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ymtk is East Oakland's Endearing Heartbreaker

The Bay Area singer’s new single “Let Up” is the nicest way anyone could ever ask for space.

by Kristin Corry
08 April 2019, 8:42am

It’s perfectly fine to admit that you don’t know what the hell ymtk’s moniker means at a glance. “What does it stand for?” and “how do I pronounce it?” are questions that naturally follow the four-letter stage name that stops at the tip of your tongue.

ymtk’s name is homegrown, with memories from his East Oakland neighborhood fastened to the acronym. The singer, whose first name is Murphy, is his father’s junior and was affectionately known in his community as “Lil Murphy”—that is, until he wasn’t quite so little anymore. He hit a growth spurt that fed his affinity for basketball, and he morphed into “Young Murphy,” a ball playing prodigy heavily inspired by walking the same halls Jason Kidd, his hometown hero, did at Almeda’s St. Joseph Notre Dame High School. The singer’s alias “Young Murphy the Kidd” might of been a direct product of his East Oakland roots, but his choice to stylize ymtk in lowercase letters draws from bell hooks’ rhetoric to allow the work to speak for itself.

His work is a composite of his lived experiences, which he considers “Bay Area blap, Santa Cruz surfer, and a L.A. love song,” a hybrid of the cities he calls home. His new project, What You Wish For, is a mellow journey through the stages of a casual relationship. “Wish Come True,” the first single from the forthcoming project, finds ymtk continuing to pay homage to his hometown. “Love my city / Say it and I really mean it / If it wasn’t for the love, then I wouldn’t be here,” he sings. “In my mind, it’s like a 2019 “Return of the Mack” if Mark Morrison was from East Oakland,” he tells me over email.

The concept of wishing runs deep on the nine-track EP, but “Wish (Interlude)” provides the listener with the thesis to What You Wish For. “A wish? It’s like a deep feeling or expression of a strong desire. You know, like hope for something that’s not easily attainable,” a woman’s voice says on the track. “Not so much a request, but more of an invocation. A want for something probably won’t or can’t ever happen. But I wish that…” Her monologue could serve two purposes in that she’s longing for something more romantically, but also hoping for solidarity in the world around her. Audio from a Donald Trump rally opens What You Wish For with Trump pointing out a black person at the Redding, California event. “Look at my African American over here. Look at him. Are you the greatest? You know what I’m talking about?” It's enough to make you wonder about ymtk’s musings on a wish, and why the world’s current landscape makes wishing feel impossible.

Today, ymtk is releasing “Let Up,” the follow up to the honeymoon phase he explored in “Wish Come True.” The production starts with a dreamy guitar, which ymtk admits was used to throw off the scent of the “you gotta chill” message. “I wouldn’t mind if we took a moment / Matter of fact, let’s take a few,” he begins on the song’s refrain. “I know which way you want this to go in / But at this rate, I can’t keep up with you.”

The EP’s title borrows from the old adage “be careful what you wish for,” which leaves ymtk grappling with the circumstances he thought would make him happy. “Let Up” is what happens when the novelty of the wish wears off.

“It’s so hard to contextualize without sounding like an insensitive jerk but the, ‘Hey I like you, but this is moving fast and I need some space” conversation never goes over well with someone who’s really into you,” he tells me, admitting that he pulled the song’s lyrics from real dialogue. “Sometimes you hook up with a person quickly [...] and you find yourself seeing them up every weekend. Every weekend turns into a few times a week, and the next thing you know you’re in a situationship headed towards a full-blown relationship and you have no idea how it got this deep. Now, you gotta figure out a way to pivot on lil baby without becoming America’s Next Top Asshole.”

Releasing the EP just in time for summer shenanigans, ymtk’s What You Wish For is in the running for your soundtrack to bad decisions. Pre-order What You Wish For so the East Oakland singer can teach you how to be an asshole with some integrity.

Kristin Corry is a staff writer at Noisey. Follow her on Twitter.

This article originally appeared on Noisey US.