Matic808: Laurels Mix

As an exclusive for True Laurels Volume 5, Baltimore Club producer/DJ, Matic 808—who's featured in the issue—put together a sick club mix of select artists who've been featured in True Laurels so far. Songs from DonChristian, Abdu Ali, Chiffon, Butch Dawson and B L A C K I E are featured, with their vocals chopped, sped up and distorted. Artwork for the mix is provided by Denver-based artist, Antonina Clarke. Listen below! 

 


UNIIQU3: Gunning For Club Kween

Today marks the release of True Laurels Volume 5! Below, read the issue's feature story on rising Jersey Club DJ and producer, UNIIQU3 and be sure to follow her on SoundCloud. Buy Volume 5 HERE

Photo: Ryan Lyons

Photo: Ryan Lyons

I’ll admit, I’m a bit late. Growing up in Baltimore, the only club music that ever existed to me was what came from my hometown. With Blaqstarr, Miss Tony, Rod Lee, K-Swift and all the other club legends being spoon-fed to me on the daily, I never felt the need to look elsewhere for similar music. But over the past year, with club music seemingly getting some of its best press since Diplo infiltrated the Baltimore scene, my curiosity for different variations of the genre has definitely elevated, leading me to dig deeper into the catalogues of Philly and Jersey artists. And while I’ve enjoyed the contributions that artists like Sliink, Nadus, Dirty South Joe and others have added to the culture, no one has gotten my attention like Jersey Club’s leading lady, UNIIQU3. So far this year, she’s been selected for Red Bull’s Music Academy in New York, played at Afropunk, and released a comprehensive history of club music with her mixtape, The New Klassiks. What could easily be looked at as an out-of-nowhere come up has actually been a life-long dedication to music from the Newark native. “I started off with music and the arts at a very young age,” UNIIQU3 tells me over the phone. “I play the piano and I was in dance classes where I was being exposed to classical music and ballet which were completely different from what I’d been hearing on the radio, obviously.” Eventually, UNIIQU3 branched out to auditioning for Broadway plays like The Lion King but didn’t take long to give that up as it was taking away from her everyday kid activities.

Her comfort with performance is still in full effect, though. At this year’s Afropunk while doing impossible vocal chops and repeated claps over radio hits during her set, UNIIQU3’s charisma illuminated through her designated corner of Commodore Barry Park. She was feeling it. After almost every track dropped, she’d look out into the sea of people going nuts, let out a smile of pure joy and get right back into her no-bullshit gameface—Kanye on The Kris Jenner Show style. Reflecting, she says, “I usually do mixes off the top of my head. I don’t like to plan stuff because it’s takes the feeling away from it. Everything is spur of the moment and that’s why it’s special.” In comparison to vocal artists whose emotion, or lack thereof, is almost instantly detectable, DJ’s and producers can sometimes come across as worker bees—people so meticulous in the arrangement of sound that picking up on their emotion is always an afterthought and a real challenge--for me, at least. That’s not the case with UNIIQU3, though. What’s so infectious about her work is the evident, close-knit connection she has to club culture. In a short interview with Fader earlier this year, Fade To Mind producer, super DJ and Jersey-native Total Freedom spoke on his fondness of UNIIQU3 by saying, “She clearly works hard but nothing about the way she’s out there seems forced or corny.” And that’s spot on as her hustle seems to be genuinely from the heart. While on the phone she tells me about an all-female club collective she started right out of high school called Vixens who would dance to her music and shoot over-the-top themed videos around Jersey: “Every DJ had a dance crew in Jersey,” she says. “Sliink had his dancers and rappers. Brick Bandits had dancers and I was the only girl so I’m like, ‘Damn. I want something too!’ I went on Facebook and blasted that I was having auditions at this youth center. I got mad girls to come out.”

And while being a pillar of the female community within club culture is a priority for UNIIQU3, she’s not limiting herself when it comes to bringing people together for the genre’s advancement and preservation. In April she released The New Klassiks—a collection of her favorite club tracks, both original and with her own spin on them. For Baltimore Club legend Rod Lee’s “Give Em Some Room” which was originally featured on K-Swift’s 2005 compilation, The Jumpoff Volume 3, UNIIQU3 chops his vocals to unrecognizable pulsing burps and couples them with claps she calls “sexy”. She makes similar manipulations to songs by DJ Dwizz, DJ Techniques and Jersey Club pioneer, DJ Tamiel. She spoke passionately about the tape while we were on the phone: “Jersey Club is like a new thing to the world--not to us--but people are really just starting to get hip and I was just over talking about the whole appropriation thing. I realized that it’s happened to every genre of music, you know? The black people who actually created the music are living in poverty and people from elsewhere are making all the money from it. But I felt like instead of making a Facebook status about it or addressing it on social networks, I could approach the situation by making a mixtape that teaches people who started it and my perception of what the future of club is.”

Clearly, the club compilation is not a new thing for a DJ/producer but the leadership that UNIIQU3 assumes isn’t common, especially in club music’s place of origin, Baltimore. So naturally, one is forced to look at her role as one that’d make the late K-Swift proud: a young female DJ, endorsed by her hometown’s dominant club music collective (she, Brick Bandits and Swift, Unruly Records) and branching out to other cities where club music is created. “Jersey is different from Baltimore because when I was just starting out all we saw was Tameil taking things to the next level and getting booked in Paris,” she says as she reflects on her journey. “That was crazy but it’s a lot different than seeing someone making moves that’s only two or three years older than you. Jersey’s younger generation has that now with me, Sliink and Nadus.” And UNIIQU3 is just starting to get into the full swing of things. Earlier this year she quit her part time job to fully pursue music and she’s already gearing up for a tour in Australia while putting together an EP of original content set to release in early 2015. Her push to become the queen of club music--while sure to be a long, challenging journey--seems to be within arm’s reach.

Photo: Ryan Lyons

Photo: Ryan Lyons

-Lawrence Burney

Baltimore Beings #8

Location: Eutaw St.

"People get stuck. Become a victim of circumstance. They start feeling sorry for themselves. Baltimore, being the kind of city it is, it makes them a little deterred from their goals and dreams. And thats the worst part: seeing people do that to themselves." 

Location: Charles St

"Once I realized that no one gives a shit and people are going to judge you regardless, and you can do whatever you want with your time and like, once I became myself, I became empowered and just, happy. 'Cause it's like, nothing is stopping you from ANYTHING. Nobody's rules. The only thing that limits you is money. I mean, because that's just how it is. (Laughs)"

Location: Kenyon Ave.

"I love my twin sisters so much. They're my world. They're 11 now."

Baltimore Beings #7

Location: Howard St.

Keem Griffey: What have you been listening to lately? 

"Random commercials. Like I'll skip the music and go to the commercials (laughs)."

Location: East Baltimore

"My son makes me happy. He's six years of age. Another thing that makes me happy is being a clown. Living life out loud. Without a care. Not worrying about what the critics have to say."

Location: Downtown Baltimore

"My last relationship is a thing that should've been in a movie. Yeah. The shit you see in these Tyler Perry movies, I should've been one of those girls. The heartaches. The fights. Anything you name, I've gone through it. Rape. Domestic violence. The real kind. Not just pushing and head mushing. Scrapping. Straight scrapping. Everyday. So, I'm emotionally drained. It's been like that for the past two years. And people tell me to let things go. No. You can't let shit like that go. Plus that shit has made me a stronger person. All those fights, all that shit that happened. All the side bitches. All the beefs I had to go through. The bitches I did lose. The bitches I was friends with. I'm extremely grateful for my last relationship. It's unfortunate that I had to go through the things I went through but I'm happy for it. It makes me the person I am now. Can't nobody take that from me."

Diary: Al Rogers

Photo: Keem Griffey

Photo: Keem Griffey

Days seem longer when you broke but when the money flows time flies, spend a little bit and have fun, right? It's a 50/50 chance with me every single cent goes to my music but when you haven't mastered your craft sometimes even your passion can be frustrating. I remember growing up my brothers had me in this fiend’s house in Essex. I might’ve been 14-15 and although it's just hitting me, they were serving and had me in a crack house--the experience was real. My mother tried keeping me away from trouble as much as possible coming up and all I could think about was a dollar. Sometimes we reflect and learn from those who we love and I can recall looking up to my brothers until I found some sense. Until this day I still have a major respect for them they let me know at a early age life isn't always easy and not to let my mother spoil me and give me a foolish notion. Hell, I just got the message from my homie Lb to give y'all this piece I guess the cop cars outside my window inspired it who knows why or who they're out there for. I talk to my boy Ryan a lot about what moves would be wise to take so that I can prosper, one thing he said that hit home was that I should leave Baltimore as much as possible to share my message. Isn't it so easy to lose faith? And finding hope can be underwhelming but when you know your direction I guess the work you put in will help guide you. These are all tangent thoughts so forgive me if I'm like a bouncing dodge ball in closed quarters; maybe not the eat analogy but fuck it. In the year 2013 I said some things I'd accomplish that I didn't although some things came surprisingly and this year has still been one of the better years since I started this journey. I had a misconception of what fear was but now I truly understand the idea of fear not existing. So failure doesn't get under my skin like it once did I'll get to where I'm going regardless of the time it takes. Hey I found love this year as well it's been a pretty rough couple of months but worth it when someone inspires you to make pretty awesome fucking songs as a musician they're definitely a keeper haha. I'm not the best with this whole love thing. The few times I've tried it’s bit me in the ass. Those playboy days have been numbered before they started. Yo I hate to sound corny but my mama tells me I am all the time so don't mind me, btw mama is what I call my shorty. You know when you close the door on one issue another one always presents itself and the second I lost sight of fear a new problem arises—"anxiety " I'm at odds with that fucking word. It's not about time though, it's about me being anxious to find the right sound for this next project because right now it's good but it's everywhere. I'll get on top of that though before y'all mothafuckers even read this. My mother has had me on some real grind mode shit lately she got me this little part time gig with the MTA so I can continue paying for my music she supports my dream 100% now that's love. Growing up my family called me Baby Al because I am the youngest and well I'm a Jr. That will also be the name of the next project "BABY AL" It got a ring to it right?

Follow Al Rogers on Twitter: @ALROGERSJR


Interview: Lightshow

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My first introduction to rap music from D.C. was in 2007 with Tabi Bonney’s “The Pocket”, which, if anything, turned me away more than intrigued me. However, it did make me want to see if there was some music coming from The District that I’d actually like. Wale’s mixtapes Hate Is The New Love and 100 Miles And Running became mainstays in my iPod Classic. Rappers like Phil Ade pretty much followed his mold and I began to think that D.C. was only going to offer backpack raps—a space that was already occupied by Lupe Fiasco for me and much different than the Three 6 Mafia and Project Pat I came up listening to. But over the past few years with Fat Trel gaining more recognition and Shy Glizzy’s song “Awwsome” gaining traction, the street narrative of D.C. is starting to come to the forefront. A lesser known rising street artist out of D.C. is Lightshow, from the Southeast quadrant of the city. He’s worked with Glizzy, members of Fat Trel’s Slutty Boyz and was featured on Wale’s “Georgetown Press”, from his 2012 mixtape, Folarin. A la Meek Mill, his raps are fueled by his near-yelling delivery and his content often touches on the struggles of street life while presenting an existential outlook on the choices that people make in the streets. Before he took the stage at D.C. station WPGC 95.5’s Birthday Bash, I talked to him on our way to the Howard Theatre about what fuels his music and how he feels about the cultural changes that D.C. is undergoing.

True Laurels: Tabi Bonney and Wale started were the first rap artists out of D.C. that I knew about but recently there have been more street artists surfacing like you, Fat Trel and Shy Glizzy. Which group is a more fitting representation of D.C.’s identity?

Lightshow: D.C. is changing a lot but you still see more people drawn to the street aspect of the city because that’s what we come from. D.C. is a real turned up city, well the underground. So street music is gonna resonate with people. They can listen to us and say, “Oh, I ride past this street,” or “I’ve been through situations like that.” When you start at new school you still go sit with the people you relate with the most. So we’re in the same school as those other guys but the fans are more at our table.

A recurring theme in your music is survival. Did dedicating yourself to music help you survive and get out of shaky situations?

Lightshow: Hell yeah. It’s been a lot of times when I’m doing something music related like being in the studio, performing, or just trying to stay focused and something fucked up will happen to someone I’m close with. I just think that could’ve been me. Music saved me a lot of times.

Towards the end of “Regardless” you take time out to tell kids “Fuck the street shit, stay in school.” Are you aiming to use the voice you’re granted through rap to be a mentor, as well?

Lightshow: I feel like I have to be both—a mentor and a rapper. It’s not even up to me. It’s responsibility. When you first start it’s all about “You, you, you.” My music is about me but I can’t just go to the studio and make a 100 songs. I wish I could, but it has to come from a real place and an honest place. People will always be able to relate to honesty. I have a pretty good following on social media and it’s kids included in that, it’s mothers in that, adults. I gotta be mindful of what I say. If I stand for something as a person, then I have to stand for that in my music. It can’t be two separate people.

You spoke on how much D.C. is changing. Do you see that change as a negative effect on your community and your own personal growth?

Lightshow: I don’t know if I look at it as negative. I just look at it as them trying to modernize the most powerful city in the world. Things have to change and this process has been going on for a long time now. Things are moving in a good direction. I like seeing these big buildings and condos popping up. It motivates me to step the level of my hustle up. Back in the day you could hustle and get you a nice apartment and you’d be good. Now I can say I want me a condo with a rooftop terrace and a pool.

Who are the unsung heroes in the streets of D.C.?

Lightshow: I gotta give a lot of thanks to a group of guys called the Real Live Gangstas. The music they made was so street conscious. It made me wanna get my morals and principles in order. Their music made me want to become a man’s man. Even though their music was harsh, it was real. They told you every side of the coin. Growing up without a father, I was looking for that street knowledge from older guys and they changed my life. I saw that it’s a thinking man’s game. So learning from them, how could I not assume the responsibility of a teacher or mentor? It’d be impossible.

There’s a sense of existentialism in your music where you repeatedly bring up the choices that people have and how they shape the outcome of one’s life. Is that an ideology you eventually adopted or is that how you’ve always viewed the world?

Lightshow: It’s not really an ideology I picked up but I always think back to a school I went to in Southeast D.C. where a lot of my teachers were white. I had one teacher named Mr. Ben who taught me how to play chess. I always think back to how they were so much harder on us than they had to be but it made me realize that not knowing is not an excuse. Knowledge is free. You have to know what’s going on. Read up on your rights and find out what your purpose is out here. All the hours we have in this world, you gotta really work to get what you want.

How does the music you’re working on now differ from what’s been heard from you so far?

Lightshow: The music that I’m working on right now is all centered around what I’m learning. I make songs whenever I get new information. It’s not specific to the streets either. It could be about girls, myself, anything. I’m always gonna talk about whatever I see. I always want my shit to be relatable. I don’t pull this shit out of nowhere. The streets are so fucked up right now because everybody is misguided. You got rappers who aren’t even living what they’re rapping about but people will follow them and do what their songs say; it’s reckless.

Follow Lightshow on Twitter: @Lightshow10thPL