The incoming tide lathers a Malibu shore. Overhead, the passing storm fades the California sunshine to a grey tinge. Thunder rolls down the coastline. Dressed in indigenous garb, their faces are painted in the brightest of reds, greens and blues to match their Nikes, Vans, and Supras. This is the Land of The Kings.
Today, LA hip-hop duo, U-N-I, is on-set shooting a video for “Land of the Kings,” off their forthcoming A Love Supreme. Recently sharing the stage at the Lyricist Lounge with Pac Div, Mickey Factz and several others, U-N-I is breathing a U-N-Ique freshness into hip-hop. Recently picked to represent the West Coast along with Nipsey Hussle in XXL’s July 2009 Hood2Hood Feature, U-N-I’s Y-O! (Mohawk rocking, Yonay Michael) and Thurzday (Yannik Koffi) have been garnering industry attention since winning “Best Breakout L.A. Artist” at the 2008 MTV Music Video Awards. In just a few short years, their music has quite literally brought them from the heart of South Central to the shores of Malibu.
With Pacific waves throwing fume on beaten rocks, the tribal cast circles where land meets ocean tide. As the crew blows smoke over the beach, U-N-I’s drummer, Te’Amir Yohannes Sweeney, sits in the center of the group beating a drumhead covered in blue and red powder. With each beat and each step of the Steadicam operator, colored powder collides with the white smoke, creating a surreal filter that is apparent even to us onlookers. The 15 or so people around me gaze through the 4th wall, barricaded with spot lights and generators, at a scene that is a snapshot of both a time long past and a new beginning for a generation of hip-hop.
“The feeling behind the song is the emotion of accomplishment,” says Thurzday. “The video is set to showcase a journey through obstacles in being ‘King’ and accomplishing your goals.” Musically, the track is highly U-N-Ique for the genre, but not for U-N-I, a group who has carved their niche through experimental beats and high-energy performances. The song begins with a hard-hitting piano line evocative of Kanye West, and builds with deep snare hits and horn sections. Mixed in with the organic sounds is a myriad of synthesized notes and accents that are as colorful as the war paint adorning the group’s faces. Together with skilled lyricism, “Land of The Kings” has the makings of a classic song in a constantly evolving genre.
In this exclusive interview we sat down with U-N-I to discuss the new video and their plans for the coming months.
BallerStatus.com: How did you like the shoot?
Thurzday: The shoot was dope. “Land of the Kings” is an epic record that will have an epic video.
Y-O!: Simply amazing, felt like I was back home in Africa, LOL. To me this is by far the best video we ever shot so far.
BallerStatus.com: Who is the director and how do you like working with him?
Thurzday: We always work with director Tomas Whitmore and we trust his creative ability to capture the essence of the song. He has done “KREAM,” “Beautiful Day,” “Soul Hop” and “Hollywood Hiatus.” It’s always a pleasure.
Y-O!: Tomas Whitmore has brought another creative treatment to life. The same relationship and vibe we have making music with Ro Blvd is equivalent with Tomas, we love it.
BallerStatus.com: What is the feeling behind the song, “Land of the Kings,” and the video?
Thurzday: The feeling behind the song is the emotion of accomplishment. The video is set to showcase a journey through obstacles in being King and accomplishing your goals.
BallerStatus.com: Was the theme for the video there from the beginning of the song or did it develop after the record was cut? How did you come up with the theme?
Thurzday: It developed after the record was cut. That’s how all our videos are shot. The theme is based off the course we’ve taken with our careers and being from LA. We have done everything with no co-sign and no label. We’ve endured cats talkin’ down on us and have made the necessary moves to prove we are the best!
Y-O!: The way Tomas works with us is he likes to hear the finished product on our end, then he’ll just zone out and come up with a treatment around it. Us being an indie with no co-signer, feel like we’ve done most than others. We’ve been thru many obstacles to make it where we are now and we feel like we made the right move as artists to say we’re the “kings” of our land.
BallerStatus.com: What was your favorite location during the shoot?
Thurzday: My favorite location was the stream. It was hilarious when Y-O! and his queen had to get in the water. That’s going to be a memorable scene.
Y-O!: (laughs) my favorite location of the shoot was the time we weren’t shooting. It would have to be when we were walking to the next location and one of the ladies from the video was ahead of us and her damn legs were shining with a cute tail hanging out of the shorts (laughs). I’m sure everyone was looking at that.
BallerStatus.com: So you’re off to Europe? Have you been to Europe before and where are you going?
Thurzday: I’ve never been to Europe. We’re hitting Norway first and then London and Paris.
Y-O!: Man, I am so stoooooked for our first trip to Europe. We’re gonna hit Norway, Sweden and hopefully more. I heard they have posters floating around in the Sweden streets with our faces on it. I expect to end up staying out there for a month.
BallerStatus.com: Do you have any expectations or goals for the trip?
Thurzday: The goal is to rock every show and make new fans.
BallerStatus.com: Having just dropped A Love Supreme, which is substantially building your fanbase, what can people look for from U-N-I in the coming months? Are you going to push this album for a while or are you going back into the studio?
Thurzday: We have several videos for this album. We will work the record while we record our official album.
Y-O!: Don’t be surprised if you see our faces on the big screens. We’ll definitely work this album for a while to get the best out of it, while still recording for our debut album. There’s so much opportunity out there for music to take advantage of.