Tuesday, May 31, 2011

FOTP Exclusive Q&A with UltraMi

Interview by Fantini Blake (@FOTPBlog)

Recently FOTP had the opportunity to ask singer-rapper-songwriter (&c &c. - she does a lot of things)  UltraMi questions about her new music project, the music industry and her personal life. Check out her answers below - no holds barred!

First of all, thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions. How are you?

I am well thank you, and complimented by your interest to know more about me.

Your new single is "Don't Burnout". Tell me about that song - who wrote it, and why did you chose it to be your lead single? 

"Don't Burnout" was created from scratch at my home studio with my production partner Ben Franklin. He and I produced and wrote the record in a creative place having fun, with no real intent to make a strong message in the song. We were just having fun. I chose to use this as the 1st single because it made me feel good, I got great feedback on the record, and I was proud of my contribution to the musical composition. 

The music video for "Don't Burnout" comes in two versions - a clean edit and an explicit/dirty edit. What was the inspiration behind the video's concept? 

As we began to come up with visual concepts for making a video, we had to go back through the song's lyrics to find the message. The message was go hard, have fun, do it all, just don't burnout. 

You're working on your debut album, due out this summer. What kind of sound and themes can we expect? Could you share with us some exclusive info in advance?

You can expect to hear a menagerie of sounds, from world music to hip-hop to electronic and acoustic guitars. The next music video will be out in June; we definitely stepped our game up in every way - it's gonna be hotter than hot. During the making of the video, Mike Lynn's words were ringing through my head so hard, "Go hard or you're wasting your time, everyone else's time, and money." So I went in. And the very last scene ended up being my favorite. I could have used the entire last scene to do the whole video,  with just that one scene, we all would have been just satisfied. 

You grew up in a very religious household where secular music was not part of your day-to-day. How did your upbringing influence your development (both as a woman and as an artist)? 

The Bible was ingrained in my head, and still is. I don't reject the Bible, there are a lot of valuable nuggets of truth within those many confusing pages. Growing up you just do what you're told and aim to make your mama happy. As a woman, with experience, I don't allow religion to rule my life, and I don't feel any guilt about my lifestyle in comparison to religious views. 

The use of religious themes in secular pop, especially in dark and some would say blasphemous ways, has recently been back in the spotlight thanks to Lady Gaga and her album "Born This Way", which makes ample reference to Biblical themes and characters. Is every subject fair game when it comes to writing a song? Or are there subjects that are better to avoid? Coming from a religious background yourself, how do you feel about that? 

Religion is very dark. The Vatican and Catholic churches are associated with pedophilia, yet mothers continue to send their little boys off to be molested. U.S Churches brainwash masses to continually give their hard earned money to "God's Work". Do you think "God" actually needs money to change this world? This very small spec within galaxies existed long before the evil dollar ever did. I can seriously go on and on about the darkness of religion. I'll make one more point, organized religion is after your mind, for the purpose of control, seated in greed, disguised in light and love, yet based out of fear. That's not God baby. We are all Gods, know thyself, own your power, wurk your magik! I think everyone needs a break from the chains of religion. Nothing is off the table when it comes to expressing yourself and creativity, it's all in how you do it. The only reason why there was a hot dude on the cross in my video, is because the location changed 3 times the day before the shoot and my choreographer found a dungeon downtown LA to shoot at through one of the clothing designers Billy from Antiseptic Fashion. We just worked with what we had. 

You were recently called the "Black Lady Gaga". Is that a comparison/association that you welcome or reject? Why?

I hate blending in, and I have always gone against the grain so that I could be identified as an individual. My father who is a metaphysical visionary graphic artist recreated my "cobalt blue" look back in 07. I started dying my hair cobalt blue in 07' then naturally graduated to the blond/blue it is now just from the process recoloring my roots. Once Katy Perry, Lady Gaga and Nikki M. started adding a variety of color in their hair, i started hearing an association with them. I think it's just because of hair color honestly. I think every female artist out there winning is AMAZING, and I give all props and praise due to all of them for breaking through and making it happen, through exceptional musical abilities, vision, swagg, and stamina ! Come to think of it, the Gaga association is probably also due to the fact that we are both quite comfortable in our naked skin. I think Gaga is a trail blazer !

In some ways you remind me more of a grittier Nicki Minaj than Gaga, with so many different facets - you sing, but rap very confidently too. And you're also an actress. And a model, and a dancer..the list goes on. When do you feel most comfortable - rapping, singing, writing?

Wow, a more grittier Nikki, now that's a compliment, cause she's raw! Thank you for the kind regards, yes, I wear a lot of hats, I'm a doer. I love to stay active, and the arts turn me on! I sing night and day, I can't help myself I LOVE TO SING, I sing everything, all the time, it's freedom, it's an escape, and if I were down, singing lifts me up. I love to create records in a fun, happy, no drama environment. I think the best records are made when you're having a blast! 

If you had to pick five essential party play-list must-haves, what would they be?

My wife is the party playlist DJ, and she turns to Pandora, however my list would be..

1. AfroJack "Take Over Control"
2. Dr. Dre "Kush"
3. Rihanna "S&M"
4. Anything David Guetta
5. Beyoncé "Run The World (Girls)"

If you had to choose a record by someone else that was so good you wish you recorded it yourself, which would it be? 

Hands down Katy Perry "E.T.", myself, wife, and friends keep that song on REPEAT!!!! Why didn't I write that SONG??? I have several songs about space and the cosmos, but this record is INSANE, the lyrics, the melody, the hook, the music, and her gorgeous voice all flawless!

If you could work with any other female artist right now, who would you pick?

If I could work with any other female artist it would be my idol Sadé. I know you hear this one dance joint "Don't Burnout" and that may be your only opinion of me musically, but I have many sounds, and styles, an I can sing something gorgeous, mellow, and soothing like my idol Sadé, and I would LOVE to! Sadé is an amazing songwriter, and vocalist, there is no one like her. I wanna play Sadé in the movie of her life, I would smash that role!

One of the most disputed "titles" in music is that of "Queen of Pop". Who do you think is most deserving of that title and why?  

That's a real tough question, it's between Britney and Beyoncé. I have to give it to Brit because she's a mom, fell completely down, fought her way back to the top, stayed focused with no real solid partner by her side, and kept us dancing each step of the way. To me that takes a stronger constitution to fall and rise again. And to do it with 2 baby boys by your side, and CPS up your ass, I'm sure was no easy task. I have a little one so I can understand the work load. 

You and your girlfriend recently got married. How do you balance married life with being a pop star on the go? Which is harder work - marriage or music?

My wife is like a second me, only better. We completely understand each other. Because of the way we formed our very unique and special union, we alleviated a lot of the dramas associated with typical marriages. We fit into each other's lives perfectly and we always have. My wife is an amazing communicator, we keep it very real, and because of that it works beautifully. She is a major support as it pertains to my music career, our children, and keeps me beautiful. I'm a workaholic, she balances me out and makes sure that I stop and smell the roses, all the roses, lol. 

I've read that you and your wife have an open marriage and are both open to both men and women. If you had your pick, which celebrities would you get down and dirty with?

Ooh la la, you're asking the wrong girl cause I'll just keep it real and tell ya...Dwayne "The Roc" Johnson, Pitbull, and Maya. Everyone knows Maya is thicker than a snicker. 

Going back to music, your first deal was with Capitol Records. What happened during your time there?

The Capitol Record deal came through Damon Elliott. He and I worked everyday from 3pm to 3am, and 3 months later headed to NY to shop. Universal offered a deal, and the former president of Capitol Records, Roy Lott offered a deal. I wanted to stay in Cali, and take the Roy Lott offer. Besides when I was a little girl living in Hollywood, I often gazed out my window at the Capitol building, contemplating the architecture. To be offered a deal there was mind blowing.

Your first major breakthrough was with Dr Dre and DJ Quik on the record "Put It On Me", on the Training Day Soundtrack. How did that collaboration come about and what was it like enjoying that kind of exposure for the first time?

Wow, to follow up Capitol by working with Dr. Dre, still blows my mind. My play brother Hittman who wrote several songs on Chronic, and was featured all over the album, was always trying to get me to Dre. On Grammy night I was at a club politikin, and ran into Hitt. He introduced me to Mike Lynn. Mike listened to 5 of my songs, as soon as he heard me say "bitch" on this song, he was like OK great I can work with you. Mike Lynn brought me to Dre, we started recording, and like a month or two later I was on the radio. My mom talks a lot of shit about me and my lifestyle, but when she heard me all the way in the South of France, she was quite pleased. 

You were signed to Dr Dre's label Aftermath for five years. Aftermath has built up something of a negative reputation for never putting out any music for anyone other than Eminem or 50. In hindsight, what's your analysis on your time there? What was the environment like, do you wish you'd jumped ship earlier?

Correction, I had a development deal with Aftermath. What a tremendous privilege it was to come from where I did to be with the best of the best writers, producers, MC's, singers, and just marinate, learn, absorb and soak in the formula. I've got nothing but love for the good doctor, and he's only shown me love himself. Dre did something so amazing for me that keeps him in a special place in my heart. When I got pregnant, I kept it on the low for about 6 months before I told him. Dre didn't drop me or kick me to the curb. He was supportive, I recorded until I was eight months, then took a break. After my newborn was a month, Dre had me at the Compound 6 days a week working out with a trainer. I saw Dre do leg presses with 1600 pounds attached, damn, way to stay motivated in the gym. 7 months later I was ripped. After 5 years of being there I decided to leave and start my own company, Renegade Music. I just have absolutely nothing negative or questionable to say about Dre and how he runs his business.

Could you tell us about the journey from “Put It On Me” to “Don't Burnout”, both musically and in terms of the industry?

"Put It On Me" was during the "Aftermath days" for me, so my sound then was definitely gangsta, soulful, always sexy, raw lyrics, and just hard ass beats, I still bump that album. But even then Mike Lynn formulated that recipe, cause I was all over the place musically. I love a plethora of sounds. Today I still love a plethora of sounds and textures so I try to incorporate it all. Of course the trend today right now in the market place is "dance", up tempos, and it's fun. And I say shit, just make whatever you do unique to you. Put a signature on everything.

You cite Damon Elliott, Snoop Dogg, The Game, Scott Storch, Static and Hi Tech as people who have helped you along the way. Could you tell us how each of those guys has helped you along the way or somehow contributed to your journey?

They've all supported my musical endeavors, and helped push, or guide, or contribute to my growth in this journey. I could get all detailed but it's just too much to type.

What hard lessons have you learnt over the last ten years? If you could back and talk to your younger self, what would you say?

Never walk away from a steady check, and be a shark when swimming with sharks. Everything that has happened in my past shaped me into the woman I am today, so I wouldn't change anything. 

Any last words?

Siempre Avanti!

Watch above the music video for UltraMi's infectious first single "Don't Burnout" on which she sings and raps.
Support her by checking out and following her on the links below. 

2011 is HER turn.