Baltimore hip-hop artist UllNevaNo (pronounced “You’ll Never Know”) is set to kick off the Church Street Pub’s Last Saturdays series this weekend when he takes the Church Street stage. The emcee was selected for DJ J Hart’s “East Coast Draft” mixtape this year and he’s also a past winner of the Speaker Boxin freestyle battle in Baltimore. In addition to all that, he’s shared stages with everyone from Eminem protege Royce da 5’9’ to Detroit producer Black Milk. We recently caught up with him via email about his upcoming performance here in town and in case you were wondering: Yes. Frederick Playlist will be there, handing out goodies. So come say hi!
Will this be your first time performing in Frederick? If not, what’s your overall impression of the city?
This will not be the first time I’ve performed in Frederick. I’ve performed all over the city since 2009 and I can genuinely say that the city supports good hip-hop music. Whenever I’m out in Frederick, the people always show an extreme amount of love. It’s definitely overwhelming whenever I perform, and the feedback that I receive is awesome.
Do you think Frederick is ready to be a destination for original hip-hop? If yes, why? If not, why not?
I believe that Frederick is ready to be a destination in original hip-hop because there’s so much raw talent in this small city. As long as there’s functions and events going on that allows the local talent to showcase their skills, I think Frederick will be a destination for hip-hop sooner or later.
Speaking of being a destination for hip-hop, how is Baltimore’s rap scene? Who are some artists we should be listening to that we might not already know about?
Baltimore’s rap scene tends to fluctuate. Being that I’m raised from California, it’s different. You have the hardcore battle scene, then you have this new-wave trend going on, like trap/EDM music going on. It has changed over the years. I think people are still trying to find their identity, but there are cats such as myself that stick to the format of boom-bap, traditional hip-hop. Y’all should check out Sean Toure, Kane Mayfield, Tislam The Great, Eze Jackson, 7th Floor Villains, Exo Sskeleton, Y1 and Lyrical Leviathan. There are so many emcees out here in Baltimore.
How did you get involved with the Last Saturdays and hip-hop night here in Frederick? Were you seeking out places to play in Frederick or did someone approach you?
I got involved with Last Saturdays and hip-hop in Frederick through a mutual relationship with Makeshift Deluxe (J-Berd, DJ Blaze Daily). Those are like my brothers. We’ve done tons of music together, been on tour together, etc., and they approached me to headline the first show. So, I’m humbled and grateful. Anything those guys need, it’s a no-brainer to get involved because I know they’re for the culture of hip-hop music and they stick to the roots of this.
Who are your five most influential emcees and why?
My five influences they tend to change daily … but at the moment it’s Big L, Elzhi, Phonte, Homeboy Sandman, and Black Thought of the Roots, and if I could possibly slide Jean Grae in there, yeah, her, too … but all of these emcees just can rhyme and whenever I listen to them they make me step my game up and the focus on the complex of rhyming such as patterns, wordplay and schemes so I can appreciate that I want to hopefully be mentioned in the same breath as these individuals one day.
What are some ways both Frederick and Baltimore might be able to improve their hip-hop scenes? There appears to be some great talent around, but there has yet to be a breakout star.
The ways that Frederick and Baltimore can help improve the hip-hop scenes is to have more functions and unite and help each other out. I had a conversation with a close friend of mine the other day and we both agreed that hip-hop and people who are involved are snobs — their egos are so up in the clouds that they forget that they used to be the emcee on the come-up, grinding and trying to get people to listen to their demos or mixtapes. I feel like instead of bringing each other down, we need to uplift and support, regardless if it’s wack or not, and we need to start putting together our own events instead of relying on these venues for shows where we open up for a major artist and don’t see a dime from ticket sales. We just have to learn how to help people and stick together.
I see you studied mass communications at Kansas State University. What brought you to this area?
Yeah, I studied there for two years, from 2004 and 2005. What brought me here was music, trying to pursue hip-hop and getting closer to NYC. It was a journey that I was on and I learned a lot. I made a lot of connections and a few serious moves throughout the years of being in Baltimore, but it’s only getting better. I would love to write for XXL Magazine or Complex Magazine — that falls into my mass communications/journalism major.
And finally, what can we expect from your performance here in Frederick on the final Saturday in August?
First, I just wanna shout out Magnetik Moments and producer Logic Marselis. What you can expect from the performance is a lot of energy and a good time. Whenever I perform, I try to give as much energy as I can regardless of if it’s five, 10 or even 100 people. I still gotta rock because at the end of the day, I emcee.
You can catch UllNevaNo at Church Street Pub on Saturday. Doors open at 9 p.m. and the music is set to begin around 10. The cost to get in will be $5.