Photography runs through King Yella’s blood. His father was the well respected photographer Charles Hawkins so Yella was born into the photography game. “It was like I’d been in training but didn’t even know it,” he says.
He finally picked up the camera for himself while attending Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He sharpened his skills working for the college newspaper and remembers the pride in his father’s eyes when he saw his son’s pictures in print. It was the birth of a legacy.
Yella’s legacy is an American legacy. The son of a black father and a white mother King Yella has built a unique viewpoint on the world. He is intimately familiar with both sides of America’s racial coin. His biracial heritage has taught him to relate to all people equally. From hustlers and rappers to multimillion dollar businessmen and celebrities he can mix, mingle and do business with anyone. Yella’s life has taught him that everyone respects hard work and grind. That is an advantage that has served him everywhere he’s traveled.
Yella applied a hustler’s grind to taking pictures and made a career for himself. He lives and works on his own terms and that sets him apart from the competition. “I haven’t had a regular punch-a-clock job since 1992,” says Yella.
For 13 years King Yella based his operations and built his reputation in Louisiana. He spent years working with No Limit Records. Multi-platinum award winning rapper Mystikal and Yella are as close as brothers. Yella’s experiences touring with No Limit honed his skills and built his reputation as one of the best. As a result King Yella was on the scene at the birth of Cash Money Records. His archives include shots of Lil Wayne at the beginning of his career before he was the hottest rapper in the world.
Louisiana based Trill Entertainment was so impressed with his skills that he became the company’s official photographer. Up until 2011 only King Yella photographs were used as album covers. So every cover image of famed rappers Lil Boosie and Webbie has been done by King Yella. Yella has also been the photographer for several Yo Gotti album covers.
King Yella also made connections in the world of sports. Marcus Spears of the Dallas Cowboys and future Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal have both extensively used King Yella’s photography services. In fact the picture that O’Neal’s millions of Twitter followers see was taken by Yella.
Yella’s connections and work with high profile celebrities has led to featured photographs in most every major hip hop magazine. He has had shots in Vibe, XXL, The Source, Hip Hop Weekly, Jet and Tablist magazines. He has also been a major contributor to Julia Beverly’s Ozone Magazine and website.
In 2005 King Yella moved back to the St. Louis area and wasted no time making innovative inroads with his photography. He’s shot personally and professionally for Nelly and all of the St. Lunatics. He’s also done extensive work for Applebottom’s and Greedy Genius Clothing Company.
As the Whirl newspaper’s chief photo editor and contributor there’s hardly anyone in “the Lou” that isn’t familiar with his work. Yella also took the club photography game by storm. Known as the “King of Clubs” there are few hot spots in St. Louis that haven’t been blessed by one of his photo booths.
Models have also sought out King Yella for his ability to make images perfect and ready to print. He’s a name that they know they can trust with the most important part of their careers, their images.
Yella’s skill keeps him traveling all over the country. From California to Florida, from Texas to Georgia, from Louisiana and back home Yella racks up frequent flyer miles. He is an in-demand professional requested by celebrities, knowledgeable up and comers and companies that pay a premium for his talented eye, peerless work ethic and stunning results.
It’s like he says himself, “King Yella might cost more, but it’s worth more.”
Written by: Jason Bailey