Interestingly (and in a way ironically) enough, the famous waffle house is the meeting place for U-N-I members Thurzday (born Yannick Koffi) and Y-O (born Yonas Senere Micheal) (who’ll be fashionably late to the interview, but more on that later). The Inglewood residents have been heating up the underground circuit thanks to their release Fried Chicken & Watermelon, powered by their transformation of a Wu-Tang Clan classic cut into their own dedication for the almighty sneaker, "K.R.E.A.M.", which has become a staple in the city’s streetwear fashion scene.
Connecting in high school, both Thurzday and Y-O were originally in a four-man group known as the Rap-Ture Kamp, which also consisted of fellow St. Bernard student Ablaze and local producer Unjust Ant. The crew formed in 1999 and released two mixtapes, Rap-Ture Kamp Unleash, Volume 1 and Jacking Beats, creating an immense local buzz. Eventually, Y and Thurz split from the Kamp, forming the U-N-I in 2006. With a lyrically breezy style that’s both a unique and refreshing alternative to the trademark West Coast sound, the U-N-I (short for U-N-I To The Verse) have pushed nearly 6,000 copies of their debut street album, even garnering acclaim internationally from the Czech Republic, Belgium and Germany. Now prepping their sophomore release A Love Supreme in the coming months, DXNext shows you how the West is beginning to win again.
: Inglewood, CA.
Sounds like: Mix one part Blu & Exile with two parts OutKast, and stir with production from local beat maestros Swiff D, Ro Blvd, Moufahza, Proh Mic, Diabolic and Dame Taylor.
Longevity: Y-O began rhyming once his family moved from Seattle in 1996. “I didn’t know exactly what I was writing. There was really no format; I just wrote what I felt was hot,” he says. Thurzday began writing poetry when he was seven, and continued to blossom into his high school years. “When I hooked up with Y, we began helping each other out and our style continued to develop and grow,” he explains.
On their sneaker infatuation: In the video for "K.R.E.A.M.", a good amount of the piles of shoeboxes actually belong to Thurzday and Y-O. “I’ve been collecting shoes all my life,” boasts Thurz. “Right now I’d say I have about 82 pairs.” On divine intervention: Amazingly the night before the interview, Y-O was in a serious car accident, hence the lateness. “I was a few minutes away from my home and fell asleep at the wheel,” Y explains. “I woke up just as I was going head-on the stop sign, so I swerved out of the way, hit a power pole, flipped my car and crashed across the street.” Amazingly, the Mohawked spit kicker had nary a scratch on his face. “I walked away without a scratch, scar, nothing.”
On handling business: While rap has always been a passion for the two, they are very aware of their own adult responsibilities. “I do have a nine-to-five, and if I didn’t have to go to college, I would have just been a rapper,” says Thurzday, a Loyola Marymount University finance graduate. “While I’m at work though, I’m trying to write to beats, on MySpace reaching out to people to listen to our music, trying to get people to listen to U-N-I.” Y-O, an Apple Valley College student, agrees. “Alongside rap, I work at a center for mentally challenged children,” he says. “Until the rap pops off, I need to take care of my priorities some way.”
On being universally accepted: Despite being known for lowriders, perms and Chuck Taylor’s, U-N-I take a much different, yet easily relatable, approach to traditional west coast Hip Hop. “We base a lot of our songs off of our lives,” Y-O says. “Because of our musical influences, we have songs that everyone – young, old, man, woman - can feel, even if they’re not a fan of Hip Hop.”
On the curious title of their debut album: “We want to stand out from what’s the norm out here. West coast Hip Hop has been stereotyped as being the same, and we’re just trying to challenge that stereotype."
The verdict: For fans of west coast alt-hop acts like Blu & Exile, Dilated Peoples and Murs, check out their U-N-I at their MySpace page [click here] for songs and upcoming performances.