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Potent Talks: Yared “BoomDraw” Lee

Potent Talks: Yared “BoomDraw” Lee

Potent Talks is a new series featuring inspiring conversations with creatives from the region and diaspora.

Meet Yared “BoomDraw” Lee, a Jamaican music producer, A&R, and selector, who’s working hard to hone his craft. The following is an edited and condensed version of our conversation.

Throughout all stages of our youth we are asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”.  Some of us move into adulthood still unsure of what we want in this life, while others have known from a tender age. That is the case with Yared Lee, known in the music industry as BoomDraw. Since high school he has had a passion for the arts, cycling through writing, dance and then music. Guided by his personal interests and nurtured by his parents who also work in the music and entertainment industries. Yared “BoomDraw” Lee is a Jamaican music producer, A&R agent and selector who is making his mark on the industry. We sat down in a lovely café in Kingston so he could share his story.

POTENT: When did you know or decide that you had to work in the music industry?

BoomDraw [YL]: It didn’t start with music, but I always knew that I really wanted to be in the arts in general. When I was in high school, I really enjoyed creative writing and then I developed a passion for dance as well. To the point where I joined a dance company and everything, so being in the dance and performance industry and seeing that side of it was also a big thing. So, when I was a dancer is when I started really imagining solely existing in the arts and creative space, as a career. I would say maybe I was 14, in 2010 when me and my best friends had our own dance crew. That identity as an artist when I was a dancer eventually shaped everything else.

POTENT: How did you make the transition from dancing to music?

BoomDraw [YL]: When I was in sixth form, I started a sound system, I had big speaker boxes that I would use to do events and rentals and stuff like that. The sound system thing was inspired by my dad, Gabre Selassie of Kingston Dub Club. It kinda made a natural progression into music production after I had migrated for college, the sound system and events thing were a bit different in Miami. So, I started deejaying and then the deejaying led into the production.

Yared “BoomDraw” Lee. Photo Credit: Jeana Lindo

POTENT: When did you produce your first beat that was used for a song?

BoomDraw [YL]: The first time I ever put out a song or beat that vocals were on, out to the public with my production was when I did a freestyle with Royal Blu one time when I came back to Jamaica for holiday. But “Skydive” with Blvk H3ro and Leno [Banton] around 2015 was the first time when an artist put out the song where they’re promoting it as a song and treating it like a full like single. I had made that beat with my friend, Kone.

POTENT: What is your process for producing a beat?

BoomDraw [YL]: There’s so many different ways that it happens… when I first started, I was kind of trying to make everything completely from scratch. More recently, when I go to produce, it’s with more intention, so I kind of decide what I’m going to make before, so that this making the decision of what I want to make before kind of guides my selection process as it relates to picking sounds and going through samples or adding drums and stuff like that. Usually I start melody first, but sometimes I’ll also do drums first, it just depends on the day for that really.

POTENT: What was it like producing “Black” by Jesse Royal?

BoomDraw [YL]: Big up Jesse Royal for that. I’m really happy with how that record came out. It was a new experience for me, because it’s one of the first times when I really worked with a full cast of musicians that played and I kind of construct everything from scratch. It started off with a sample and some drums. And those drums I got from King Benjamin, it was more hip hop-ish. And so that was what I eventually sent to Jesse’s management, and they liked song. But they wanted it to be more organic and they wanted it to have more of a reggae feel. So, I decided I was going to really try and go the full distance and like do it with all live with musicians.

It was a full cast of super talented, young Jamaican musicians, and the horn player from Serbia. So, it was just a pleasure for me to have everybody be a part, have a hand in the record and then also get to put their names down to get their publishing percentage. I’m just really grateful to everybody who was a part of that process.

POTENT: Do you have a favorite beat that you’ve created?

BoomDraw [YL]: That’s a tough one. Most recently, I have a beat that’s called “Mount Zion.” It’s a reggae riddim, it was the first beat I made when I just moved into my new apartment. And it sounds really good. I’ve been sending it around and it’s been getting positive feedback. And then also, that skydive beat is actually probably my favorite beat ever, just because I made it so long ago by this point, but I’m still in love with how it sounds. And the fact that I did it with my best friend.

POTENT: What song do you have on repeat right now?

BoomDraw [YL]: Can I pick more than one? There’s so much that I have on repeat right now.  To be honest, I have been listening to “Spain Town Badness” everyday several times a day. I’m not gonna lie, that song I’ve definitely had on repeat, big up Roze Don. I’ve been listening to “Yahoo Boyz” a lot, big up Intence, but also, I’ve been listening to like a lot of soul music. I’ve been listening to this song “It’s Our Love” by Thee Sacred Souls and the funny thing about this song was that I thought it was an old like seventies soul song at first because it’s made in that style. But it’s only recently I saw that it came out in 2021. So that is the breadth of my musical tastes, going from, from Roze Don and Intence to 2021 seventies style soul music.

POTENT: How do you train to get better at our craft? Practice makes perfect, is that the case for you?

BoomDraw [YL]: In music, there is definitely a need to constantly get better just by making new things, you know? So there has to be a lot of time spent just making stuff. Another way to get better, to just improve myself is to collaborate with other people, because then you get to see somebody process information differently from you and you can learn from that. Listening to more music and studying producers that came before you and really approaching it from an academic point of view or an analytical point of view where it’s like you’re reading, analyzing their style and the way that they approach things and not for you to just copy them, but for you to apply the same type of thinking to your own process.

Yared “BoomDraw” Lee. Photo Credit: Jeana Lindo

POTENT: What is one thing you want your audience to know?

BoomDraw [YL]: I want the public to know that, not just for me, but music in general, if you really support a musician then buy their music, like actually support it with a purchase. Because the streaming thing is a great way for music discovery and for you to enjoy it. But it’s always just better to support that artist by making a purchase, whether you buy their music or buy their merch. A greater percentage of money gets back to the artists themselves in terms of you directly supporting, especially if they’re independent.

Follow Yared on IG @BoomDrawofFizix.

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