An interview with the hip-hop revivalist: Orikal Uno

Orikal Uno (whom has been voted Saint Paul’s best kept secret for the TCHHA/Twin Cities Hip-Hop Awards in previous years) has remained somewhat a local secret but is beginning to earn the cred he has been deserving of. He is one of the few rappers I know in constant “grind-mode”, whether it be painting murals, performing at local venues, or recording some new track, with some other local geniuses. The man is busy and has a lot to show for his hard work. An artist who you should put, and keep on your radar for years to come. Ladies and gents’ met Orikal Uno, the man with the plan to bring hip-hop back to its true roots with passion and determination.

Orikal Uno

UG: What is your first memory of the Twin Cities hip-hop scene?

O: Probably the first time I painted a train. I was a pre-teen and surrounded by hip-hop heads. As far as the music goes, my homies were the first Rhymesayers street team, and a Micranots show is one of my memories at the 7th street entry. I was probably 12 years old at the time and it was an all ages show.

UG: How did you get your start as an artist?

O: I had this little karaoke machine that took cassette tapes. I’d put on my favorite songs and record my raps on that thing. From there, I got a keyboard that would play pre-recorded drum-loops, and we’d do songs over that. I got my first digital microphone from a game I got at the dollar store. I used that mic and Magix Music Studio for my first 2 albums haha. One channel would record as nothing but noise, and one channel was vocals. So I learned how to copy and paste the “voice” channel over the “noise” channel when I was like 13 for clearer vocals.

UG: Tell me a little about your label, Graff Roots Media.

O: I established Graff Roots in 2006. The name comes from how I got involved in hip-hop music, which was via graffiti. I treat music like graff, get your name everywhere, paint/write with different artists, and do the best work you possibly can with what you got at the most high-profile spots.

I don’t really consider us a “record label” – more like a collective of artists that represent Music, Art, Culture and Style. We got some plans up our sleeve for the next year, and if executed properly it’ll do very good things for hip-hop here in Minnesota.   We’re more of a movement than a label. We’re B-Boys and B-Girls progressing/preserving the culture and keeping that true hip-hop relevant. I like to consider us the last of a dying breed, that we’re hoping to revive.

UG: What projects do you currently have in the works?

O: My debut studio album “Uno” dropped last year. I teamed up with Dispute One and we go by “OnePlusOne” – We have a mixtape done and recorded, we’re just waiting for the final mix/blend from our DJ. Once we get that, we’ll be releasing that free. Orikal&Ganzobean have had a complete album recorded and in the vault for a while now. I also have albums almost complete with Chris Goodwin and West End Productions. Besides that, I’m working on a project with Adbeatz out of Chicago. As well as a mixtape with Tully Stockton. I stay busy in the studio.

UG: If you had to sell yourself in 3 songs or less, which 3 songs would you chose to represent your style?

O: “On This Day” – “Get Away (So Stressed Out)” – “Rumfaced”

UG: Who do you consider and inspiration, and why?

O: In life, my Mom. She flipped her life around with very limited resources to raise me. Did it all on her own. I’m very proud of her. In music, a lot of great musicians from a lot of different genres have influenced me. Good music is my inspiration. As far as making dreams a reality, Rhymesayers are very inspirational with how they came up. Especially as a Minnesota kid. I watched them go from local to worldwide every step of the way.

UG: You’ve worked with a ton of amazing people, who were some of your favorites?

O: Sab The Artist, Prof, Mac Lethal and Dispute One (a/k/a Extreme) – I have my reasons for each of them.

UG: Who do you dream of someday working with?

O: Prince. Quincy Jones. DJ Premiere. Twista. Dr. Dre. Devin The Dude. Slug and Ant.

UG: What is your biggest accomplishment?

O: Being the first of my family to get a college degree.

UG:Tell me about your thoughts on hip-hop today, vs the scene 10 years ago

O: It’s different in various ways. The internet is a major factor. Too many people have easy access to making music. I remember when studio time actually cost something, and people who were dead serious about music would practice for days on end for those couple of hours in the studio. Now it’s like anybody with a computer program can be comfortable with half-assing a song and wonder why they don’t have a fan base. I also feel like a lot of the values of the hip-hop I grew up in are fading away… Too many rappers rapping about nothing, not enough breakdancers honing their skills on the floor. I could ramble about this for days…

UG: What barriers are you most proud for overcoming?

O: Being able to freestyle, and having my own style in graffiti. 2 barriers i’d like to overcome are my stutter in interpersonal conversation, and my type-one diabetes. lol.

UG: What are your goals for your self and your music?

O: World domination. Comfortable income for me and those I care about. And never-ending progression in my music. Never bottoming out.

UG: What’s your advice for younger kids who want to get involved?

O: Study whatever culture you wish to be involved with. Learn who’s responsible for what you want to do and why they made it great. Be yourself and be proud of who you are. Respect your elders, but don’t be afraid or intimidated to surpass them, respectfully. Talk less and work more. If it’s rap, freestyle more. If it’s art, sketch/paint more. Stay humble. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, just make sure you’re asking the right people. PAY YOUR DUES.

You can download lots of his music (most for free) on his bandcamp site, and stay up to date with his facebook fanpage and twitter @OrikalUno 


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