USC artist Yasin spearheads sonic individuality

Bay Area native Yasin has collaborated with artists across California. (Photo courtesy of Yasin Benhaddou)

Last October, in quiet Brentwood, in the quieter Mandeville Canyon, on an even quieter residential street, students, dancers and production teams milled about a multi-million dollar mansion — working, eating, lounging. Everyone in this scene had a mission: to work on or support USC multi-hyphenate Yasin Benhaddou’s — known mononymously as Yasin — latest music video for his single, “Get It On.” Since its drop, the track has reached over 80,000 streams on Spotify — his most successful to date. 

While the 10,000 square foot mansion was a striking focal point for the video, what was even more fascinating was the assortment of young people behind its production. 

The director, a Trojan who goes by the name TooSam, was on hiatus from the USC School of Cinematic Arts at the time of the production. The background dancers were also primarily USC students. And beyond the USC community, there were photographers, musicians, dancers and other creatives pulled from all over Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area — the latter, Yasin’s home. 

From the sheer talent appearing from the crew on set, it seemed like Yasin had made a point to surround himself with people as dedicated to the craft as him. This includes 20-something-year-old L.A. dancers Venetia “Vee” Zipporah, Jessika “Jessy J” Jax and Raquel “Rocky” Amdal. The group met Yasin and each other through Instagram and have been collaborating on music videos ever since. 

“The chemistry is just there,” Jessy J said. “Whenever we get booked for things, we call each other.”

While the dance group has pursued their own career endeavors, they came together to collaborate for the “Get It On” video. At the center of this collaboration was Yasin, who took the responsibility of making sure that everything was flowing smoothly, all while starring in the video.

Yasin’s ambition has long been influenced by the people that surrounded him, including by friends and roommates at USC. 

“Being put in an environment where all these people my age [are] … striving towards something that usually is looked at as impossible, it just made me realize that is actually the opposite,” he said. “Seeing people have a drive to strive for something that’s not something [that] a normal person would strive for, made me [feel] like … if they can do it, I can do it too.”

Throughout filming “Get It On” — the single that was dropped on Nov. 6 — played on repeat over portable speakers. Even on set, it was evident that this track was laced with unique quality — its beat and the “let’s, let’s get it on” refrain is persistently infectious. It was predestined to take root in listeners’ brains for days or weeks. 

The track is Yasin at his best, incorporating different elements from his back catalog. It’s the type of song you blast from your car’s stereo with all the windows down — pure fun. In some ways, it’s a return to form for Yasin, whose first songs featured a loud brash persona. 

“It’s just bouncy,” said fellow USC musician Alvin Makori, a 2021 graduate with a degree in Law, History, and Culture. “It was an almost effortless kind of a vibe. Like he didn’t want to be like the most perfect … He was just being him and going with the beat.”

USC artist Yasin has taken a collaborative approach to his projects, both in the studio and on music video sets. (Photo courtesy of Yasin Benhaddou)

Yasin released two other singles in 2020, January’s “blessings + curses” and August’s “Stay Strong.” They both take on unique personalities — “blessings + curses” best resembles a thoughtful Big Sean as Yasin melodically raps over a reverberating backing beat. “Stay Strong,” the middle child of Yasin’s 2020 releases, is similarly powerful in its own right.

“Stay Strong” signifies Yasin’s immense artistic creativity. It’s highly and masterfully produced, leveraging Yasin’s whispering, auto-tune singing and rapping vocals to showcase a multi-layered ambiance. With most other artists, this effect might be overwhelming, but on “Stay Strong,” the combination works. 

Yasin’s unique background further adds to his individuality as an artist. His parents are immigrants from Morocco who settled in the Bay Area to work and raise their children — a story many immigrants and first-generation kids can identify with.

While his parents worked multiple jobs to provide for their kids, Yasin hustled to pay them back. In high school, he began writing songs and performing at Bay Area venues, opening for burgeoning artists like Adrian Marcel and Yung Pinch. Backstage, he would pass out business cards printed on CVS picture paper. The young artist knew what he needed to do to gain recognizable success in his career, and he had the savvy to do it. 

Cut to his first week at USC, where Yasin met creative friends and future collaborators like Ben10K and 24kGoldn. Yasin was inspired by his ambitious and talented peers, and he felt ready to take on the industry. One obstacle stood his way: he had been admitted into USC’s prestigious, but time consuming, computer science and business administration program. He had to make a decision. 

He went to his counselor’s office, dropping all of his computer science classes and trading them in for General Education and business courses. Yasin decided that music was going to take a front seat in his life.

That same week, Yasin met friend and future collaborator 24kGoldn. The two would go on to create a school anthem and Yasin’s biggest feature to date, “I Go to USC.” Since its release, the track has racked up over a quarter-million views on YouTube and nearly 300,000 streams on SoundCloud. 

As carelessly fun as the track sounds, there was serious thought put into its marketing. The video capitalized on USC’s Varsity Blues scandal, beginning with clips from news anchors and late-night hosts covering the scandal. The music video also dropped at the beginning of Fall 2019 with the explicit goal of attracting freshman listeners. 

Their plan worked. The two quickly became campus heroes and played gigs at multiple L.A. venues like The Nightingale. While 24kGoldn has gone on to find astronomic success with his own music, Yasin made it clear that he wants to be known for more than being “the guy on Goldn’s song.”

Listening through his discography, listeners can hear the ever-improving development in his music. His latest release, “Five 10,” featuring the recording artist LEW, follows “Get It On” chronologically, but also stylistically. The single is upbeat, complicated and catchy — a post-pandemic party anthem that marks years of creative and technical development on Yasin’s part.

Since the coronavirus pandemic forced USC to hold virtual classes, Yasin has been on leave from school. However, he’s confident that the hiatus is temporary. 

“Both my parents are from Morocco … [and] haven’t been to college,” Yasin said. “So, whatever happens I feel like I’m kind of obligated to graduate for them.” 

L.A. is full of aspiring artists, but Yasin brings something new to the table. It’s a freshness that Makori attributes to Yasin’s willingness to take risks and experiment with his sound. 

“He’s going places,” Makori said. “He’s a hard worker, and he’s persistent. So, you know, he’s gonna get to wherever he wants to [go].”

For now, the gifted young artist is honing his craft with regular studio sessions and creating a strong circle of support. 

“I feel like I’m getting better every time I go in,” Yasin said. “I feel like every time I leave the studio, I’m making something better than I did the day before … I feel like I finally found the right pocket for my voice.”