Music is about taking risks. Some of the best artists of their time have thrived on it. One such artist making that leap is one-half of the Los Angeles duo, U-N-I, the rapper known as Thurzday.
The California resident has taken a break from the success of his acclaimed tag team, with partner Y-O, to pursue a new project. Taking on a subject close to his heart, his debut solo LP titled L.A. Riots, traces the social uproar that took over the streets of South Central Los Angeles, following the historical Rodney King verdict in 1992.
Along with Thurzday’s incisive commentary, L.A. Riots features appearances by the mighty Black Thought of The Roots and R&B crooner Miguel, while production is provided by the likes of DJ Khalil, Terrace Martin, RO Blvd, and others.
In this revealing chat the native son of Inglewood, Thurzday talks about branching out on his own, the experience making the album, the emotional impact of the subject matter, and the importance of protest in music.
BallerStatus.com: First I want to commend you on putting this project together. What inspired you to record the album, and what is it you are hoping the listeners will get out of it?
Thurz: Thank you. The project started out with me recording the song “Los Angeles.” I involved my supporters on the record, by having folks email me voice-notes with a one-sentence statement on what Los Angeles meant to them. I painted an honest picture of Los Angeles, which led to a discussion on the 1992 L.A. Riots. My friend Tomas was doing research about the riots and the concept struck me. I am hoping the public is willing to riot with me, in art and music, and that everyone sees this album as a staple in music history.
BallerStatus.com: Was it always a goal to do a solo project, or did the idea come gradually?
Thurz: Being in a group, I conceptualized the bulk of the records and had to compromise on my vision for several songs, so doing a project that I can visualize and bring to fruition is always something I wanted to do.
BallerStatus.com: You’re touching on a lot of raw emotions on the project. Were there challenges with the subject matter and conveying your message when recording?
Thurz: The subject matter is current. With doing preliminary research and interviewing people in South Central neighborhoods, I was able to find that a lot of issues that lead to the riots are still going on today and may be worse off, so it was not hard to convey a message that people can relate to right now. The main element that makes things worse is communication, or the lack of.
BallerStatus.com: Has the recording process brought out something new from you as an artist, a new aggression perhaps?
Thurz: With this project, I was definitely able to fine-tune my sound and expand in music overall. I’ve gotten great reviews from folks that have heard the album, so I’m excited for the world to hear it.
BallerStatus.com: You grew up in California, how did the L.A. Riots affect you and your family at the time?
Thurz: I was living in Inglewood, CA and going to Kelso Elementary at the time, and the L.A. Riots did not come that far West. But, I remember driving down Slauson and Normandie from my Grandma’s house with my mother and seeing police officers in riot gear on side of the street, and several angry folks on the other side. As a kid you don’t grasp everything, but looking back, that was insane. Driving by buildings that were burnt down from a result of the riots is really crazy to look back at.
BallerStatus.com: Has the current climate of the industry, with the dominance of the Internet, made it easier or harder to balance mainstream appeal with a message?
Thurz: The Internet has truly changed the music industry. I feel that anything that is sincere, authentic and relatable to the masses can have mainstream appeal. It’s all in the presentation.
BallerStatus.com: You are now focusing full time on music. What is life like now having music as your career and not working a regular 9-to-5, how tough is it financially?
Thurz: I haven’t worked a 9-to-5 since being fired in 2008. A career in music or anything desirable is always going to be a challenge to be successful. It takes determination and doing something you truly love along with sacrifices. I’m not the richest yet, but the money will be there as long as I sustain this quality in my music and presentation.
BallerStatus.com: When can we expect the next U-N-I project?
Thurz: I have tunnel vision with my project right now, and I’ve never been this excited about a project, so my solo career is the focus at this point.
BallerStatus.com: You have spoken about the state of radio and hip-hop, and how you have trouble relating to a lot of the stuff coming out now. What can people do in their own way to affect a change and wake the establishment up?
Thurz: Support what you love in every form and fashion.