The “quantum jump” of Miami rapper Yianni’s debut album

(Photo provided by Luis Lopez)

Cesar Castañeda has come a long way from recording music in his closet five years ago. 

The 22-year-old known as Yianni has recently made a name for himself in the underground rap scene as a versatile artist who is creative with flow and wordplay. He wants people to see themselves in the lyrics he writes. 

On the five EPs he’s published so far, he’s rapped about love, uncertainty and even his mother. Later this year, he plans to share his life experiences on his first full-length album.

“I [will] talk about my feelings and emotions,” Yianni said. “And honestly people gravitate more towards me when I do that. This is going to be a very vulnerable album.”

The new album may be a quantum jump in Yanni’s career. He has spent the last years playing small warehouse shows in Kendall tapping into his emotions and writing about things that everyone can relate to in work, like  2021’s “Love On Deathrow” and this year’s “For The Time Being.” Perhaps the best of his most recent work is “Real Love.”

“I was too young to show you real love,” Yianni raps on ‘Real Love.’ “Please don’t judge off what I’ve done.”

Castañeda was born in Cutler Bay on September 9, 1999 to a Peruvian father and Greek mother. He credits them for pushing him to this point. As young parents, they struggled to make ends meet, but Yianni felt well provided for.

“I didn’t have everything that I wanted,” said Yianni. “But they gave me everything I needed.”

He listened to hip-hop on long drives to his youth football games and during weekends at the local flea market with his father. This sparked his love for music at a young age. The early works of artists like Drake, Ludacris and Rick Ross were instrumental in his artistic development. But most crucial were the mixtapes he’d buy from local vendors. 

“People at the flea market would burn CDs, and they would have the hottest songs from the underground,” says the Miami native. “We would buy different ones and just listen to them throughout the day.”

He began writing his first songs when he was in fifth grade, but he was more focused on becoming a professional football player. After he recorded his first official song with a friend during his junior year of high school, he knew he had found his purpose. The vocals were recorded in his closet with a sock over the microphone, but he felt relief and joy the moment the session ended.

“I felt so great,” says the 22-year-old. “I knew that that’s what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, and now I’m here.”

Five years later he’s sitting on a discography that matches his ambition, and he has a great support system to help him get there.

In addition to the support from his friends and family, he and fellow rappers Qil, $now, and Kid Kai pushed out their music together and grew as a family. They call themselves “No Ideas Creatives.”

“I would describe our relationship as a brotherhood made possible through music,” said Qil, a frequent collaborator with Yianni. “We bounce ideas off each other to make the best projects possible.”

It was alongside No Idea Creatives that he co-headlined his “Love On Deathrow” show at a warehouse near Tamiami Airport back in December 2021. 

This past March Yianni released his latest EP, “For The Time Being,” which began the shift to his debut album.

Yianni believes that this album will be the one to really put his name out there. If it doesn’t, he won’t quit. He stays patient because he knows it can all come together at any time. His long-term goal is to make himself proud of the music he makes.

The Miami rap scene is competitive, but Yianni is betting on his storytelling and unprecedented work ethic to set him apart.

“That’s the long-term goal here [to make great music],” Yianni said. “Until the day I’m selling out arenas.”

Alfredo Banegas is a junior at Florida International University majoring in digital journalism hoping to combine his passion of sports and writing to become a sports writer. Alfredo looks to make positive changes in the way sports are covered in today’s media landscape.

Anthony Blanco is a senior majoring in Digital Journalism with hopes of pursuing a career in sports journalism. Anthony is passionate about covering sports and hopes to one day make his passion his profession.