And Shows No Signs of Stopping

Moving to L.A. in hopes of making it big is about as embedded in our culture as the lottery. Just like the scratch off tickets, many play, very few win, and being timely is everything. Part rap, part content creation and all self-made, Mike and Gabe came from Ohio as art collective UZi to break themselves into the music industry, and they hit the jackpot.

Rather than their winnings resulting from pure luck, they’ve been getting theirs by being wildly different in the best sort of way. While the majority of hip hop and rap artists were still clinging to high-budget videos, showcasing their stacks on stacks, UZi started dropping their low-budget 90s VHS videos and the industry started noticing. From working with RiFF RAFF to a commercial spot for Kid Cudi, they’ve been plenty busy directing and shooting—but they’ve also been dropping a steady stream of music tracks that are just as original as their videos.

We headed to L.A. to chat with Gabe, who has become the face of UZi, to put light on the two guys from Ohio who have everyone wanting some.

You moved to L.A. from Ohio to move your career forward. What happened?
Well we moved to L.A. and started hanging out on Fairfax. There were a lot of people who noticed our style and how different we were doing our content. Fast forward a year and a half and we were on tour with Wiz Khalifa, the biggest artist in the world. It was crazy [laughs].

How would you describe your music and video style?
I don’t know. I’m not sure if we even stick to one particular style, but there are certain themes that we stick to. I think our style of song or video changes based on what void we are trying to fill. We like doing things that have never been done before. There will be weeks where we literally will make a bunch of 90s trance songs with hip hop textures, and that will be our theme for that month—other weeks we will make pop punk for a month straight. The style changes based off mood, and what we feel needs to be communicated with the culture.

The 90s video style you’re talking about has that, “My buddy and I shot this at the store last night,” feel which other artists and videographers would not even try, but you’re pulling it off. Why do you think that is?
It’s all about the energy. I think it’s important to show people your world. You don’t need thousands of dollars to do that. It doesn’t take money to create a sick music video. A lot of people have it twisted, some of the best music videos are free.

“I think our style of song or video changes based on what void we are trying to fill.”

When you dropped Scene Girl, you mentioned the video’s extras were just random people who were in sight of the camera. How does that work now that your reputation is growing?
I think that’s part of the charm of it. It’s the details that make that video cool. You are really able to feel where we’re at through the subtle things, like the extras and people walking. From a film aspect it makes more sense to shoot like that. What’s going to be a more authentic feel: people actually walking through a store or casted people scripted to be shopping at the store? But yeah, we’re saying too much, giving away the secrets.

Would you ever do a “big budget” video, or would that go against who UZi is? Why, or why not?
Absolutely. We hope to shoot a video worth a million dollars one day. And shoot another one as good for free. That’s just how we rocking.

Before you started breaking into the industry, what were some of the struggles getting to that point?
It’s kind of a secret society. You can’t really break in. You have to be brought in. That’s all we’re going to say.

“If you are holding back that means that you are not living life to its fullest potential.”

In a previous interview, you mention Kreayshawn got ahold of your stuff and it put your proverbial foot in the door. Was this how you were brought in?
Kreayshawn really opened up the door for us. She was running the game for so long. It’s crazy to think about. But that’s how every artist knew about us from that point forward. We kind of existed to people from that point forward.

We have a saying at Skullcandy: “Live at Full Volume.” Applying this to UZi, what does it mean to you?
Living at full volume means to do what you want when you want to. Not holding back. If you are holding back that means that you are not living life to its fullest potential.