You all know Mark Yokoyama. Lyri-Cool Productions. Maui Girls CD. Maui Style 2nd Edition. If you listen to local music and participate in the cult following of KPOA, you definitely know the man behind a large amount of our local music. Or you think you do. I had the pleasure of spending time with him in his music studio in Kahului.
MAUI TIME WEEKLY: Where were you born?
MARK YOKOYAMA: I was born on Oahu. Downtown. Hotel Street. The Ghetto. I lived in the ghetto—five projects on each corner. Each of them didn’t like each other, there was MWH next to Kukui Garden, and believe me, brah, it was no garden.
When was this?
It was the late ‘80s/early ‘90s. We saw prostitutes coming from the store alley with needles sticking out of their arms—many of them young girls who would go to school during the day and sell their bodies at night. Their girlfriends—just as young as they were—would watch the baby, while the mother would be downtown trying to get enough money to buy diapers and milk.
I just can’t believe that this happened here, it sounds like the Bronx or Washington D.C.
Yeah, I know. Now ice is an epidemic in Hawai’i. Just think, one million people on a dot on a map, just a little dot. We’ve got houses, on top of houses, on top of mountains. It’s a crazy life. I was a drug addict—coke, ice, speed, you name it. I was a momma’s boy, but at 16 she kicked my ‘okole out.
Where did you go?
I was homeless. I used to steal cars. Not to sell them, but to have a dry, warm place to sleep. I had a screwed-up attitude. Everyone was like that. I just thought this is life and this is how it is.
So when did your life turn around?
In prison. I got a call from my brother crying saying my mom was sick and she wasn’t going to make it. I realized I was helpless, and I took her for granted. I prayed. I asked God not to take her… My mother came out of her coma and I thank God and Jesus for more time. In prison I stayed in my cell, read books, wrote to my mom, worked the system. In two-and-a-half years, I came out with a vengeance. I got a $6 an hour job delivering seafood, smelling like blood and guts, busting my ‘okole, and I finally went home. My mom’s said she had been waiting for that day.
How did you break into the music industry?
Well, I wanted to be an artist so I put an album together. The songs were terrible. It cost a lot of money. I realized I could do that myself—make music without charging so much. I’m a hustler but today, it’s a legal hustle. I got da kine tactics and knowledge from the street.
And here you are.
Yeah, four years later. I don’t even have a jaywalking ticket. I used to steal, lie, con, cheat and now people trust me to hold $50,000. I’m a high-paid middleman. I realize that the worst day of my life now is still better than what my life was back then. But, I want to do more.
What is it you’d like to do?
I want to set up a place, with positive energy for the youth. There is so much talent on the street, but to them their dreams are unattainable. If I had a successful role model and if I knew there was a better way, maybe I would not go through what I went through. I’m gonna tell my story. Everything I got, I earned.
I understand you’re a one-man show.
Yeah, I produce, record, market and manage. I even do the designing of the artwork on the CDs. When people call to speak to the graphics department, I put the phone down and pick back up say, “Graphics Department?” I do the same with people call to ask for sound engineering—“Hello, this is Mark, Engineering, how can I help you?”
So what’s up next for Lyri-Cool Productions?
Well, we’ve got a lot of things going on right now. On May 23rd, Friday Eleneki will be releasing her album Magic. Also, be on the lookout this summer for Maui Style 3 featuring Chantelle, Chazar’e, and Shane—Hawaiian Homeboy. I just recently learned that I’m nominated for the prestigious Na Hoku Hanohano music award for Best Compilation: Maui Style 2nd Edition and for Best Rock Album: Mana Ohana’s Journey. MTW