Her name means “Peace” yet her sound cuts through the silence, luring her audience into a rhythmical space that is freeing. In this space, bodies rock metrically, heads bob acquiescently, and hands wave as if her beats have read their palms. . Everything flows when she flows. Yes, her name is YaNi. She is a poet with a message. She is a rapper with a cause. She is a lyricist with a song and her name means “Peace”.
Born in St. Albans, NY, Iyana Ife Jendeyea Davis, which means “beautiful flower of fruits and blessings, we give thanks to God for the beloved one,”, YaNi has picked the pockets of the map, dropping sound jewels in the hearts and minds of diverse audiences. Her music has a universal appeal. Its content is inviting and non-prejudicial, a soundtrack for families and communities. “In Amsterdam,” she recalls fondly, “I've literally had to be escorted out of schools because children were chasing after me.”
Gigging in schools and press-heavy community events alongside noted names in the literary and music world such as Dr. Beverly Guy-Sheftall and Pearl Cleage, and opening for headliners like Janelle Monae, J. Holiday and Dwele has aligned YaNi with industry leaders that continue to propel her brand. She has been a guest panelist and performer at some of the nation’s most noted venues and institutions, including Spelman College, Morehouse College, Georgia State University, Georgia Tech, St. Johns University, University of Michigan, Ohio State University, Kentucky State University and Barnard College.
YaNi is not new to this industry. For almost twenty years, she has been honing and perfecting her craft. As a “PK,” a preacher’s kid, early memories of her artistry in the making include writing poems at age five and later reciting them adjacent her father on the pulpit. This desire and ability followed her through grammar and grade school. In high school, as a part of an assignment, she converted the Ten Commandments into a rap song that helped revolutionize, for students at the time, the many ways music can be used as a tool for learning and spiritual enrichment. From there she took the underground Holy Hip-Hop scene of New York by storm performing at hundreds of churches. This opened doors for national and international travel on missionary trips as not just an artist but as student and teacher.
From the most foot-stomping, bible-verse quoting faith houses, to the hottest sweat-dripping, hip-gyrating clubs in the world, YaNi has an inspirational message that engages all sects of listenership. Her earlier projects, the 2005 LP release entitled “Level One” and most-wanted EP “Fly By Night” released in the summer of 2010, were widely buzzed. As they say in the industry, “And it don’t stop, and it don’t quit”. In February 2012, YaNi released “The Storyteller”
With a rap sheet of accomplishments like YaNi’s, you may be inclined to assume adversities have passed her by. Don’t be mistaken; just as often as opportunity has knocked, challenge has been a frequent visitor over the years as well. As she explains, the most discouraging part of her journey has been finding a legitimate team of people to help carry the brand. “People just don’t do what they say they’re going to do.” This has caused projects to stall or even compromised the impact of a project. In these times, she has had to: become a one-woman management team, learning and taking on the roles and responsibilities of everything from publicist to marketing manage. Despite these challenges, she remains relentless, eager and committed.
So what drives this artist and her talent? It’s how she internalizes the very definitions that shape one’s ability to connect and create. It’s what she calls her “A.I.M.” “Art is the soul’s way of being free and connecting with other like souls. Inspiration is God’s voice speaking to and through you and music. Music is the vibration that moves your insides by way of your ears”.
Maybe it’s her wild hair and funky clothes. Maybe it’s because she stands an unassuming 5 feet and sports those hazel eyes as if they were the mold. Perhaps it’s her message of love and peace through fascinating sounds and beguiling hooks. It could be her ability to do what a lot of hip-hop isn’t doing much of anymore: real stories about real experiences from real people. Whatever it is, music lovers around the world have gathered by the thousands to experience the resonating tunes of YaNi. And that’s peace.
2005 Level One
2010 Most Wanted
2012 The Storyteller
Wrote A Song
End of The Line