Mind Over Matter: The Return of ONEFOUR's YP - Men's Health Magazine Australia

Mind Over Matter: The Return of ONEFOUR’s YP

How ONEFOUR rapper YP transformed his body, and mind, one burpee at a time.

It’s 7am in Mount Druitt’s R.A.A.F Memorial Park and the region of Western Sydney known simply as The Area, is slowly coming to life. A man wearing a white T-shirt with ‘Tonga’ printed across the front begins some leisurely stretches while another performs what looks like a mixture of Tai chi and interpretive dance. As the sun quickly rises, construction work begins on a nearby house. 

Men’s Health are here to meet YP, the youngest member of rap group ONEFOUR. The group from Mount Druitt announced themselves in 2019 with a string of viral songs that quickly made them the most popular hip hop act in the country. Widely considered the originators of drill music in Australia – a sometimes-violent form of rap known for its nihilistic portrayal of society’s underbelly – ONEFOUR have gone from exciting but controversial outsiders to legitimate artists, with record-breaking streaming numbers, a merch brand and commercial partnerships with the likes of JD Sports and Nike. But alongside their success, controversy has remained close by each step of the way. With the police arguing their music incites violence, the group have been prevented from playing shows across Australia, a matter that is yet to be resolved, some three years after their arrival.

YP stars on the first cover of Men’s Health FLEX. Image: Tristan Edouard.

Having been instrumental in the group’s rise, YP went to prison at the end of 2019 for GBH, spending over two years in NSW correctional facilities during the height of COVID-19. In February, just two months after his release, the 22-year-old launched his solo career with the release of ‘Out of Sight’. Accumulating nearly a million streams in under a week, the song spent three days as the No.1 trending video on YouTube Australia, proving the appetite for ONEFOUR is far from over. 

Known for his raw and impactful lyrics, YP is also one savvy marketer. During the group’s early videos, he appeared with a balaclava covering his face, an enigmatic look that no doubt only helped grow his profile. Today, he arrives in somewhat less dramatic fashion, wearing headphones, a pair of Asics trainers and Nike training gear. He has the build of an NRL player who’s just finished pre-season training; muscular but lean, it’s a body built for form and function. His mind, however, appears a few steps behind. 

Image: Tristan Edouard.

“Sorry, I thought the shoot was at 7PM,” he explains, rubbing his eyes. “I just need a few minutes.”

Rather than grabbing a quick coffee, YP dumps his stuff on the floor and sets off on a few laps of the park to freshen up. Upon his return, we run him through the plan for today’s shoot before handing him a set of exercise bands to achieve the obligatory pre-shoot pump. He looks at the bands, laughs and hands them back. 

“I wouldn’t know what to do with these, mate,” he explains before dropping to the floor and performing 20 push ups – ten diamond, ten wide grip – followed by 10 bench dips. Finished, he stands up and gives us the nod. 

Ready?

“Ready.” 

***

YP returned from prison not only several kilos of muscle heavier, but, he tells us, a new artist and, more importantly, a new man. It’s a change he credits largely to training. 

“It helps me throughout my whole day,” he says. “As soon as I leave that gym, my mind is switched on and I’m ready to work, ready to go to the studio, ready to write. I just feel a lot better, more focussed.”

Unlike many of us who start hitting the weights in order to bulk up for sport, to impress a romantic interest, or perhaps out of adolescent boredom, for YP it was, at first, more a matter of necessity. 

“It was when I realised I might have to serve some time, you know.”

“But it was more than that,” he continues. “I started training because I wanted to feel better. I was hitting that time where I was a bit more mature; I was 18 and I was focusing on other things instead of being out and about on the streets and stuff. I wanted to pay more attention to my image. So that’s why I started going to the gym.”

Image: Tristan Edouard.

While YP’s interest in leading a healthier lifestyle may be a relatively new phenomenon, he tells us he’s always been a handy sportsman.

“I started playing footy when I was about 6,” he says. “I was actually a pretty good player. I made Sydney West and everything.

“Then I stopped around 12 and started putting my focus elsewhere. I just got distracted with other things. As soon as I hit high school, that’s when my mindset changed.”

That mindset was quickly readjusted when he entered the prison system. During those two years, training was the main thing that kept YP on the straight and narrow. 

“If anything was at the top of the agenda inside, it was training. Always staying sharp, always staying on your toes; just having that healthy mindset. It’s the best way for me to function and think.”

As we take a break from the now-sweltering sun, YP takes us through his routine and, frankly, it’s exhausting just thinking about it. 

Image: Tristan Edouard.

“I used to do a lot of cardio inside,” he explains. “It was always burpees. So we used to do like 200 burpees in the morning, run a little track, and then straight on the bar into chin, dip, push.

“That’s 10 chin ups, followed by 10 dips and 10 push ups. We’d do that ten times.”

“And that’s every day,” he adds. 

Yes, that’s a grand total of 200 burpees, 100 pull ups, 100 dips and 100 push ups. Every. Day. Though, when COVID entered the prison system, YP explains that everything was made that much more challenging. 

“Those days we were locked in, you get up and just start smashing burpees in the morning. It was almost like every couple of days, bro. We were locked in weeks on end without getting much yard time. And if we were to get time, it would be no more than an hour or something like that. As soon as COVID hit the jail systems, it spread. So they were a bit paranoid.”

Lockdown or no lockdown, jail requires a degree of creative thinking if you are going to maximise your time in the way YP did. On top of his burpees, he would do a core routine up to three times a day using a medicine ball he made from a bottle of water. 

“We weren’t really supposed to have that,” he says with a smile. “But you can find ways to work around that.”

This ability to work with whatever he has available is a defining trait of YP’s attitude to fitness and indeed, life. When we initially pitched concepts for this shoot, the Mount Druitt native made it clear, if we were to feature him, it was to be about going back to basics. 

Image: Tristan Edouard.

“I didn’t build this body in a fancy gym,” he says.  

“For the last couple years, all I’ve had to work off is my mind power. So if I don’t wake up in the morning and get out there, I can’t really blame anything, or anyone, but myself.”

“I had a lot of workout buddies inside, but the thing I’ve noticed is I can’t train well when someone isn’t in the same mind frame as me. I’d rather train alone. Like, if I don’t feel like turning up, it’s on me; I don’t have to feel dependent on anyone. And vice versa. If I wake up and he’s not there, I’m gonna feel in a bit of a mood.” 

Not only has YP had to manage without equipment, he’s also had to make do without access to a proper diet. Clearly, inside the prison system, counting your macros and managing your protein intake is a foreign concept. 

“Our protein shakes were called Sirena,” he laughs. Reading our look of confusion, YP adds, “it’s a brand of tuna”.

Other than replacing protein shakes with canned fish, YP was introduced to intermittent fasting, again, more out of necessity at first.

“I didn’t build this body in a fancy gym.”

“The food is just inhumane,” he says. “The cereals are off and the lunches… they’re not good food bro.

“So I would fast all the way through to one o’clock and then have my first big meal, which would either be rice or two packets of noodles and a can of tuna. And then at the end of the day, if there’s a nice warm dinner I’d smash that. ”

If we’re looking for any silver lining, YP explains you can still get eggs. Kind of. 

“They come in a powder,” he says. “You just add a bit of water and cook them in the microwave.” Yum.

While this attitude of self-sufficiency was born out of YP’s environment over the past few years, it’s something he has tried to maintain since returning home.

“All that stuff can help you but you can also become dependent on it,” he offers. “Since coming out, I’ve been on the pre-work every morning and stuff like that I never used to do. I’m starting to feel like I need it, which is pretty bad. And I don’t like it.”

“Because if you put your mind to it, you can do anything. A lot of people have been blowing up my Instagram saying, he’s on this and that. The only thing I’m on is my grind.”

Image: Tristan Edouard.

It’s an impressive work ethic but there is surely only so many burpees one can do in a day. How else did he keep his mind occupied?

“It’s funny you mention that,” says the ONEFOUR artist. “Because I was reading Men’s Health. I had about 10 magazines and I used to get inspired by other people talking about their story, about their situation. When I read something like that and I was in my cell, it would stick in my head all the way up until the next morning. When I woke up, I’d be like, ‘Yeah, I gotta do it because he did it’.”

YP now hopes he can provide the same inspiration for other people going through a similar experience. 

“I hope I can help other people wanting to change their life,” he says. “Because that’s what I did. Real shit, we weren’t doing the most positive things for our community and sending the right message. But with my mindset now, I just hope I can inspire kids who are in the same shoes.”

***

 

The shoot over, we conclude our interview with YP at the nearby Rashays cafe. Hot and sweaty from the morning, the table orders a round of watermelon smoothies and some food. It’s normal brunch fare: an avocado salad, some scrambled eggs with toast and someone orders a sausage and egg muffin. YP, meanwhile, is fine with water. 

It could be the refreshment, the air conditioning or the fact we’re no longer asking him to hold a wide-grip pull up in the baking sun, but YP is in a more reflective mood once inside. 

“One of the issues that I had going into serving time was not thinking before I act or before I talk,” he offers. “Going through certain experiences I’ve had to learn, I’ve had to understand that thinking and being able to control what you do and what you say is the most important thing. People can’t stop you when you get to that place.

Image: Tristan Edouard.

“In our team, the goal moving forward this year is changing our mindset. That’s what’s going to help us grow.”

Safe to say, the year is off to a promising start. YP’s debut solo song ‘Out of Sight’ currently sits at more than 1.25 million combined streams and counting. But for YP, this song is about more than just the numbers.

“It’s a journey and a part of my life that I’m sharing with my audience, so that they can understand why my headspace is where it’s at now.”

In all, it’s a more soulful and personal expression than ONEFOUR’s previous drill offerings, with the youthful bravado replaced by more mature reflections on YP’s upbringing. (‘I done seen a lot / It ain’t usual for a kid to get shot / so excuse me if I don’t speak a lot.’) It’s an attempt, he says, to introduce fans to the real YP, the person behind the balaclava and sometimes-shocking lyrics.

I’ve had to understand that thinking and being able to control what you do and what you say is the most important thing. People can’t stop you when you get to that place.”

“Everyone sees us thugs, or just hard c**ts from out West. But when I came out with this I just wanted to take them on my journey and hope that they can relate. If they can’t understand, it’s on them, bro. If they don’t wanna accept it and don’t wanna accept me growing as an artist, then that’s something they gotta deal with.”

“Too many people think that because I’m in front of the screen talking crazy, saying things that are rude and disrespectful, that I’m only that one person. Don’t get me wrong, some of our tracks may be different to what some people like, but that one person in that video isn’t me every day. 

“If I want to grow, I’ve got to take different routes,” he states. “I can’t stay that same person I was before I went inside.”

As our interview wraps up, we take one long final slurp of our smoothie, before double checking YP doesn’t want anything to eat or drink. 

“Nah, I’m good,” he explains. “I’ve got a can of Sirena in the car.”

Some habits, it seems, are harder to break than others. 

By Christopher Riley

Christopher Riley is the editorial director of Men’s Health and Women’s Health, and the editor-in-chief of Esquire Australia. Formerly deputy editor of GQ, Riley published his first book in 2022, with Penguin Random House.

More From

Inside Tez Steinberg’s epic 126-day rowing journey across the Pacific Ocean

Inside Tez Steinberg’s epic 126-day rowing journey across the Pacific Ocean

After 126 days at sea and with more than 8,000 kilometres of water behind him, Tez Steinberg arrived in Australia from Hawaii last month, after setting off in late 2023 to raise awareness for ocean conservation and accelerate ocean plastic solutions. Steinberg’s journey was one of immense physical endurance, but as he tells Men’s Health, he wouldn’t trade the mental payoff for anything