Florida’s not just a bland, muggy playground for Craig David and douchebags wearing ‘I’m in Miami, Bitch!’ t-shirts (whoops, sorry Craig – double whammy). From now on, when you think of Tampa, Florida – your brain won’t flatline and start inventing stuff. You’ll just think of Dominique Young Unique. Ahhhh…. that’s better.
Compton birthed gangsta rap, Bow spat out grime and Brooklyn, somewhat off-message, emerged as the fey jangle-pop capital of the world: so we know rundown neighbourhoods make great music. But Tampa, Florida is a hood somewhat off-radar. But not for long. 19-year-old Tampa resident, Dominique Young Unique, has been spitting playground battle-raps on blast since she was 12. Now, coupled with the slinky ghettotech of London’s beatmaker David Alexander, it’s a playful, but raw sound. Kind of like a baby otter with a flick knife. Dangerous, basically – so JUKE wanted to know more. After the teenager broke her real phone doing teenagery things, a crackly Skype conversation brought us up to speed.
We’ve been trying to get hold of you for a while. What happened to your phone? I was talking to my mum on the phone. The phone dropped, but I didn’t even try to catch it or nothing. I think I was being lazy. But unfortunately this happened three times in the same day. I’m waiting on a new phone.
Are you a clumsy person? No, but that day I was just lazy or something, because I work hard the rest of the time. I just didn’t wanna catch the phone. Trying to act so chilled, haha!
I hear you’ve been in the studio recently? Yeah, I’ve been working on my new mixtape coming out the end of the summer. I have my own studio here in Tampa in my house and I’ve been working on new things until my producer David Alexander flies down here from London.
You’ve been to London a few times right? I noticed your ‘World Is Mine’ video was shot in Dalston’s Wah Nails. I’ve been to London six or seven times. It’s like my second home now. Yeah, I got my nails done green at Wah. It was kind of like a little party we had in there. I love Hackney. I love going to the park, having a picnic – it’s like people are on the beach. All the puppies and dogs running around like crazy after their toys. It’s beautiful.
What nails do you have at the moment? I got a crazy design. Oh my God, it is so pretty. So colourful. But I’m not trying to be like Nicki Minaj with the colourful shit you know? I love Nicki Minaj but just because she came out with so much colour, the pink hair weave etceteras. That doesn’t mean she invented it. People need to know girls been wearing that in the hood a long time. But anyway, my nails have so much colour and I got diamonds on both of my middle fingers to say “Fuck you.” It’s real pretty.
Are diamonds a big deal to you? I heard you have a dog called Diamond. Yeah, I got two Maltese dogs. One called Louis, like Louis Vuitton, because I love that clothing line and Diamond. The only reason I call my little girl Diamond is because of (Miami female rapper) Trina. She inspired me so much and she calls herself a diamond princess. She’s from Florida and considers herself a bad bitch. I’m like “Damn! I like her”. We used to see her on TV singing her song “Whoop! Whoop! Pull over that ass is too fat!” And you know all the kids in the projects used to run around dancing. So on my records, I’m trying to have fun. I’m talking about fiction and non-fiction you know? Everybody don’t wanna always hear your life story. They wanna hear fun. I feel I’m different in the music industry, because every time a female artist does an interview and is asked what is your music based on? They’re like “Oh I been through my life with this and that”. But me? I’m just having fun. But I’ve lived life too. I had to live in a car when my mother lost her job and we had to struggle.
But things are better now right? How much of that tough girl image is an act and how much is the real you? Man, you right! Tell you the truth I’m an entertainer! You got to act. You gotta have fun. You can act and still be yourself. Fuck it – just do what you do. I’m from the hood. I’m from Robles Park in Tampa, Florida. When we fight, we don’t fight one-on-one. We jump. That’s what we do. If somebody from a different hood rides over here on a bicycle we gonna chase you. Get out of our hood because you only gonna do the same thing to us. I don’t know why it’s like that. That’s just the way we’re raised. Ghetto! I got ghetto in me. I can never take the ghetto out of me. But I have a good side too. I know how to use both of my sides.
Is the music scene in Tampa competitive like that? I can only really think of bands like Yo Majesty from Tampa recently. Tell you the truth, Yo Majesty ain’t doing shit no more. They getting too old. Come on now. Nobody from Tampa really does music. That girl Khia [who scored a top five hit in the UK back in 2004 with My Neck, My Back, (Lick It)], she said she was from Tampa, but when she got big, she said she was from Atlanta. We don’t show her respect no more. I wanna help everyone in Tampa, but first they got to let me get to where I wanna be. Then I will come back and help those guys. That’s real. That’s how I see it.
Would you ever tone it down for wider success? Yeah, I can calm it down a little. I love Michael Jackson. He inspired me with pop. Tupac and Trina, they inspired me with hip-hop. Disney channel inspired me with Miley Cyrus and all that.
Miley Cyrus? Yeah, I would get on a song with Miley Cyrus. I can do that. I can get ‘hood’ on you or I can get ‘business’ on you. Fuck it! I want it all.
By Tom Hall
Video Johannes Schaff
[For JUKE Vol.03]