There is no shortage of Southern artists whose musical foundation is rooted in the church. Yuni Wa was pushed to join his family’s church’s gospel choir, “That was the reason initially and I also believe it plays one of the biggest parts of giving me my creative beginning.” From there, his creativity and drive led down a path filled with electronic waves, beats, and formations.
We explored some of that path with Yuni Wa as we talked about race in the electronic scene, feeling at home, and the Yuniverse he’s built around himself.
Kendra: When you moved on and started to create sounds of your own outside of the gospel choir, you mentioned creating a ‘Yuniverse’ to in many ways escape the world around you in Little Rock. I grew up one of the very few Black kids in a very trailer trash town so I can relate to feeling like where you are ain’t where you’re supposed to be. Now that you’re older, have you thought about relocating or has the Yuniverse you created made Little Rock a place you’re able to call home forever?
Yuni Wa: Honestly, I battle with the idea of leaving Little Rock all the time. I find it hard to be here because I don’t feel like my type of music resonates with people here as much as I’d like for it to. I feel like most artists from Little Rock eventually have to leave because no one really takes them seriously here most of the time and you can only give so much of yourself until you realize all these other states are going to show you more love. I’d like for Little Rock to be the place I can call home for a long time, but I don’t know how much longer I will stay.
Kendra: Maybe there’s something in the air there pushing you though because since you started about 10 years or so ago, you have dropped like 500 or more songs. That’s something people who have 20, 30 years can’t always say. Is it safe to assume that there is always a new creation brewing inside your head?
Yuni Wa: Yes, I’m always working or thinking of something new. Even when I’m putting out a project 9 times out of 10 I’m working on another project as I release that project. I’m also into making sure you hear the growth in the sound with each project. I’m always trying to find the next evolution of sound that I’m about to go through because my creative process evolves constantly. Honestly, with my music career, my evolution is one of the most defining things about me.
Kendra: When you started, you noted you faced challenges as a Black person in the electronic scene. I found that to be kind of strange seeing as electronic music is based so much on movement – much like everything from tribal music, jazz, and hip hop, genres all brought to life by Black people throughout history. Why do you feel the electronic scene felt that way when you started, and do you think it’s improved for not just yourself, but other Black artists since then?
Yuni Wa: Well, if you think about rock and roll too, people know Black people are responsible for it, but it largely doesn’t serve them because they have been gutted out of the experience. Electronic music pushes white faces to the top of the mainstream because they see that as the most marketable, yes Black people are responsible for a lot of the 90’s Electronic House movement and Techno movement but Black producers in Electronic music aren’t pushed to the mainstream like that. I’ve had a hard time because I’ve experienced a lot of gatekeeping from white people even though people love my music around the world and you can tell if you look at my sites. Even though we are responsible for a lot of movements in Electronic music we aren’t treated with the same respect and we aren’t seen as being as marketable as our counterparts.
Kendra: Your music has movement, electronic foundations, and an overall Afrofuturistic feel. Afrofuturism is something that brings images of TLC’s “No Scrubs” video and HBO’s ‘Lovecraft Country’ to mind. For you, what role do you feel Afrofuturistic music plays on the long line of Black art?
Yuni Wa: It’s a foundation of Black art. It thrives off imagination and everyone from Sun Ra to Outkast in many different ways has articulated different sounds and visuals around the concept of Afrofuturism. For us, we have battled to belong in places around the world, especially in America, and Afrofuturistic music is a statement saying “we are visionaries, even though we have been largely left out of the history of the past in multiple ways, we will exist in the future and continue to change the landscape of thinking for modern music and art.”
Kendra: We can hear all you have going on and then some on your 2020 release, ‘Yuniversity 2.’ Was this album inspired at all by the chaos of the year that will forever live in infamy?
Yuni Wa: It wasn’t inspired by that, but it is a continuation of an album that I released in 2015 when I was 18. The concept was based on living in space and space travel. I felt like it would be good to release an album reminding people of all the possibilities of the future and remind people how big the universe is. We of course are caught up in the middle of one of the worst pandemics in 100 years but the earth is small compared to the great unknown. We get so caught up with what’s going on Earth sometimes we forget we are surrounded by billions of light-years worth of space and limitless possibilities.
Kendra: Speaking of ‘Yuniversity 2,’ what three classes do you think would be taught there, and why?
Yuni Wa: Quantum Physics and string theory.
Kendra: Lastly, it’s hard to have a definite answer when it comes to future plans given the current state of everything, but as far as what you can control when it comes to your career and creativity – what do you have planned in the coming months for yourself?
Yuni Wa: Man trying to rest after my next album comes out a little bit but mostly creating new things until then. I have a project dropping on my birthday April 27th and I’m focused on making quality and passionate music for all my supporters. Keeping them satisfied is my main initiative but also taking some time to relax because sometimes I don’t relax enough as I need to. Hopefully also playing shows by fall later this year but I don’t know we will see though.