Q&A: UB The Underboss, A.K.A. The Apex, Drops A Book Of Knowledge
UB The Underboss is a South Florida hip-hop veteran and new media pioneer. I asked him 10 questions via e-mail and got back so much information I can't even call this an interview, it's the Underboss Book Of Knowledge. Check out real name Urbano Mederos' 20 years worth of insight on hip-hop culture and listen live on RapReport.com
New Times: What's your name, what do you do and how long you been doing it?
U.B. The UnderBoss a/k/a The APEX. I'm a Miami-Dade County based entrepeneur with several executive hustles including overseeing day to day operations at The Urban Union headquarters, conducting interviews, as well as handling Business Management, Special Events, & Project Coordination for www.305HipHop.com, running my independent record label, along with a marketing, promotions and consultation firm with my business partner, Rita. Aside from all of that, I've recently started goin' hard on an online radio show I'm hosting and producing in conjunction with Fillup Banks and DJ R & R, called The Rap Report Show. It's on every Tuesday night from 9 to 10 p.m. on www.RapReport.com, so everybody, TUNE IN & CHECK US OUT! I've been fortunate enough to be involved and active with hip-hop culture and South Florida's entertainment community for over 20 years now and still going strong.
NT: What's your musical background, what are some underground Miami classic groups and records, and is it true you own one million records?
Juan Fernando Velasco
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My background in music dates back to the early '80s, when I first started DJing and developing a passion for rap music as well as hip-hop culture. I started out purchasing a lot of records, then I joined some record pools, but my brother gave my record collection the ultimate boost when he handed me down all of his Beatles, Led Zepellin, Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix and Santana records (to name a few). Needless to say, my collection became the envy of all my friends and peers.
As for classic Miami records, I would have to mention all the original Luke Records catalog because they really had Miami covered at that point in time. However, there were also many others artists, DJs, b-boys and graffiti artists holdin' hip-hop down for the 3-0-5 back then, so it's only right I mention guys like Double Deuce, MC A.D.E., Gigolo Tony, Jealous "J", M.C. J-Skee, 4th Dimension, S.O.N. (Sounds of Nahledge), M.C. Flex, Speedy Legs, DJ Magic Mike, BeatMaster Clay "D", J.T. Money, Poison Clan, Debonaire, Danny D, Disco Dave, Disco Rick, P. Man Sam, Picallo, DJ Laz, Eddie Mix, Raymond Hernandez, Majestic Sound DJ's, Vicious Funk DJ's, Sugar Hill DJ's, and of course, DJ Uncle Al, Rest In Peace. If you're talking about the "Underground Hip-Hop" sound of Miami, I would have to bring up Society, Mic Rippa, Motha Superior, B-Dope, J-Pure, Dynas, D.J. EFN, Da' All, P-Doe, and of course, Louie Knuckles and First Platoon.
And I haven't counted as of late, but I don't think my collection is passed the million records mark yet.
NT: What are you working on these days?
Like I said before, I keep a pretty busy schedule on a daily basis, but I try to keep things in perspective and maintain a balance. Other than all of my aforementioned executive responsibilities, I keep myself busy with my group, The T.H.C. Crew, a/k/a The Hispanic Connection. As you know by now, music and business have always been a passion of mine, so I've always been deeply involved with song-writing, production, recording, engineering, packaging, marketing, and releasing my creative output.
At the moment, Destinee and I are recording mostly original material, which will be used for T.H.C.'s forthcoming debut album. There is also a T.H.C. mixtape about to hit the streets, "The Winning Team", as well as the 2nd installment of Destinee's solo mixtape series, "Maiden Dade", and my own solo mixtape, "The UnderBoss Vs. The APEX".
I'm also working on the 11th volume in our classic "Made In Dade" series of mixtapes, which Banks and I have been pushin' hard for the passed 8 years, just trying to create awareness and outlets for the abundance of talent that can be found in Miami-Dade County. So be on the lookout for that.
We're also going to produce a 2010 year calendar in association with O.T.B. Photography that will feature all of the www.305HipHop.com Ms. Hard-Body models. That is going to be the calendar everybody in the industry has up in their office next year!
Lastly, I have several music and video projects lined up in support of The Rap Report Show, which I will producing in association with GasFaceFilms.com. That is one of the various companies who make up "The Urban Union", it is owned and operated by my co-host, and co-founder of The Rap Report Show, D.J. R & R.
NT: When you gonna get your own TV show?
Well, there are several situations in the works as far as that goes. However, my goal is longevity in this business. Ultimately, whatever I'm associated with MUST ALWAYS maintain a certain level of integrity regarding Hip-Hop Culture.
NT: Talk about your place in the Latin American market, have you been successful out there?
I think my place in the Latin American market is what is was years ago when I started in this business as a DJ spinnin' rap music; to be an ambassador of hip-hop for all my people. However, as far as my group, I believe T.H.C's place in the Latin American market is somewhat special because there has never in the history of Hip-Hop, been an urban artist or group to write, record, and perform in both English and Spanish WITH credibility. The best Spanish-speaking MCs like Tempo, Vico C, Tego, and Yankee, CANNOT do it in English with credibility and the most successful English-speaking Latino MC's like Big Pun, B-Real, Fat Joe, NORE, and AZ, can't do it in Spanish with credibility. Not to take anything away from any of those guys because they are the ones who've inspired us to do what we do, but I wholeheartedly believe we're in our own lane when it comes to Hip-Hop.
You have to understand the history and realize that there have always been Latinos involved with hip-hop from the very start. Most of the b-boys and graffiti crews in the South Bronx before and during the birth of hip-hop culture were Latinos. It's just that when the white music executives saw that hip-hop was here to stay, they started figuring out ways to cash in on it. The M.C. became the element most exploited from that point on, and there were only a few Latinos doing it. The result was less opportunities for Hispanic artists. It wasn't until the late '80s and early '90s that Latino artists like Kid Frost, MellowMan Ace, Cypress Hill, Kurious, Fat Joe, and Big Pun, Rest In Peace, got record labels to actually give them a shot and take a chance on Hispanic MCs.
Fast-forward to 2009 and the climate for Spanish hip-hop is almost ready for what we're bringing to the table. A few years back, the Latin music industry (and even some of their North American counterparts), began signing reggaeton artists, whom they believed would usher in a new era in Latin music. However, that genre failed to make a significant and long-lasting impact within the market, subsequently losing the interest of the major labels, as well as the general public. There are still many hardcore fans that are into that style of music, but it never really went as far as everyone was expecting it to go, you feel me?
Personally, T.H.C. did benefit from that "reggaeton explosion" in the sense that we were booked to do many shows in Puerto Rico, Bahamas, Canada, U.K., Tampa, Orlando, New York, Los Angeles, and a few other cities, due mainly to our all-Spanish material. Promoters would see our interviews in Spanish language media like MAXIM & Libertad, then hear our music, which was very different than your typical reggaeton, so that attracted them to us. Not to mention the fact that having an extremely talented female artist like Destinee helped garner T.H.C. a lot of attention, too. So yeah, I would say that we have experienced a certain level of success within the Latin market, but I'm still working hard towards achieving even bigger goals in that field.
NT: Who are some local, unsigned artists to look out for?
Way before the media began to shed light on Miami artists, I was always a fan of South Florida hip-hop, so I could go on and on about this topic. I was one of the few people supporting Pitbull, Rick Ross, Flo Rida, Brisco, Garcia, Grindmode, and everybody else makin' moves now from DAY ONE, you feel me? But in all honesty, there are a few artists and bands I have to mention for your readers to look into.
For example, my group, T.H.C... we've been on the come-up for many years now, and I feel we're finally at the point where the world is ready to hear our brand of Hip-Hop. After being mentioned in XXLMag.com as "Top Players To Watch In Miami", winning a "Best Latin Act" Award from City Link Magazine, and performing at countless shows all around the world, I truly believe we're at that groundbreaking point.
There are a couple of bands that have been puttin' in work over the last couple of years, and I am truly a fan of live music, so I have to mention the very talented and gifted Artofficial, the remarkable City Of God (who recently landed an endorsement deal, so Congrats to them), and last but certainly not least, my homies; MAYDAY! I encourage everyone reading this to google any one of these bands and see what real South Florida musicianship is all about!
Aside from bands, there are still a lot of rappers and other artists I have a lot of respect for, so I have to mention Redd Eyezz, who's now rollin' with Strictly Business Records... he's been holdin' it down for Little Haiti for a minute and I believe he's put the right team together to finally take his career to the next level.
P.M. & Tommy Trouble; back with their new project, Black R.E.I.G.N. Google that just so you can witness two of Miami's best MCs at work.
Da' Groundhoggz are the group Flo Rida came up with and they are preparing to release their debut album soon. Shouts to my homie Bred, who I just heard on "Yayo," which although it didn't make the R.O.O.T.S. album, is getting' HEAVY ROTATION on the streets!
Also, I gotta big up Saheed, J.O.K., & the rest of Capitol Problemz... these are some young, hungry, up and coming MC's bringing that undiluted Hip-Hop sound out of South Florida. I've got a personal relationship with them, so I've got to admit I love these boys like family.
Auder Limits is another Miami duo I've been working very closely with. They're coming with a fresh, new sound for Miami artists... don't get me wrong, they still maintain that street edge, but they're project is catering more to the female audience. Personally, I love the vibe of their music and the direction the project is going in. Be on the lookout for them!
Mr. Lolo is a Broward-based rapper of Brazilian descent with a very original voice and style. His label, Took Something Entertainment's been releasing mixtapes to build his buzz and they're some of the hardest working people in South Florida. That's my Broward family right there.
MC Mafia is an ex-Marine, who recently came home after a 4 year tour in Iraq, but he's been going hard with his unique brand of Spanish Hip-Hop. He's also based out of my hometown of Hialeah, so you know I GOTTA show love and support always!
Speaking of Hialeah, my homie LMS is another talented Hialeah-based MC who paints pictures with words. He made a name for himself as a Battle MC, then as an MC Battle host, and now he's focused on "edutaining" the masses, bringing much needed awareness to America's political landscape (and the unseen hands that really control the show). I wholeheartedly believe in his music, and with FederalJack.com backing him up, I see nothing but good things in the future for the "Last Man Standing".
Hialeah is also home to Nephew, who after a two year hiatus is officially back on the scene. This young hustler possesses all the essential qualities for mainstream acceptance, yet has that undeniable street authenticity that few artists can match. He's finally focused and ready to get it in a major way, so be on the lookout for his upcoming mixtape, as well as his debut album.
Last but certainly not least... Psyko South is my Broward connect... basically just a collective of dope MC's from Broward who have made a name for themselves spittin' conspiracy realities over hard-hittin' beats... and I LOVE IT!
Like I said, I'm a fan of all these artists, so I could go on and on, but I think I've given you plenty of names for now. Maybe too much, so I apologize if I took up too much space.
NT: Give the people a behind the scenes story that's either funny or crazy or just sticks out in your mind, some industry insider type shit.
Man, there are a few that come to mind... matter of fact, I won't name any names, but I'll tell you about this one incident that happened in well, let's not even say where this took place either. Long story short, we were booked to perform at a huge festival and we did some after-parties, too. Well, at one of the after-party clubs, we were all hangin' out and havin' a great time when one of the guys in the crew starts dancin' with an exotic looking lady. At first, we all thought he was gettin' hooked up with some local dimepiece and what not... but then, the promoter comes over to us and informs us that our friend was actually dancing with a locally known trans-sexual that frequented his club. We were all trying to get the message over to our homie before it was too late, but it didn't happen. By the time we were able to relay the info, he had already danced, drank, and kissed the trans-sexual! Needless to say, the promoter kindly requested us to quickly evacuate the premises to avoid an all out brawl between our people and the growing number of people that were backing up the trans-sexual! I guess the locals got love for their own, no matter what their gender. That was a memorable night indeed.
NT: What are you trying to build and what are you looking forward to?
I'm trying to build a solid foundation for Miami-based businesses to thrive within the entertainment business, and with the Urban Union, I believe we're well on our way to actually making that a reality. I'm looking forward to fully exposing the abundant amount of talent that can be found in South Florida. Not just Miami-Dade County, but all over South Florida. There are literally hundreds of artists, producers, DJs, graphic designers, videographers, photographers, and much more just waiting for that one shot. It's exciting to me when a Pitbull, or a Rick Ross get their opportunity and the rest of the world start to see what I've been seeing all along, you know what I mean?
NT: Any advice to the youth of Miami and the world about making a living in the music industry?
Stay focused. Remain positive throughout all of the adversity you'll be faced with because it's not easy. There are times when you feel like you've lost too much and it's too difficult to move on. I could have easily said, "I'm done with this", when my Mother passed away four years ago, but I chose to go even harder, thanks to The True God. My faith and the belief I had in what I was working on kept me driven enough to not want to give up, so I encourage everybody out there to do the same. Don't take your mental and physical health, or the opportunities you are blessed with on a daily basis for granted. Take advantage of everything available to you and work hard to make it happen for yourself!
NT: Closing words, shoutouts?
Well I definitely have to shout out The True God, Jah, as well as my whole team because without them showing unconditional love and support, I wouldn't be where I'm at today. So, big up Fillup Banks, The Boss Lady Destinee, my brother from another mother; DJ AS-One, my Rap Report Show co-host; DJ R & R, The Car Show King, DJ Mega Mix, my Head Of Security; Vic a/k/a H.O.S., my Father, my Son little U.B., my Daughter Soley, my Daughter Kiki, my little sister Jackie a/k/a The Coach, DJ EFN, DJ Drastic X, Double R, DJ Nemesis, DJ S1, and everybody else out there that supports and represents for Miami-Dade County. And don't forget to check out to The Rap Report Show each and every Tuesday night on www.RapReport.com from 9 to 10 p.m.
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