by Zoe Radas

Freestyling through glittering neo-soul with a rapper’s understanding of rhythm and a soloist’s melodic instincts, Yasmina Sadiki has carved herself a path into hip hop, jazz and experimental improvisation - and she’s only just getting started. We spoke to her about rhyming with the boys, identity culture, and why sneakers are a cornerstone of life.

Yasmina Sadiki | FINESSE HONEYS
Anyone who’s watched your TEDxYouth performance of last year will see that you and your band are like one organism. There’s constant little interactions between the musicians and yourself at the mic.  

Yes! We’re very subtle, but we’re able to say a lot with just a look. 

It’s a hallmark of neo-soul, where tracks can evolve on the spot. Readers might know Nai Palm (Hiatus Kaiyote) or Jorja Smith, but who else do you think of as peers in this genre of music?

I guess Robert Glasper, if I really think about it... But it's hard to say, because when I do improvised sets, the sounds can really develop. Sometimes they can go into Radiohead territory! So it just depends - people say lots of different things. And I kind of live under a rock.

Do you think living under a rock hones your creative focus and stops distractions?

[Laughs] Yes! I genuinely love living under a rock. I think it helps me not set expectations for myself, and I mean in the sense that I'm not putting myself into a preconceived idea or a box. I think it's kind of nice to be a little bit closed-minded at times - I don't want to be focused on what other people are making. I just want to produce things organically. 

Yasmina Sadiki | FINESSE HONEYS
You started singing in high school and then met Haan Rahman, who was a Sydney local and now lives and works in LA. You appeared on his track What U Need with The Kid LAROI - is that when producers began to pay attention?

When I was in high school, I was one of the only vocalists doing [what] I was doing at the time. I got into letting [Haan] sample my voice for things. That was around the time I was placing my own music on SoundCloud. It was a time where SoundCloud was really great for connecting with other people. [Producers] were reaching out to me, and that led me to the whole world of producing and performing with other rappers.

And it was in a community sense as well. At the time, Haan was putting on these shows with these other boys, showcasing different rappers. I was the only female vocalist there. So that was my start, recreational performing, and outside the school [environment].

Was it intimidating performing in a male-dominated arena like that? Of course it depends on the guys themselves, but were they open to having you in the space? 

I think they were really excited to have me. And that really was motivational - I think it really told me that I did have something to offer. I think in that space I really gained a sense of autonomy. That was where I found the power in my music. Because, you know, to be the only female up there on the stage full of men - that was something I held really close to me.

But at the same time, I probably wasn't thinking about that. I was just wanting to sing well! But that's definitely something that has helped me. A lot of the time now, I'm employing and directing men, and especially men who are much older than me. That's really helped me grow.

Yasmina Sadiki | FINESSE HONEYS
You are Sicilian and Tunisian-French - do you have a connection to any of the diaspora in Sydney? 

Honestly, it really depends on what groups I'm with. When I’m with my Arab girls, I automatically feel very connected - we might be talking about [the culture], we might be eating our food. But it's funny because taken out of that, I sometimes feel like I don’t have enough knowledge to really hold it close to me in wider groups. 

But that's also just the nature of being a mixed girl, you know? A lot of the time, especially in the inner city, you can feel so detached from things. Other times, you can feel so connected.

I was a part of an art collective called Betchouf - it's a collective of Middle Eastern, North African and Southeast Asian people. I was a part of this exhibition where we presented different platforms about identity culture, and being a part of that was really, really important to me. I felt like I was really connected to other people who also feel the same way, who want to be a part of their culture. Of course we know enough about it - it's in our blood - but it was really interesting to hear the stories about it. 

I've definitely had people be racist to me, and probably because - I'm brown! So it's really funny when, you know, my father will be like, ‘Oh, but you don't know the language, you're not even blah, blah, blah.’ But in my daily life it's definitely something that people tell me I am.

Absolutely. ‘Bless you, Dad, but I'm visibly brown’ - and that's enough for some people.

Yes, yeah. I know. 

Yasmina Sadiki | FINESSE HONEYS
Are you a devoted sneaker girl?

Yes. And I’m a tall girl, and I can’t be arsed wearing heels [laughs]. And I’m also a little bit lazy - I prefer comfort over everything! Sneakers, for me, are essential.

What’s your number one cherished pair?

My number one cherished pair would have to be my Onitsuka yellow Kill Bill sneakers. 

There aren’t many sneakers which become iconic because of a movie.

I know, and I didn’t even know they were a part of the movie! Everyone kept saying, ‘Oh, Kill Bill!’ And I’m like, ‘She must’ve stolen them off me or something.’

That’s precisely what happened. Because you’re not copying anyone - you live under a rock.


Yasmina Sadiki | FINESSE HONEYS
Talent: @yasmina_sadiki
Creative Director & Photography: @wizzz.fizzz
Words: Zoë Radas
Yasmina wears the Air Jordan 4 Retro "Oxidised Green" from Finesse
Catch Yasmina live:
15 June @ The Skategoat Party - The Hub, Lower Town Hall
27 June @ Midnight Special
4 July @ The Lord Gladstone Goodspace Gallery - Palestine Support Show
12 July @ Needle In The Hay - The Lady Hampshire