It’s a cold, winter night (approximately 8pm) in the city of New York at Crush’s office, where the Kween of New Jersey greets me.
UNiiQU3, born as Cherise Gary in Hillside, New Jersey, is in the studio–fully equipped with a recording booth, keyboard, and production board–getting her set ready for the second show of her joint 2015 tour, tooLITtoQUIT, with Cakes Da Killa which kicked off at Northampton’s all-female Smith College. Her SZA-like curls are full of boyance, and she’s sporting some serious chill-goth chic with her all black t-shirt, leggins and chunky boot ensemble. Her calm and poised demeanor gives off the impression that she’s about to turn down, but it’s all a part of the process. “I’m pretty chill. I’ll get hype when I get to the party….and get some Henny,” she jokes. She stops the ‘back it up, back it up’ vocals in the background, pauses her work on the computer and turns around in her rolling chair to prop up her legs on an accompanying red one. After a few minutes of catching up on Northampton’s festivities, including Brenmar‘s special set, weave snatching and rowdy college kids, UNiiQU3 explains how the tour all came about.
Cakes’ team came to my team, and he just thought it was a good fit; and, it is. Me and Cakes already got real close, when we was in Redbull last summer. We were like the little class clowns. Me and Cakes were already working on tracks together. I feel like it’s a good fit, we match each other’s litness.
Starting her artistic journey at the age of seven, where she began playing the piano, music has always been an influence. Her parents continuously supported her vocal endeavors–taking her to auditions for several musicals including Broadway’s The Lion King–instantly adding more depth behind the vocals she has contributed to the club world including her latest on Brenmar’s Hula Hoop. Already racking up 5 years of DJing and 4 years of production, the 25-year-old plans on incorporating more singing and rapping into her upcoming work–respectfully adding, “my parents didn’t take me from audition to audition for nothing.” Her current musical influences like Sza, The Weeknd, Nicki Minaj, Azalea Banks, Young Thug, Fetty Wap, and Max B amongst many others also have a huge hand in the pot that cooks up her creativity.
I used to be so quiet and shy and used to talk mad soft…I’m just as fun to watch as my sets are to hear.
Avoiding eye contact here and there, when talking about herself, it’s easy to see UNiiQU3 is very humble and still gracefully outgrowing her shell. Paying respect to Brick Bandits, her former crew, and Lil Man, her former mentor, she explains how she became the bubbly, interactive stage presence she is today. “Brick Bandits and Lil Man definitely helped me a lot and helped me get to where I am. I know some people are shy, I used to be so quiet and shy and used to talk mad soft, but you gotta break out of that shit. Lil Man used to teach me a trick of not looking at the crowd, when you’re talking. But, now I look at the crowd because I like pointing people out and saying “ya’ll weak as fuck,” or, “get off your phone,” I hate that shit. Plus, I feel like it gives you that position to connect with the crowd, so they see you’re enjoying yourself too. I’m just as fun to watch as my sets are to hear.”
Performing all over from Redbull Music Academy Festival to MoMa PS1 to Afropunk to touring in Australia, UNiiQU3 is literally too lit to quit, that it’s hard to even comprehend how she keeps up with herself. Building up credibility as a DJ is challenging as a female, but her impressive roster makes it impossible for anyone to deny. “To be honest, I’ve slowed down a bit; I’ve became quite a grandma. I used to be going out all the time, but recently I’ve been trying to focus more on making music and just getting other stuff together, so that it makes sense career wise.”
Shouting out fellow females that are crushing the game right now including Venus, Jubilee, Gun$ Garcia, and Nina, UNiiQU3 shares some of the generosity she’s received in the industry, which has made her growth as an artist that much easier. “I’ve met a lot of dope females along the way that have kind of encouraged me and helped me out in certain ways. Just females in general helping me out, I feel like that makes a difference. I feel like there are more females popping up, going places, and supporting each other, and I think that’s mad dope. We need that.”
K is for Kunt.
Receiving love and respect from the ladies is only one aspect of the story, she’s also big on paying it forward. With the original (and sadly, late) Baltimore Club Queen, K Swift, being a main inspiration and influence, UNiiQU3 explains the decision to use “k” for queen, being a little more blunt than expected: “I don’t want to be disrespectful, I don’t want to offend anybody. Even though, I feel like I’m close to the position that she was in before she passed, because she was about to be (at the time) Baltimore’s break out star; she was so on in every way. So, I don’t want to offend anybody, especially with Jersey Club already gaining its popularity, when it sprang off of Baltimore. That’s also just the type of person that I am too; I feel like queen with a “K” stands for kunt and it fits me better, so…. that’s what I go as. K is for Kunt.”
Taking a quick break from the interview, UNiiQU3 steps out to let quickly-rising producer Trick$ into the building.
I brought Trick$ on tonight because I feel like he’s really stepped his game up and he needs to get put on a pedestal more.
As a young DJ in New Jersey, it wasn’t (and still isn’t) easy getting the recognition or credit, where UNiiQU3 felt was due. When there are no cosigns or crews to back up an artist, most times raw, inspiring talent goes unnoticed. When asked which underground Jersey DJ/producers she would put on, if she had the power to do so in the moment, UNiiQU3 bashfully giggled and hesitantly answered, “Let me think about this, this is important. I aint trying to have anybody come at my neck all crazy like, “I thought you was the sis!”
New Jersey artists like 16-year-old producer $JAYY, K Shiz, Prototype, DJ Runnah and Youngin are all on her radar. With her help, they might even have the chance at performing alongside some of her own favorite stage-mates including Cashmere Cat, Skepta, and Lil Uzi as well as her close friends Sliink and Nadus.
Even having all the talent in the world and the best management team, hard work and dedication has to be number one, which the Kween herself knows about all too well. From waking up one morning and quitting her day job with no savings account to jumping from couch to couch to being told to “go dance or something” instead of DJing, UNiiQU3 is truly an inspiration.
I feel like you really, really, really have to work for it, if you really want it. It sounds mad corny, and it sounds like a super typical answer, but it’s so true. When I used to be working so hard for it back then, I used to be like, “damn this shit better pay off,” but it has. So, to see just some of the fruits of my labor – because I got a couple of grapes and strawberries, now I’m trying to get the pineapples and the mangos and all that – is nice. Just work hard, and if you really want it, you got it. Go out there and think outside the box. Get off the Internet. I would have never made the connections I did, if I wasn’t present in somebody’s present; you know, in their face.
After we wrapped up the interview and kicked it in the studio for a bit longer, she went on to play a flawlessly enviable set at Baby’s All Right in Brooklyn with her signature style of Jersey Club. She weaved in and out of a handful of genres like it was nobody’s business and even brought back a fleeting crowd after Cakes left the stage. She proves time and time again that we should expect the unexpected, when it comes to her talents and capabilities, and she isn’t close to being finished slaying. Her goal list is constantly growing with achievements as minor in her opinion as the completion of the official “Hula Hoop” video to as major as touring in Europe or Japan. And, while she has large goals, she’s still realistic, saying, “if it happens, it happens.” One of her main goals was to put out an official project because she hasn’t released one yet, claiming herself to be “so underground” and “very, very indie, ” still.
Luckily for us, she’s given Run The Trap an EXCLUSIVE DEBUT of her newest and first remix of the year! Taking the English rapper and grime artists Skepta‘s track “That’s Not Me”, UNiiQU3 gives us all exactly what we’ve been patiently waiting for and quite frankly craving. Bringing her rhythmic eccentricity and adding crazy vocal chops, she creates an authentic Jersey Club track with some grimey roots.
She’s fierce, she’s bold, she’s unique, and she’s dedicated. In the words of the Kween herself,
SKEPTA – “THAT’S NOT ME” [UNiiQU3 REMIX]
Catch her during her tour :