Exclusive Interview: UllNevaNo

Anyone that follows either the Baltimore Hip Hop scene or the East Coast Grind Time freestyle battles has no doubt heard of UllNevaNo, making his name itself almost paradoxical, which is pretty cool.  Under Sound Music, along with RockTheDub.com, Agio Life and DJ Harvey Dent are presenting UllNeva’s upcoming mixtape The Color Brown which features the young wordsmith spitting over nothing but Kev Brown instrumentals.  We sat down with him to talk about his inspirations, his process to writing and what to expect from his upcoming project.

USM: What got you started in Hip Hop? When did you realize that you were going
to be an MC?

UllNevaNo: I can recall when I really started getting into hip hop was towards the end of my 8th grade year merging into high school, And listening to my pops mix cd’s from tony touch, to dj clue, but as a young teenager your surrounded by what’s the in thing, so there was a period where I was listening to the Dip Sets, the No Limits etc.  Once I moved to Southern California I just got absorbed into the culture it was like everybody was competitive to be the dopest emcee in School no matter what grade, holding battles and ciphers at lunch period. I realized I was going to be an Mc after my 1st Year attending College, meaning taking it seriously in that matter as far as the grind and making sacrifices was concerned.

You released *The Color Purple* where you rapped over nothing but Evidence beats and now you’re about to release *The Color Brown *where you spit over Kev Brown instrumentals. What gave you the idea for the *Color *series of mixtapes and are we to expect more?

I’m always creating music constantly, and in todays digital era everybody has a mixtape, so I wanted to do something clever, something that stood out from the rest of those that put out mixtapes every 6 months via online. I thought it would be dope to put out a series of mixtapes to have a producer to have some sort of relationship with color, and I also looked at it as being creative, so its sort of an ode to Kev Brown cause I do appreciate his work from “I do what I do” to ” Selective Hearing.” There will be one more installment to the mixtape series after the “Color Brown” I have an ill idea about the next one its already in the planning stages right now.

You seem to have a pretty consistent “under ground” sound to the beats you pick. What catches your attention about a beat and who are some of your favorite producers?

I’m really into dope boom bap raw, static dirty sounding beats I’m into chopped samples and loops, it depends on the beat sometimes an ill drum pattern might catch my ear or a sample, and bass lines. There’s way too many to mention as my favorite producers as of lately, Preemo, Exile, 9th Wonder, Apollo Brown, Paten Locke, illmind, Dibia$e, Oddisee and the late J-dilla.

Listening to your music, there’s a clear emphasis on lyrics. Tell us about your approach to writing. Do you get a beat first or do you have rhymes that you make work when you hear the beat?

I Write on a daily, especially on my blackberry but I have just random rhymes that pop in my head when I’m on the go, I still keep essential to the roots with the pen and pad when I’m crafting a gem. I usually don’t write until I hear the beat first I tend to get inspired by the sample and just let it talk to me, or sometimes I have lost verses that I’ve been wanting to record depending on the subject matter there’s times I can make it fit to a certain beat but I always like to start from scratch its more challenging.

What lyricists/emcees do you draw inspiration from and what it is about them that you like?

Well Big L was one of those emcees that really got me into rhyming heavy, his whole delivery was dope, BLU he’s a very dope emcee as well that whole “Below the Heavens” album I’ll sometimes listen to that to get inspired, Jean Grae is one of my favorite female emcees she’s dope as well, here lately I’ve been listening to a lot of West Coast Emcees such as Murs, Trek Life, VerBS, Shawn Jackson and Giant Panda. I started focusing on patterns and rhyme schemes after listening to Elzhi the way he puts words together is amazing, him and Phonte of Little Brother kind of have a similar style as far as word placement goes.

You came up in the battle scene mostly, being featured on Grind Time NY and winning countless battles on the east and west coast. Do you feel your battle experience makes you a better writer and vice versa?

There’s a huge difference between battling and creating good music, I mean it helps you to stay on your toes when it comes to penning verses, which is how battles are now and days writtens are acceptable now. I stopped battling for a whole year last year cause of the league that I was in(grindtime nyc) the president dropped me without letting me know. So at that point I just lost the love for the art and the culture, due to the fact that battles today are like WWE instead of UFC you have sponsorships etc. Which I honestly feel is a bit much but grindtime has evolved so much, at the end of the day just rhyme and let the best man win. I’m in Grindtime’s DMV league so we’ll see what happens this year.

Many battle MC’s like Juice and Supa Natural haven’t been able to translate what they do as battle MC’s into respect and recognition as recording artists. What do you attribute to that and being that you’re well known as a battle MC do you worry about having the same problem?

The cliche myth that people say is that battle emcees can’t make good songs, which is kind of true but you look at cats like Eminem who started from Scribble Jam to being a multi platinum recording artist he knows how to generate sales and make good music. I prefer to craft songs then to battle honestly, that shows that I’ve grown as a emcee I don’t want to be known as a battle emcee, but its a great promotional tool if you want to get your music heard though. But it worries me to be put in that box.

What can we expect from the upcoming *The Color Brown *mixtape?

Raw Rhymes!! Improvement from the previous tape, there’s a lot more personal joints on here that I was going through in the past year, and its more like of a mixtape with DJ Harvey Dent on the mix if cats never heard of Kev Brown they’ve been sleeping under a rock, I’m just hoping the people will enjoy it.

Anything else you’d like to say? Shoutouts? Plugs?

Me and producer Knowledge “Day Job” ep is dropping soon that’s been long over due, Shout out to my twin brother Jason, Under Sound Music for supporting the Project, AGIO Life, Pedx, DJ Face, Action Figures, DJ Harvey Dent, Keeny on the video treatment, Grindtime DMV,and more importantly my parents for giving me there praise to keep pushing with this music.


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