UNiiQU3 “I’m a one-man band, girl.”

Fresh off her first North American Too Lit To Quit tour with Cakes Da Killa, Jersey club producer/DJ/vocalist UNiiQU3 is a growing force to be reckoned with, playing some key showcases for SXSW this week. She’s already toured all over the world, showing off her New Jersey club style in shows that can feel like DJ sets but that can also incorporate live performance, doing her vocals over beats made by herself and by other like-minded producers. Whatever her set sounds like, it’s always guaranteed to be a full-out party.

Tiny Mix Tapes sat down with UNiiQU3 (along with Melanie McClain, manager for The GTW) before her first show in Chicago.

Hi! How’s Chicago so far?

It’s cute. I like Chicago. I wish I was here on a weekend so I could get more of a feel for the nightlife. The people involved (Them Flavors, known for showcasing club music innovators in Chicago) are really good.

Your sets and mixes, like your recent Just Jam set, works on a musical level but also directly confronts politics. This isn’t happening a lot.

Especially with dance music. I feel with hip-hop or R&B, people expect that, but for dance music, people just think ‘party,’ so I’m like, lemme make this political-ass club mix. I usually pick skits of how I’m feeling so that’s why I got all my friends to say how they were changing the world. I picked the songs specifically; the whole tracklist is righteous club music. Everything was really raging at that time. For it to be dance music, that makes sense because it’s really hard-hitting. Get all righteous in the club!

The club is a righteous space!

Especially because the crowd I appeal to is all types of races and identities. Dance music is good, because it’s worldly.

I especially see that in the queer scene as well.

I’ve always been involved in that scene, it’s been a part of me. I used to practice in the gay club. I just came from that, I always knew about it. A lotta people try to say that the queer scene is in their own world, but really they listen to everything everybody else does, so why shut them out? Back in Jersey, it was really hard to try get the cunts to come to my party. I’m like, ‘Just come, you guys know I’m gonna slay the beats.’ They’re like ‘Uh, I know, I hang out with straight guys or thugs from the block or whatever, but they don’t care.’ Then it happens and I’m like, this is cool. I see the dancing boys in Jersey go off to vogue music all the time, and I’m like, you guys are killing it right now, as much as the cunts. Jersey club and ballroom, their dancing goes hand in hand.

You’re a producer and a vocalist. Are you developing both ideas at the same time?

I usually think of the vocals in my head first. I record them and start the song off of that. I don’t really think of the beat first, I think of the vocals first [because] I could sing acapella in the shower and come up with mad stuff. Every time I feel uninspired I take a shower. If I come up with mad stuff, I’ll just record in the shower, and hope the water’s not too loud.

You’ve spoken about being pigeonholed as either just a DJ or just a vocalist or just a producer. Has people’s perception of you changed recently?

I feel like it’s becoming more clear — I keep telling people. I’m really strict about it. I feel like people try to put you in a category so it’s easier for them to understand. They don’t want to accept the fact that people can do more than one thing, just because it’s not normal, you know? I think this year will be that year where people will be like, ‘OK, I get it, I get what she does.’ Maybe because everyone else in my scene is categorized as a producer and a DJ, I feel like people are trying to restrain me from being a vocalist because no one else is really doing it.

… Some people are like, ‘Wait, what is she doing? I thought she was a DJ?’ But then I kill it so, then they’re like, ‘OK I get it.’ I’m a one-man band, girl.

Is anyone in the Jersey scene following in your footsteps, experimenting with vocals and production?

They are, but they’re not necessarily taking the club route anymore. The two scenes that are popping off right now in Jersey are club music and hip-hop. But I feel like girls are trying to take the hip-hop route because they see it getting more light right now, so as the far as the club route goes, it’s a girl named Tokyo and I believe KAYY DRiZZ is starting to do vocals more. It’s difficult in the dance scene for girls to prosper, like Azealia or Maluca or Rye Rye. Especially with an alt girl, not poppy, the real deal. But I feel like as far as Jersey club goes, if a vocalist wants to prosper, this is definitely that year that it could pop off. The boys are doing it, “Back Up On It” is on [Jersey station] Hot 97 and MTV. If a guy can do it, a girl can clearly do it. If a girl can do it, it’ll be really prosperous cos it’s rare.

What are the sounds that are bubbling up? What’s next for UNiiQU3?

I have a lot of plans. I don’t wanna box myself in. We all know how dance music is super genre-crazy. The good thing about Jersey club is that it’s cool enough for people who don’t get it. It’s not overwhelming to them; that’s why the remix factor pops off so hard. They’re like, ‘It’s a dance track, I get that, and it’s a remix to my favorite song [by] Rihanna. Cool.’ But instead of remixing I’m gonna make my own Rihanna Jersey club songs. Me making original tracks is a big deal for me. I’m trying to infuse other genres into Jersey club. I made this one song that has inspiration from PC Music that I got when I was over in Australia with Swick. I’m doing Jersey club-juke, Jersey club trap, a couple smooth-ass R&B tracks, a house-y track that’s Jersey club-influenced. I’m going to stay in my genre for right now but try to branch off in a way that’s not too restraining. Since I’m the forefront girl on the platform I have leeway to do whatever the hell I want, compared to the guys. That’s lucky for me.

Tell more more about this PC Music/Jersey club track.

I was listening to a lot of Swick. PC Music is a bunch of different sounds, super URL. I feel like to a certain extent I’m a digital diva — I did a track like that a while before with LOLGurlz.

Melanie: So ahead of the times, so ahead of the times. That’s how I learned about you!

That song was definitely ahead of the times, and it was Jersey club, too. It had the dial-up sound. “Digital Divas” was super DIY too. I recorded that shit in my closet. I feel like I’m a digital diva, but I like to keep it very IRL. Sometimes URL gets really fake, like are you even real? A whole life is just a troll [laughing]. It’s like I get that, but you’re just carrying. It’s like carrying around a fake baby. Just pop out a real one!

Congrats on SXSW!

I glowed up so much this year. Austin’s saying, “Keep Austin Weird.” It’s definitely gonna be weird this year, in a good way. I wanna linger around and see what’s up everywhere. I’m really trying to go see the international acts. When are they gonna be here again? I’m down for those. I can see people I haven’t seen in a long time — it’s a dance-music reunion.

Let’s talk about your glitter.

It started when I was in Australia, and I was like I need something that’s gonna make me stand out. This was my first tour and I knew that Éclair Fifi, Sam [Tiba], Nina [Las Vegas] and Swick all had bigger audience than I did cos it was my first time over there, so I was like, ‘What am I gonna do that’s gonna make me stand out?’ I was like, ‘You know, I’m gonna throw glitter’ because I want to, and it just became a thing. [The other DJs] were like, ‘Are you gonna throw it tonight?’ and I was like ‘Throw what? Nina, I need to go get confetti from the corner store!’ Sometimes I have silly string, just to wake people up. It’s supposed to be fun. That’s my job. I’m not gonna have you guys come to my show and be bored as fuck. I wanna put out that show factor. I want my live show to be the shit. Your music can be bomb, but if your live show is shit? Songs get old.

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