Yasmin Lesselrot is a force of nature. Listening to her music, you’ll stumble upon hard hitting ballads that melt into ethereal lo-fi sounds. Her voice has an unmistakable richness that acts as a counterpart to her unfiltered lyricism. All of this makes for an ethos that is a testament to human darkness and the strength we can derive from finding beauty in pain. I got the chance to catch up with Yasmin, talking about everything from her freestyle origins to how rap adds value to our culture.
Yasmin has humble beginnings, starting her music journey as a young girl in Giv’at Ada. In high school she played in a rock band and performed at open mics locally, developing her love for freestyling. One of these open mics was hosted by Avri G, an up and coming rapper in the area who recognized her talent and integrated her into the rap community. She frequented a bus station in Tel Aviv that hosted rappers in the area, building on her freestyling skills and meeting like minded artists. Growing up Yasmin also found herself on stage as an actress, training in theatre from the time she was in grade school. Lesselrot attended a prestigious theatre school only to transition into a full time music career after gaining attention for her songs “Don’t Put Your Hands Around My Waist” and “ This Is War”- learning more about production and recording.
During this time, Lesselrot found herself in a musical community where she would have to carve out
her own space. As a female rapper with anger and complex emotional experiences seeping out of her lyrics and sound, she became a source of intense controversy and scrutiny. Much like other female artists with something substantive to say, her music was received with pushback- but also an outpouring of love and gratitude particularly from younger women who felt heard by her experiences with misogyny and toxic relationships. Despite this, Lesselrot describes herself as pro-rights, not pro-women. She refrains from the label feminist, though she almost exclusively works with women: not for equality, simply because she likes it more.
While she’s touched by the women who feel an affinity for her music, she feels steadfast in her identity as a musician first and foremost, rather than a female musician. To this end, she has observed that she is often asked about being a woman in music, rather than a musician- inquiring into the feminist demonstrations and initiatives she has led. These leading questions seem to create a pressure that distracts from her core interest in discussing the music itself.
To be sure, there is more than enough to talk about in the way of Lesselrot’s repertoire. I couldn’t help but ask about her ethereal skater video, “jazz - im habanot (i do believe in love )” posted on youtube in 2019 with a modest 2,700 views. Lesselrot described the recording of this song and video as a timeline moment in her life, a period of catharsis where she traveled to Berlin to connect with old friends, and enjoy life in a time where everything in the world was in a dire state. For Lesselrot, the song represents a time where she was able to love and cherish her life even during a time of pain and struggle. The sound of the song feels like that of a great exhale, capturing her feeling of respite during this time.
While Lesselrot says her beats are usually made sitting alone on her laptop, churning out emotion on her Ableton Live software set up, she describes another type of creative process in which her music is more about the lyrics than the sound. On this topic, she retorted, “Anger is the place that I know the most, that I know how to write music in. When something makes me mad like really mad- not ex boyfriend mad- mad about the world, mad about human rights, I write a song and that’s it.” This is where the real versatility of Lesselrot comes to the fore- in her ability to create from a place of profound articulation while also having a deep sense of melodic expression. In addition to her more instrumental songs, she has an entire collection of rap songs with poignant messages about her trials in life. She believes that the beauty of rap is that it is the language of this generation, the vehicle by which young people contribute and consume thoughtful commentary on our culture. Much like literature for most other generations before us, rap is our generation’s vessel to discuss the state of our world, and Lesselrot takes advantage of this space to express her vantage point, advocating for human rights and social change.
In the comments section of her music video for “This is War”, Lesselrot writes “It is a waste to look for culprits, a problem never stems from a specific person, the problem is much deeper, it is in society, it is in human perception about the value of life, and the value of the mental life that a person goes through with himself.” When I asked her about this, she told me that we need not look so hard to realize that we are here to make the world a better place. Undoubtedly, music is the way in which Lesselrot does her part. Her music is a simultaneous expression of pain, beauty, and advocacy. As such, she is a pillar for artists and activists alike who wish to convey authenticity through art, affecting our culture with the courage and urgency that our generation needs.
by Izzy Silver