Manitoba rapper YSN Fab making waves


While YSN Fab (whose real name is Jamiah Fabian Brown) has millions of fans worldwide, one of the greatest challenges he faces, even in his hometown, is convincing people that a rapper from Winnipeg can achieve mainstream success.

“I feel like there’s definitely a lot of talent from the city,” he said.

For many, “they’ve got to see it happen to believe it. But then it only takes that one person who doesn’t need to see it.”

Far from being deterred, YSN (short for “Young Souljas Narrative”) Fab has devoted himself to music full time and hopes to achieve the kind of success that makes people think of Winnipeg when they think of rap. 

YSN Fab, now 23, says he stumbled into music as a way of coping with the burdens in his life after an injury playing football. In late 2018, he posted a video on Instagram of himself rapping. A young Winnipeg producer, Pascal Beatz, took note — not immediately realizing the rapper he was watching was also from Winnipeg.

Andrew Sammie

Beatz (whose real name is Pascal Anyadike) says he was immediately struck by the rapper’s sound, delivery and flow. When Pascal realized he was also from Winnipeg, he invited YSN to his home studio to “see where it would go,” he said in an interview.

They’ve now gone far beyond what they could’ve ever imagined. YSN Fab now boasts more than 30 million streams of his 10 most popular tracks on Spotify alone.

In the short time between launching his first song and COVID-19 shutting down virtually all performing opportunities for two years, he also managed to open up at concerts for established artists like Lil Mosey, Rich the Kid and Yung Tory.

YSN Fab and Beatz have had to overcome significant obstacles personally and as a team.

Sleeping in his car, unable to pay rent or buy food at times, YSN Fab was the perfect picture of the “starving artist” for a while.

“I didn’t have a job; I wasn’t supported by my mom or something. It was just, this is all I’m doing, and so whatever money I’m getting from the music, that’s all I’m living off, because I wanted to devote every hour to that,” he said. 

In addition to all that, Beatz says what’s most challenging is that many people don’t take Winnipeg hip-hop artists seriously because all the famous rappers they know are from somewhere else.

The business side of music, rather than the art, may be one of the main reasons hip-hop artists in Manitoba have struggled.

Pascal Beatz

It’s a distinction Andrew Sannie understands well. He is a member of The Lytics — a Winnipeg hip-hop group who have steadily built a following since playing their first show in 2009 — and leads a program on behalf of the industry association Manitoba Music called Black Professionals in Music (BPM). 

The intangible infrastructure of lawyers, publicists, publishers and other professionals, which is necessary for an artist to achieve success, wasn’t always available to hip-hop artists in Manitoba, Sannie says.

BPM is designed to help Black artists in the province access the tools, skills, people and services they need. It arranges regular talks for up-and-coming Black musicians with accomplished musicians and music professionals to make it “a little bit easier for someone to go from walk to run,” Sannie said.

With greater accessibility to professional services, Sannie wagers Manitoba will have a breakout hip-hop artist in the next five years.

In spite of his success, YSN Fab knows it may not be him. Winnipeg has several potential stars — like Lavi$h, who posted a picture of himself hanging out with Grammy Award-winning producer Boi-1da last year — and new talent is emerging every day.

Still, he says he gets “goosebumps thinking about” the idea of a Winnipeg rapper representing the city the way Drake has represented his hometown of Toronto.