How does an aspiring young deejay win the backing of one of the South’s most revered and influential hip hop kingpins? That’s a question lots of folks are asking these days as Unk makes his way to the stage, courtesy of Atlanta’s legendary rap impresario Big Oomp.
The 24-year-old former deejay caught the attention of Big Oomp (the man known for his ability to break underground rap acts, among them Baby D), about six years ago. Oomp says he was as impressed by Unk’s drive as he was by his talent. “It was his work ethic,” lends Oomp. “He was determined and he wanted to rap and he was determined he was gonna make it. He started out as a deejay and he just started writing raps to go on the mixtapes. He was so dedicated in making sure he made it on the mixtapes I was like ‘this joker here gon’ be alright’.”
And it looks like Big Oomp’s prediction is on the money. Unk’s debut CD, Beatin’ Down Yo Block (Big Oomp Records / KOCH Records), featuring the blazing, high-energy single “Walk It Out,” is a gathering of some of southern hip hop’s greatest, among them Jazze Pha, Yola the Great, Baby D and Dem Franchize Boyz. It also features production by eight-year-old producer extraordinaire Big Korey as well as Top Quality Productions.
Unk says the people who appear on the album are friends and peers he has wanted to work with for quite some time. “I grew up with a lot of these people. I’ve been around them for years. I always wanted to work with them so whenever I had that opportunity it was just a phone call.”
While each producer and artist lent his own style to the project, none of them outshadowed Unk’s undeniable flavor. “My music is really just my swag,” he boasts. “It’s my whole swagger of just having fun, enjoying yourself when you go out to the club. I just do songs you can dance to and groove to whether they’re fast or slow. It’s just all a vibe. I put it all on my swag. I got a killer swag.” And, he stresses, he doesn’t lay claim to any of the southern trends that have taken flight lately. “My music is not crunk, it’s not snap. It’s just good club music.”
Truer words have never been spoken. If “Walk It Out” won’t get feet moving and bodies sweating, nothing else will. “That song is just mad energy,” he proclaims. “It’s like the first song [you play at a party]. People like to move on it.”
While stylistically, his songs are mostly characterized by heavy basslines, Unk says his content is diverse, covering a wide range of subjects, moods and occasions. There’s a song for the ladies: “I got this song called ‘Say Yes’ that’s like a meet and greet song. You go out, you see a girl and you want her so bad you don’t want her to turn you down. All you gotta do is say yes. Who knows where it’ll go after that. You might find you a wife; you never know.”
There’s one for the laidback party-goers: “I have a song called ‘2 Step.’ This song tells you that you can go out and get your groove on. You might not go out and do every move everybody else can do because you know some people be wildin’ on the dance floor. But you can sip your little drink and do your little two step.”
There’s something for the streets: “’Beatin’ Down Yo Block,’ the introduction to my album -- is like a real street song. I also have a song called ‘Comin’ Down The Street.’ This song tells you how we do in the A, how we stunt in our clothes.”
And something to make us think: “My most personal song is ‘Thinking of You.’ It’s about people who passed in my family like my grandma and my uncle who’s incarcerated right now.”
Despite the revolving-door mentality that plagues hip hop, Unk is determined to get in the game and stay in by abiding by one simple rule: staying true to himself. “I’ve seen a lot of people change when they get to another level,” he notes. “Some people don’t know how to act when they get a little credibility. What’s gonna work for me is just me being me, networking, communicating, not changing a thing. I’m gonna continue to be me