me. If you just have some videos on TikTok and you're building your following, then calm. But once you're fully just known on TikTok or have a viral track it can be hard to get away from that. But at the same time, if that’s the way you do it then that’s the way you do it.


What’s the alternative?

I guess just more traditional shit. Putting music out, dropping things, playing shows, doing all of the shit that people have been doing. 

End of the night table pics

End of the night table pics

Do you think the Australian music scene is built so that it’s supportive of artists that do it more of the traditional way?

I think there are things we do really well and there are things that aren’t as great. I really like it, honestly, I do. I think one thing that we do that’s sick is community radio and independant radio is tight. I can turn on the radio at a certain point and I’m gonna hear my homies, that shits sick but then there’s a whole lot of other things like, who gets certain support, who gets certain opportunities, that is tough, it’s not as great.

I think one thing that’s missing is putting smaller artists on rotation for those more national broadcasters.

Yeah, that shits heavy. It can be a good or a bad thing If you have an ability to break music and there’s great music coming from the country, you can break it but if you have the ability to break music and you use it in a way that promotes certain music through the connections you have, then that’s whack. I think it can be a good and a bad thing, really. But at the same time, is my focus on the wider industry? Not really.

My focus is on the shit I can see and the community here that I can support.

I feel like you should probably go see Knucks now.

Yeah, let’s go. Which one did you like? [Points to platter].

That lamb was honestly so good.

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