Yoni Wolf, better known by his stage name WHY?, has a lot to be proud of. Growing up in Cincinnati, he cut his teeth in the world of music in the late '90s, forming Greenthink with collaborator Doseone. After a string of abstract hip-hop releases, they added producer Odd Nosdam and renamed themselves cLOUDDEAD. cLOUDDEAD's self-titled debut was a landmark release for the group. Combining somber rap deliveries with hazy production and surreal samples, it was a triumph in psychedelic rap, becoming a cult classic and going on to greatly inspire many Soundcloud artists in the genre of cloud rap today.
cLOUDDEAD only released one more album before their dissolution. Afterwards, Yoni broke off into a solo career, releasing albums under the name WHY? with his brother Josiah that further explored his experimental take on hip-hop. It wasn't until 2008 until WHY? released what would be his most accomplished and fully-realized album yet, Alopecia. With Alopecia, Yoni's knack for inventive wordplay and indie rock influences culminated into a satisfying and infectiously catchy record. The fruitful studio sessions yielded Yoni enough material to release Eskimo Snow the following year.
Since then, WHY? has released two other albums, Mumps, etc. in 2012 and Moh Lhean in 2017, that further toy around with the fusion of hip-hop and indie rock. Latest album Moh Lhean presents a more stripped-back, folky, and melancholic, yet often uplifting sound that was inspired by Yoni's health troubles in recent years. It presents his music in its purest form and provides yet another eclectic collection of songs that are as thought-provoking as they are enjoyable to listen to.
Before WHY?'s performance at Terminal West, I sat down with him for a brief chat to explore the creative process behind his albums, the role Atlanta's music scene played in his career, and the big upcoming reissue of Alopecia they have planned, among a variety of other topics. Listen below.
Photos by Sarah Htun for Bullet Music