It’s not a common occurrence to find a rapper who can step away from the music and focus on getting their life in order. The Hip Hop industry is alluring with all the money, bright lights, and fan love that can make it hard for anyone to leave it for some time. For UnoTheActivist, his time away from the industry had him in deep reflection and allowed him to tap into a different creative space that resulted in his latest studio album 8.
Before his break from the industry, UnoTheActivist was on a tear dropping music and touring all over the country. He entered the Hip Hop scene in 2015, and the buzz Uno garnered off his debut mixtape No More Thotties pushed his name throughout Atlanta and beyond with the likes of Drake and Kylie Jenner sharing his songs on their Instagram. From there, his career moved even faster as Uno found himself hanging with crews like A$AP Mob and collaborating with artists like Trippie Redd and Maxo Kream. But as his stock grew, so did his issues with the industry and in his personal life.
After dropping his mixtape, Limbus, Pt. 2 at the end of 2018, Uno decided to step away as he felt things were not going the way he wanted. On top of the issues in his personal life and with management, Uno felt he was being unfairly labeled as a Soundcloud rapper. To combat that, the 24-year-old rapper used his sabbatical to find himself and explore the different ways he could expand his sound so that no one could ever label him again.
“I was in a category that I didn’t want to be in. I had to step away from that and let it kind of die down, so I could come in and bring something new and be new,” he tells HipHopDX. “It was just the situation. It was the whole rap crowd and what they wanted to put behind a SoundCloud rapper.”
“They tried to make it seem like SoundCloud rappers were wack, dirty, this and that, when really, that wasn’t the case,” Uno continued. “They’re just people dropping their music on SoundCloud.”
With his debut album 8, Uno is making his return and showcasing what time off can do for someone who needs it. He’s adopted a brand new sound, one that he feels will have him stand out from all his peers, and one day place him in a category reserved for unconventional artists like Young Thug. He shows his expanding ear for production on tracks like “Aye Yai Yai” and “Devil On Yo Right Shoulder” while experimenting with his voice in many ways on “Night Mode,” “WATTBA,” and “Das Him.”
Uno says 8 is his most honest body of work and a reflection of how his time off helped him understand there are so many different places to take his music. He understands that critics will always have their opinions, especially in this day and age, but he feels they will finally see and hear how different he is from his peers.
“I felt underappreciated and just felt like they didn’t really hear me. I felt like nobody really was listening to my raps. It was just like they were listening, but they really weren’t feeling me. They were just listening to it because of the hype and didn’t appreciate anything I was saying or learning the message,” said Uno. “I definitely have a whole point to prove. I ain’t drop music in a little bit, so it’s like, I’ve been rapping the same but other people been rapping like that and filling in the void,” he said.
“I got to let these fools know who do it best, you know what I’m saying? Because it’s not about who does it first nowadays. It’s about who does it the best. I just got to keep going and show these folks that I’m the best at rapping how I rap.”
HipHopDX spoke more with Uno about the recently released 8, how valuable his time off was to him and his career, the role of meditation on his music, how synesthesia affects him, opening up to his fans, how he feels he’s what people need throughout these difficult times and more.
HipHopDX: How are you feeling with 8 finally being out? It took you a while to get to this point.
UnoTheActivist: It’s here, and it’s doing exactly what I want it to do. You know what I’m saying? It’s reaching out to fans that really needed it and really wanted it. I’m just happy, man. It just dropped probably like a week ago, so we still got some time for it to bubble up. I also really just wanted the fans to just see the progression, man. I want them to see how hard I worked and the much better artist I became. They really, really peaked it. I appreciate them.
HipHopDX: I want to take it back to when we first started hearing about 8 in 2017. You were releasing a lot of music but there was a long wait for this one. What was the wait for?
UnoTheActivist: Well, when I first dropped Live.Shyne.Die, I wasn’t thinking about an album at the time. I was just going with the flow. I didn’t think it was really necessary, for me to drop an album just yet. So I dropped a couple mixed tapes, to get the buzz bigger, and bigger, and bigger, and bigger. Until they really fiend for the album. They fiend for it. Dropped it on there.
HipHopDX: What were some of the major changes from the 2017 version of this project and the current version we have now?
UnoTheActivist: I feel like this is Live.Shyne.Die but times 10 type shit. You know what I’m saying? Literally, all the way turned up. Same energy, but amplified energy.
HipHopDX: How did you amplify your music and level up for this album during that time off?
UnoTheActivist: I went through some real-life situations that I didn’t go through before that I was able to talk about now. You know what I’m saying? When I was coming up as a kid when I first started rapping, I was going through a lot of stuff, but I didn’t go through anything that was life-threatening or life-changing. But now, I’ve been through that. So I can talk about it and I know how to focus my energy on it so it can be heard.
HipHopDX: How are you looking at the music industry now at age 24, as opposed to when you were looking at it at ae 19 and just getting started?
UnoTheActivist: It’s not genuine like I thought it was. I thought it would be like, when you’re 18, or 19, or 20, or when you’re just fresh, everybody wanted to fuck with you. Over time, you just be finding more competition, and more fakeness, and behind the scenes shit. The industry is really fake.
HipHopDX: What motivated you to keep going in this industry because some people would decide to not deal with it and find something else?
UnoTheActivist: I just knew there were people out there that really need me and my music because it gets them out of depression. People have told me they go to my music when they don’t know what to do. So I honestly thought about stopping, but I got too many fans that depend on me. You know what I’m saying? And if I give up, then they’re going to give up.
I really realized people were getting really sad that I wasn’t dropping music. They didn’t know where to go to. They didn’t know what to do. They didn’t know how to think. I talked to a lot of them in the DMs and I heard every one of them. They need me and my energy.
HipHopDX: During your album listening you mentioned how the title 8 is a play on the infinity symbol and how you’re tying that yourself and how you’ll be here forever. Why did you want to go that route this go around?
UnoTheActivist: It’s the debut album. It’s like me stamping it and saying I’m here to stay. You know what I’m saying? I got all these mistakes. I got all these trials and tribulations. We all go through them and ff you really listen to it, you’ll understand. But It’s like, now, I’m over that. I feel like I’m almost over the hump. It’s time to start something new, new beginners type shit.
With 8, I learned how real I am. As far as making music, I learned that I really love this and studied my craft and learned how to control my voice. When you look at an 8 the lines meet at the middle point. All the energy is coming from the middle and that’s how I approached everything with this.
This album means a lot. It means more than just a step in the right direction. It means more than just being infinite. It’s representing me and how I feel like my life if going. It means self-confidence, wisdom, success, and compassion. It means so much. I just feel all of that right now.
HipHopDX: You’re embracing a new sound on this project that’s really different from what you put out in the past. How would you describe it?
UnoTheActivist: It’s crazy because people have been saying that but I honestly feel like it’s the same almost. I dropped a lot of music and I just feel like I’ve been rapping fairly the same. People just aren’t really listening to me. People listen now and they’re saying I’m rapping all these different ways and loving it, but I really been rapping like this. Now it’s like I got a platform where everybody can hear it.
HipHopDX: On this album, you speak on a lot of personal topics. What inspired you to get that open on this album and how does it feel to be able to relate and connect to your fans in that way?
UnoTheActivist: At first, as I said earlier, I never went through anything. I had to go through sadness, getting stabbed in the back, getting into a relationship, falling in love, and breaking up. It takes all those moments for you to really learn what life is. Once you learn that, you know what to talk about because it’s on your mental. You know what I’m saying?
I honestly don’t know if I’m the best person, I just know I’m a person that’s going to give it to them. I just know I’m supposed to be giving this message out, or I’m supposed to help you feel better. I just know that much. I’m not here to be the best. I’m just here to help you. I would like to be number one. Who wouldn’t be? But I don’t do it for that. I do it for the fans. I do it for the people that need to hear it.
HipHopDX: You’ve mentioned that meditation has helped you tremendously as you enter this new chapter in your career. What made you take that on?
UnoTheActivist: I listen to Abraham Hicks. You should get in tune with that. That’s how I been staying focused and I’ve been thinking clearly. Free meditation bro, that’s what we need to do, as a whole. Meditation helps me throughout any situation. It helped me create a thought, and focus on what I wanted to think about.
I started meditating about two to three years ago. My homie always meditated but I just never meditated. I don’t know why. One day I just did it for like 15 minutes and I felt so light after that I kept doing it. I felt the universe coming towards my way if that makes sense. I could actually feel it. I had to slow things down a bit because life was going too fast. Well, meditating actually allows me to be freer with everything I do. I feel meditating is basically the root of everything, like the gravity of self. When I’m actually doing music I think way clearer, your thoughts can be way clearer, and I can say what I want to say on the track much easier, you know what I’m saying?
HipHopDX: During the listening, you explained how your synesthesia helped you with the sound of this album. How is that so?
UnoTheActivist: Synesthesia always helps with everything. But it doesn’t really help because it’s not something that help, it’s a feeling. When I hear a certain sound, I see a certain color based on my mood. You know, life’s always changing the mood of the room. You know what I’m saying? But its also subconscious shit. I hear a song, I hear a song or a beat, and I just see the color and I just know what to talk about.
HipHopDX: How does it work for people who don’t really get what synesthesia is?
UnoTheActivist: You know when you look at a light and you close your eyes? You close your eyes and you still see that light, type shit. You stare into lights, or you stare into anything and you close your eyes and the outline of it will still be, you know what I’m saying? It’ll still be there. That’s basically what it is, right? You can’t see it, but you can see it inside of you, you know what I’m saying?
HipHopDX: Do you think having synesthesia gives you an advantage over your peers?
UnoTheActivist: Yeah, I feel like it’s a cheat code. I feel like I have that advantage. Sonically, I feel like I’m ahead of a lot of people. As crazy as it sounds, those colors go with the sonics, you know what I’m saying? Those wavelengths and those vibrations, people don’t know that the vibrations have color to them. I understand, and I be using it to my advantage. It just makes shit easy, it makes me feel more confident when I’m rapping too.
HipHopDX: You have a cadence that reminds me of Young Thug a little bit on some of these tracks. I also remember you telling me you wanted to have an influence like Young Thug has on the culture today. With this new outlook on your career, is that still one of your goals?
UnoTheActivist: Yeah I still want that. I still want that influence and still want to change the world positively, you know what I’m saying? I want a whole generation to make a genre off of one of mine. I want people to be able to express themselves just like how I express myself, unapologetically. Thug inspires people to do that and I still want to have that type of influence that he got and maximize it. I already feel like I get that a little bit.