NEW YORK – Yanni Bravo (Konstantinidis), a Greek-American recording artist born and raised in Boston. His latest release, titled Lil Star, featuring the late Mad Clip and Light is currently at #14 on Spotify's Greece Top 50 chart. Yanni has also been featured in Vogue Italia for his modeling during New York Fashion Week. He spoke with The National Herald about his career, his Greek heritage, his upcoming projects and the September 2 passing of Greek-American rapper Mad Clip.
TNH: Did you always have an interest in music as a career?
Yanni Bravo: Yes and no. As a young kid, I was naturally gifted at a handful of sports and had dreams of playing soccer for Olympiakos in Greece. However, I was always a creative thinker as well and began using poetry as a creative outlet in middle school. Little by little, as I was exposed to more bands and artists, I started discovering a passion for music. Whenever I would discover a new song, I would write it down on a piece of paper and try to find the song online to put into a master playlist. After the first iPods came out and I realized I could have hundreds of songs in the palm of my hand, I dove deep into the world of music and never turned back. From that point on, I knew that music would play a major role in my life one way or another.
TNH: Where in Greece is the family originally from and how did they come to live in Boston?
YB: My grandfather, Ioannis, was from a beautiful town in Northern Greece, called Florina. My grandmother, Panagiota, was from Sparti. When they got married they moved to the neighborhood of Agia Varvara in Athens and that is where my dad, Kostas, grew up. Music must be in our blood, as my Papou was an avid lyra player. He used to play for the local panigiria, and outside the house in Agia Varvara, proudly filling the neighborhood with the Pontian melodies of our ancestors.
At around 17 years old my dad's brother, Vassilis, came over to America with the merchant marines. After a year or so, my dad followed suit and our family ended up settling in Boston, Massachusetts.
TNH: How does your Greek heritage inform your work?
YB: When I was growing up, my dad used to buy those CDs they would sell on the beach, with the most recent year's biggest Greek hits. I remember pulling the CDs out of the sleeves and reading titles like '2004 επιτυχιες'.
From these CDs, I learned about Giorgos Mazonakis, Nikos Vertis, Antonis Remos, Notis Sfakianakis and many more prolific Greek artists. Little by little, I memorized the words and melodies to every song on those CDs.
In the long run, these melodies and references helped form the foundation from which I pull from when writing melodies and lyrics of my own. Although I mainly rap in English, I love to use Greek lyrics throughout my songs to give my listeners an authentic view into my mind, and life experiences.
Greek-American recording artist Yanni Bravo. Photo: Leonardo Sorto – @leodinero.jpg
TNH: Were you always active in the Greek-American community in Boston?
YB: Yes, I have been. Fortunately, my parents pushed me to finish Greek school as a kid. In high school, I played basketball for the local GOYA and met most of my best friends there. I am eternally grateful for the connections I made through the Greek community in Boston, as those friends have supported me through some tough times and have even helped play a pivotal role in the successes we have been experiencing in music. From late nights in my basement writing music, to helping promote our first club shows in the city, we would not be climbing the Greek Spotify charts without them. Specifically, my buddies, Yiannis Bakolas and Kostas Frantzis have helped play major roles behind the scenes throughout the years.
TNH: How has your family reacted to your success?
YB: They are really excited. Both my mom, Donna, and my dad, Kostas, have been very supportive since I started my journey in music – to the point where my dad even starred in one of my music videos, 'Like Me'. My parents are exciting, fun, loving, hardworking, and are a major inspiration to me. I am incredibly thankful for their love and support. My cousins in Greece are also especially excited about what's going on. They have witnessed my full evolution in music, and to hear my song spinning in the clubs we’ve been to in Athens and across the country has been pretty dope for all of us.
TNH: What inspires your music the most?
YB: Knowing that I can change the trajectory of somebody's life with the melodies and lyrics I capture on the mic is a major motivator for me. That being said, my goal is to create music that inspires my listeners to chase their dreams and live their best lives. Hence, I like to pull from whatever experiences in my life inspire me, in hopes that they can inspire my listeners as well.
In the case of 'Lil Star', my experiences modeling at New York Fashion Week were a major inspiration, this is where I pulled the storyline for the hook from. Having walked at New York Fashion Week for three seasons now, I've met a lot of designers, models, photographers and more. These experiences give me a plethora of resources to pull from when putting together stories to convey through my music.
TNH: What are you working on next?
YB: After the success of our first release in Greece, a few artists have reached out to put together projects. We're very excited to have these projects released in the coming months so that we can deliver for both current and new fans in Greece that want to hear more music from me. I'm super excited and grateful for this next phase in my career.
TNH: Where can TNH readers find your music?
YB: If you search 'Yanni Bravo' you can find my music on Spotify, iTunes, Apple Music, YouTube, Tidal etc. You can also follow my journey on Instagram @newyanni.
TNH: What are your thoughts on the passing of Mad Clip?
YB: Mad Clip was truly a pioneer in the Greek Hip-Hop music industry. Considering all of the music and projects he had left to give the world, the news is extremely saddening. All of Greece is in a state of shock – let that be a testament to the reach of his music and personality.
I'm truly thankful to have been able to work with him. His ambition and relentless drive for success is something that I had tremendous respect for, as did many others in the industry. As a fellow Greek-American, seeing him come to Greece and make it to the top of the game is something I have a profound respect for. His music peers will continue to spread his light and influence across the world, as the mark he left behind will be eternal. Kalo Paradiso.