Rising Rap Star Uno Hype on Influences, Debut Album, and Sonic Evolution
The musical reach of rising rapper Uno Hype extends globally, far beyond his hometown in Maryland. With his witty lyricism, satin-smooth flow, and masterfully crafted instrumental arrangements, it's no surprise that Uno Hype is rapidly becoming a household name.
Uno has shared the stage with hip-hop heavyweights like Common, Juicy J, Mac Miller, Logic, Joey Bada$$, and Tierra Whack, and has spent hours in the recording studio with countless others. One collaboration in particular, an appearance on the late Capital Steez's EP AmeriKKKan Korruption with Chance the Rapper and Freeway, thrust him into the global spotlight.
In March of 2021, Uno returned with his debut album, SOL GLO, a collection chock-full of hits and staples of the ever-evolving Uno Hype sound. With songs about Uno's own personal experiences and struggles growing up, new and returning fans alike instantly connected with the music, the lyrics in particular resonating with audiences around the world. SOL GLO presents the rapper's iconic "fuck the hype" spirit and mantra to the world with a cleverness and poise impossible to find anywhere else.
Although all 14 tunes of SOL GLO stand out as top 2021 tracks, we would be remiss not to mention a few of the Intersect Magazine favorites. The album opens strong with "Pot Of Gold", the combination of soulful wailing horns and ultra-soothing female backing vocals making the song the treasure at the end of a musical rainbow. "Leave", featuring Amal Marie, brings all the best parts of Uno's classic sound, but also introduces a funky distorted guitar interlude, giving the track added instrumental depth and a fresh twist. The song's lyrical content encapsulates the crafty candor we have come to know and love from Uno Hype.
"I wanna hurt you like you did me and settle the score/'cause there's no rules to love and war"
"Color Me" might be one of the most intensely powerful tracks of SOL GLO, with its haunting instrumental melodies and an audio panning style that makes the listener feel as if they are being surrounded by a crowd of voices from all directions. Focused on Uno's experiences and observations growing up as a Black man in the DMV, "Color Me" combines gripping lyrics with an impressive mastery over musical soundscape. The track is an ideal balance of push and pull, with both moments of tension and of relief evoking visceral emotions in listeners.
Uno unleashes the radiating positive energy at the heart of SOL GLO with title track "Sol Glo". The tune is an anthemic call for fans to stay true to themselves; big resonating bells mimic the sincere vocal hook. The rapper takes us to paradise with "Garden Of Eden", angelic backing vocals setting a perfect backdrop to illuminate Uno's verse. The endearing "Superman" (featuring Jerome Thomas) showcases a new, sweet side of Uno Hype–one which centers around soft R&B melodies and the challenges of saving oneself and others. The earworm melodic chorus blends flawlessly with the lead synthesizer sound and cohesive instrumental pauses keep listeners on their toes.
In each and every moment of SOL GLO, Uno Hype leaves pieces of himself behind, creating a rare space of complete vulnerability in the contemporary hip-hop industry. If the artist wasn't on your radar before, he certainly should be now, as he's constantly experimenting and pushing the boundaries of rap. Despite the skill and artistry demonstrated in his existing discography, the best of Uno Hype is yet to come.
We spoke with Uno Hype about his musical influences, songwriting inspirations, debut album, and sonic evolution. Read the full interview below, listen to SOL GLO, and check out the official digital cover on our social media. Let us know what you think.
Who or what inspired you to pick up writing and playing music?
I started making music at a very young age. My cousins and I would record music on actual tapes through the radio. We would stick microphones and just record over music almost karaoke-style. That was my first interest. I also had an older brother and older cousin who both made music. That kind of got me into rap music and made me want to pursue that as a career. There was always a little bit of a sibling rivalry with my older brother and I think that's why I really went head-first into music.
Did you guys make any music together?
No, I was very young at the time. I had to be about eight or nine years old. After that, I went and bought my own computer microphone and turned my mom's basement into a studio. I would always have friends come over to work on music or show them my new stuff. I was just always getting better with it.
When I was in high school, I started rapping with some friends. We would always battle on Fridays before the football games. In probably my junior or senior year at high school, I thought, “man, I’ve got to put out a mixtape.” I wanted to separate myself–to put out my own music. I think that's what started everything for me in terms of drive.
"When I was in high school, I started rapping with some friends. We would always battle on Fridays before the football games."
Was that the point when you knew you wanted to pursue music professionally?
I think it was before then. I knew once I was able to perform at local parties and for other people. My first time performing, my homie was doing Rage Against the Machine covers, so I just got up and did that with him.
Who were your first musical influences?
I really got introduced to Rage Against the Machine later–I just had to learn a few songs to perform, but I would say big influences for me were OutKast, Kanye, Lupe Fiasco, early N.W.A… a bunch of artists, but those were some of my big influences, as well as a lot of the local DC music scene that was happening at the time.
Would you say that those influences have changed over time or are they mostly the same?
My influences are mostly the same now as they were in my formative years, but I’m also always finding new music here and there that I like.
How would you describe your current sound?
It's a mix of like all my influences–you can hear all the different sounds coming out. It’s a big combination of the soulfulness of OutKast, the rapping of Lupe, and so on with everything else I’m into, so my sound is really unique and personal to me and my tastes.
What inspires your songwriting and lyrical content?
I would say that life and my personal experiences are the biggest contributors to my songwriting. If I'm having a bad day, you’re going to hear me speak on that through my music. If I’m having a great day, it’ll come through in my songs. If I tripped and fell, I’ll write about it. I think it's just the day-to-day life experiences and just giving people a lens to look through from my life–from my perspective.
"If I'm having a bad day, you’re going to hear me speak on that through my music. If I’m having a great day, it’ll come through in my songs. If I tripped and fell, I’ll write about it."
What message(s) do you hope to send to fans through your music?
Continue to push and do what you love. You can’t let anybody tell you your limits, as cliche as it sounds… just do you and always, always strive for the best.
Who have been some of your favorite onstage and recording studio collaborations so far?
That's tough… In the studio, there was one collaboration that I’ll always remember because it was just a moment for history. When I had just turned 18, I was in New York making music with a friend and I remember that we were all just in this basement. I was doing my verse and my homie was sleeping. When I went to wake him up to go do his verse, he laid it down in like three or four minutes tops. It was some of the craziest shit I’ve ever seen in the studio.
Tell us more about your “fuck the hype” mantra.
Fuck the Hype was my second EP that I put out when I was still in high school. The word hype always had a negative connotation, so I wanted to play with that idea of rejecting the things people praise and glorify. Even though my name was Hype, I wanted to have that element of resistance to it, so I went with that and I just thought, “let me put a body of work with that.” I got some friends on the tracks and it ended up being my first project that I wanted to really push.
"The word hype always had a negative connotation, so I wanted to play with that idea of rejecting the things people praise and glorify."
How did you come up with the stage name Uno Hype?
Uno Hype is actually two nicknames put together. When I was making music in high school, my first rap name was actually the One, and people didn't wanna call me the One, so a lot of my Spanish homies would call me Uno instead, and that just kind of stuck. I had another friend who always told me the music I make is hype. He would call me Hype Lee; it was kind of a play on Spike Lee. I mixed those two names together and Uno Hype was born.
What’s your dream venue?
I would say Glastonbury, for sure.
Reflect on 2021 a little bit. Tell us about the process and experience of working on your first full-length album.
We actually had the album ready to go for some time, but then COVID came about. It was actually pretty fun working on that because my homie and I put a lot of ourselves into the project creatively. We were just doing what we’d do in the basement at a higher level. Working on that, we were kind of learning how to make a full body of work because we were watching so many people make albums–my friend was a producer for a lot of other people, too.
I sat back, watched how people made albums, and I also studied my favorite albums and what it took to make them. I was inspired by certain concepts from other albums and put that inspiration into my own album. It’s a story for the ages… it’s humanity and its trials and tribulations and how we better the circumstances in which we find ourselves.
That was the whole process and the product we came away with in the end was really awesome. It was good to officially put something out there to set me apart from other people and set me up for success in my career. People can always go back to that album and connect with something on the album.
"It’s a story for the ages… it’s humanity and its trials and tribulations and how we better the circumstances in which we find ourselves."
What was the most challenging part of writing and recording the LP?
The only real challenge for me was COVID derailing the release date, to be honest. The music all came pretty naturally, since I’ve been making rap music since I was a kid. COVID came through and messed things up a little, but luckily it was only a temporary set-back.
How did you feel once it finally came out?
I definitely felt relieved because it had been so long since I’d released any music. It was a weight off my shoulders.
Do you have a favorite song off the album?
I think they’re all my favorites because they all hold something special for me. Whenever I write, I try to dig something from within myself, so I always have a connection with anything I create. I’ve spent so much time sitting and perfecting each one that they all grow on me in different ways.
What kinds of projects can we look forward to in the future?
Definitely more music. I’ve got some really cool projects coming up (I think we’re aiming for fall to release new music) and hopefully another virus doesn’t come and mess with that. I want to continue helping people out; one of my favorite things about music is how much people can connect with it. The greatest gift that comes with being a musician, or putting your art out there in any form, is someone telling you that you’ve made a positive impact on them.
"The greatest gift that comes with being a musician, or putting your art out there in any form, is someone telling you that you’ve made a positive impact on them."
What kinds of sonic evolution from the last album might appear in your upcoming music?
There’s just a lot of maturation and growth in my sound. I’ve been trying different things and keeping myself on my toes creatively. I love to see where I can take things and how I can show all my different layers and sides of myself as a person.
Are you planning to put out corresponding visualizers or music videos?
Of course! We're definitely going to have some videos for the new music. I want to get super creative with all of that stuff, so expect good things.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell the Intersect audience?
I just want to tell people not to be so hard on themselves. Challenge yourself, but don’t be overly harsh with yourself.