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UnoTheActivist Interview: ‘Don’t let nobody tell you how to stay true to yourself’

SoundClound era pioneer UnoTheActivist embodies his art in every way, shape and form. From channeling Prince’s reveal processes to heat checking new tracks with a grading system, Uno is ultimately one-of-one — striving to find more “nines” and “tens” after every session in the booth.

With a tight-knit team of close friends and collaborators, Uno is able to be honest with himself and his music. “I have them listen to it when I’m not around so they can really listen and not judge,” he said in his excluisve OGM interview. “I don’t have no ‘yes men’ with me.”

Breaking out of the original SoundCloud era, UnoTheActivist celebrates his newfound independence — recently releasing his latest album Unoverse 2 on his own accord. Asserting his impact within the new era, Uno details the influences inspiring his involvement within hip-hop’s punk-inspired wave, speaking on the importance of his collaboration album with Travis Barker.

Uno is an enigma — well-spoken and hungry with a vision to succeed greater things. He cites Lil Wayne as his biggest inspiration as his versatility is showcased throughout his entire discography — never staying in his comfort zone. The 25-year-old Atlanta native is not only fond of the new wave rap-rock sound, but fully embraces it as Unoverse 2 provides to be a head-bobbing ethereal experience for all.

In light of his latest efforts, Uno sat down with OGM host Hakeem Rowe discussing his upcoming music, his journey from SoundCloud to now, his creative process, Lil Wayne and much more.

HR: There’s a lot of controversy going around with this Mount Rushmore of artists and producers. And since you’re one of the pioneer guys of the OG SoundCloud scene, what is your SoundCloud Mount Rushmore?

UNO: “See that’s a tricky one, because there’s different aspects in how you want to put it: Who started this shit, who was the best? But I’d say around 2018 the Soundcloud was no more. Now, you see a new underground — a new wave — had to start over type shit. I’m going from 2015 to 2017 — the golden SoundCloud era days.”

“Me of course. XXXTENTACION. And as far as starting shit goes, Uzi, and Mr. Cartier [Playboi Carti]. Influence wise, these are the people for me. It’s crazy how fast shit bubbles up. I’m still working, but there’s a whole new batch of artists and I’m really fucking with them. TyFontaine, SSGKobe, they going crazy. This is the real trap-rock, for real. People think you need live instruments to rock, but it’s the feeling and aesthetics to it that make shit rock, you get me?”

HR: I’ve been in the studio with you a bunch of times before and it was dope seeing you be so hands-on with the engineer and production team. What made you ultimately not want to rely on the engineer and do it yourself?

UNO: “Every artist starts off recording themselves. When you record yourself, you know how you want to sound. And sometimes the engineer doesn’t know how you want to sound, so you got to help him out a little bit. Even engineers learn from that shit — it’s a learning experience for everyone.”

HR: What would you say your recording or creative process is like?

UNO: “First off, I’m always freestyling — every time. But it’s really different, it’s based on the vibe. Most of the time, I’ll be chillin for like a few hours trying to catch a vibe and get inspired. But I always freestyle because I feel like it comes from the heart. I’ve never have gone pen to pad, never wrote, never once. I dont think it’s necessary. I feel like when you write it down, you can’t hear yourself say it how you want to say it. When I hear a beat, it’s like a story unfolds in my head because it already has a story to it. I gotta unscribble the song already there.”

HR: You’ve been on these super melodic beat slately with crazy drums. What made you go towards this sound and style now?

UNO: “Everyone know me I’m very versatile, and I wanted to staring giving out themed projects to my fans –quick 10-song projects based on how I’m feeling at that moment. It’s the beginning of summer, I’m about to turn the fuck up. I’m drop some shit later — melodic — I’ll give you a whole tape like that. R&B Uno. What you want? Rockstar Uno, Rage Uno. And now that I’m independent, I can do what the fuck I want.”

HR: “Unoverse 2” just dropped. Take us back to the making the album and how that all came together?

UNO: “I always get the urge to make a project when I got the date down for the release. When I got the release figured out, I’m already working on the next project. And when that shit drop, I just get a super urge to make new shit coming from the most hype song that was on there. For instance, I dropped “8,” a compilation tape with a bunch of vibes and waves on there, some of the songs I put on there was three years old. Some music is before its time.”

HR: How do you keep track of all your music because you record… a lot.

UNO: “As an artist, realistically there’s so many songs I forget about that I hear later like ‘damn, I got this?’ It’s like when you make so many songs, you’re obviously gonna forget about some songs… it’s crazy. You made so much new shit and now you hooked on a new song you made — and you don’t even want to hear the old one because it’s old to you and it’s not even out. Like all this music is old to us before we put it out. The more shit I drop, I understand what my fans need and give it to them in the way that they need it. I’m in rage mode, dropping me super saiyan Uno right now.”

HR: What is the difference between Unoverse 1 and Unoverse 2.

UNO: “Unoverse 2 is just straight turnt. Unoverse 1? Straight turnt too, though. There’s really no difference, it’s really a deluxe. We ain’t calling it a delue tho, we back on the part 1 and 2’s — no deluxes. That’s some label shit.”

HR: Making music, you want to have people around that you can trust and their opinions. Who do you trust to send your music to and get a second look on and second ear to everything?

UNO: “I only send my music to my closest, closest people that I see everyday. I have them listen to it when I’m not around because I’ve seen this interview about Prince — and he said when he plays music, he’ll leave it and leave the room. He said [people] can really listen to it and not judge what he’s not saying when he’s not there. I don’t have no ‘yes men’ with me. When I record, I like facing people so I can get their reactions.”

HR: What did you want to accomplish with Unoverse 2?

UNO: “I would say this is basically my version of [Young Thug’s] ‘So Much Fun.’ Every time I started, it was just fun. Like, this is vibes tape. I’m not saying I was trying to portray no message, but a euphoric feeling. It’s always a message, but it’s not really a message, you feel me? It’s not deep, but it’s an envelope to the deepness.”

HR: One of my favorite periods you had was when you were bodying those remixes and mixtapes. What inspired you to do the ‘Deadication’ project? Did Lil Wayne have influence on you?

UNO: “I cut my shit right back to that, I was like Wayne level. I could kill anybody on their own shit. I’m always like ‘I appreciate y’all for making this shit — inspiring me — but I’m finna eat this beat.’ I wanted to do a ‘Deadication’ tape because I’d really die for this shit. I’ll do this shit until I die. People need music like that — more people need it than you think. And Lil Wayne was my favorite rapper because he was the first rapper to be ‘Drake.’ He was the first Future. The first Young Thug. The first rapper to have tattoos. The first rapper to work with Travis Barker. First rapper to really rap-sing on autotune. He was the first.”

HR: What are some other things that UNO wants to do in his life? Music just starts it all, what else do you want to do?

UNO: “I played basketball my whole life — a two-guard and point guard. I loved Iverson, Lebron and then I started f*cking with Kyrie Irving. I’ve also been f*cking with what James Harden been on recently too. I could play overseas [like J. Cole], I’d be dropping like 10-15 [points]. What I really want to get started in is how to flip houses and shit.”

“Make sure that y’all never put all your eggs in one basket. Make sure that you get shit planted everywhere because honestly, when you get older, you ain’t gonna do the same thing forever, bro. If you start young, planting the seeds, and when you get done doing what you’re doing now, that’s already gonna be boiled up for you.”

HR: Your little brother going crazy right now, MDMA. Can we ever expect like a collab album from you guys?

UNO: “For sure, but he’s going to do when the time is right. He’s going to want to do it when he’s ready to do it. When I was 16, I moved and hadn’t seen him for like two years, came back for a year, and then left again for three years. I flew him out to LA when I was 19, and we’ve been going crazy ever since.”

HR: If aliens came down to Earth right now and they said ‘Yo, you got to play your best album,’ which one are you playing? Or like a representation of this is what music sounds like on earth. Which one is Uno playing?

UNO: “I’d play ‘8’ because it’s a nice compilation tape. I’m just laying it down, not having fun, showing them what’s up.”

HR: You and Travis Barker made a collab project, how did you guys link up and everything?

UNO: “I was working with Kenny Beats — shout out Kenny, he’s been putting me on, putting hella artists on, I mean, he put a hell of people onto me. He put me on to Jack Harlow. But, while that was going on. I’m on my way to the fucking airport because I got to show in New York, and one of my songs come on the radio and shit.”

“This was the first time I heard myself on the radio, and then I posted it, and Travis Barker [commented] to me ‘congratulations, you just made my life legendary kid.’ I was like, ‘the f*ck!?’ I was like, this shit crazy. He followed me and shit, we said we’d said lab uit up it when I got back. And we locked in. We just locked in, and he was super cool guy. He older, but he still young, you know? We made the album over a year or so. We got a lot songs that’ll drop that’s hard as hell.”

HR: What kind of rock and alternative music were you listening to?

UNO: “My mom used to listen to a lot of f*cking Green Day, The Fray. She used to listen to Nirvana constantly. The Fray and Green Day, Maroon 5, Nickelback. Fall Out Boy for sure. I feel like this wave right now, is the same as THAT wave of pop-punk. That punk-rap, rock-rap singing, we do what we want to do.”

HR: What’s your message for Our Generation?

UNO: “I will have to say don’t be fooled by this shit. Don’t be fooled by the likes, the smoke in the mirrors — you got to really stay true to yourself. Don’t let nobody tell you how to stay true to yourself. Because nowadays, people getting tricked, like our generation getting tricked. What did Rick Ross say, ‘I ain’t tryna move quick, I’m tryna move correctly.’ I’m on my Rick Ross shit.