Making sense of 2020 is something that every human being has been trying to do, and with varying degrees of success. Any silver linings we can find need to be grabbed with both hands, whether it's a small personal victory or just making a connection with someone. And let's be honest: thanks to lockdowns around the world, that in itself is a rare gift.
Two producers who have managed to do both are London UK funky/gqom advocate KG and New Jersey's self-styled Club Kween, UNIIQU3. This year, the pair connected through Jamz Supernova's Future Bounce label, collaborating online to create double A-side "B2B" / "Black Roses". As it turns out, their creative partnership was forged from a deep mutual respect, but also a recognition from both sides that their respective styles have a great deal in common. The obvious bridge—as they discovered—is that both KG's experiments with UK funky and gqom are practically cousins of UNIIQU3's choppy Jersey Club thumpers.
To celebrate the single's release and kiss goodbye to 2020, we asked KG and UNIIQUE3 to connect once more on video chat for a cathartic and uplifting conversation about their creative processes, the parallels between Jersey Club and UK funky, and what clubbing and live music might look like in a post-COVID-19 world.
"I could never have anticipated releasing on a Black woman's label and collaborating with another Black woman on the other side of the Atlantic, who's killing things globally! That is so affirming to me."—KG
UNIIQU3: OK, maybe we should start with the basics. How are you today?
KG: Yeah, I'm good, sis. I'm winding down, getting ready. I feel like when I get to the end of the year, I like to look back and just celebrate. Deadass, I didn't envision ending the year with a collaboration with UNIIQU3! So I've just been in a very reflective state, to be honest, but all is good. How have you been? How's your energy?
UNIIQU3: I've been good. Every day is different. This year taught me to expect the unexpected and go with the flow, but I'm happy that music has been keeping me sane. Something that makes me feel somewhat normal to my life right now. So I appreciate that right now.
KG: Oh my God, that is so real. Obviously, you can get the energy when you talk to people, but then when I'm producing, it's like something is released. Maybe it's endorphins or whatever, but it makes me feel so good.
UNIIQU3: I know! It really does. Honestly, you were my first collaboration project of the year for me. For real.
KG: You've just been solo dolo, killing it. I was talking about you to Jaymie Silk. I said, "UNIIQU3 is stepping on necks.'" You reinvented yourself and you added more to your repertoire. Looking at Club Chronicles [UNIIQU3's show on Twitch], the way that you've adapted to the current climate we're in right now, it's been so inspirational for me. Was there any moment this year where you felt like, "Fuck, what am I going to do?"
UNIIQU3: Yeah, I came back from touring when COVID happened. I cancelled my Asia tour because things were not looking good. So I was already thinking, what am I going to do if the clubs close? I'm really thankful that I've been able to pivot everything and reflect and collab and keep making music for real. How has the pandemic changed things for you?
KG: Peaks and valleys, as they say. When they first announced the UK lockdown, I was dumbfounded because it was just off the back of the release of my SENSEI EP and I'm like, "What, so I can't do this European tour?! I can't work these releases, because that's where the bulk of the income comes." You're working these releases, you're connecting to your fans and so on, so it hit me mentally. But I've always been meaning to go back into therapy anyway because it's been my thing. Fortunately, during spring/summer, the projects were still rolling in and I was able to kind of ride the wave a bit more, but this is not the 2020 that I had envisioned.
UNIIQU3: Same. We're used to having at least a couple of months planned out ahead to prepare, and now it's this whole go-with-the-flow, take-each-day thing.
KG: I might get a day where things actually go according to my diary, but apart from that, it really is go-with-the-flow. Some of the collaborations, even with our one, that was so organic. It wasn't even planned. We just knew. I was like, "Yes! I'm going to be working with my sis, UNIIQU3, at some point." I knew it was coming; I just didn't know that it was going to happen in this way with this vibe and it's just a beautiful thing, you know.
UNIIQU3: Especially with how we got introduced to each other. Our intention was supposed to be us working together. The universe just didn't see it.
KG: But you know what? It's the right timing. I feel like we have more of a relationship now. Also, back then, you've got to remember: I was coming back into music after, like, six years off. I had to get my my feet wet.
UNIIQU3: I didn't know you took six years off!
KG: Girl, I quit. I actually quit. I was done with the music industry... I need to write me a book.
UNIIQU3: I'm glad you're back.
KG: It was Goonclub Allstars kicking me off with the whole KG EP and just testing the waters. I remember thinking, with this new run, if it hits, it hits. If it don't, then maybe music isn't for me, but it turns out that it really is. I feel like I'm more prepared now and we're at stages in our life where it just feels right.
UNIIQU3: Me, too. I feel like I'm more secure as a producer and to be able to work with someone like you was special because—and honestly, this is real life—but on production I never got to collab with another Black woman. So that's new for me. And it was so easy! I love that.
KG: It was so smooth! People always ask me, "Who's your blueprint?" I'm always like, "UNIIQU3!" The workrate, the packaging, everything—sis is on fire. So to have that creative exchange with you is so affirming for me, because I quit! I quit music. They didn't want Black women up in here. I was fighting with men in the industry and I said, "You know what? Fuck this shit. I'm not going to be doing music anymore." So when I come back in, I could never have anticipated releasing on a Black woman's label and collaborating with another Black woman on the other side of the Atlantic, who's killing things globally! That is so affirming to me and just makes me know I'm on the right track. So this collaboration is so much more than the music.
UNIIQU3: Especially in these times. I like the fact that it's more of a collaboration rather than just a regular release. Jamz [Supernova] is definitely on point with that, but I felt like people didn't expect this. But then they were really gassed when we dropped the artwork. Also, just the fusing of our different sounds is beautiful because they complement each other so well.
KG: Oh, my God. It's unreal how complementary these energies are! Both of these women combined is beautiful.
UNIIQU3: On some technical, geeky stuff: Jersey Club is really known for its vocal chops. I've always stayed away from making percussion because it will always be the vocal. So when this track came about, I definitely knew you were going to do to your percussion what I do to my vocals—I feel like that's such a cool mesh. And also the dancers. At the end of the day, a lot of the people that live in Newark are Black so it's cool to see, now more than ever, younger dancers and kids get rooted back to their heritage and embrace those dances and get back to their roots. It's really cool to see gqom and all the dances they do over in Africa.
KG: This is it. We're just connected in that way.
"Jersey's always subconsciously remixed UK songs and not known it. You know 'Heartbroken' by T2? You will find a thousand remixes of that."—UNIIQUE3
UNIIQU3: So how is the UK scene over there, in terms of how it's different or similar to Jersey?
KG: Well, you know how you were talking about Jersey having collectives that circulate and empower the culture? The UK scene is the same thing, where we have different club collectives that host events and have their own labels and their own sound. Then you have our radio community, which is very much top tier.
UNIIQU3: That's something I admire a lot. You have a lot more radio stations that support dance music, so hats off to y'all for that. A lot of the kids over here, the dancers, they're influenced by their natural heritages to incorporate African dances into Jersey Club, because I see that a lot. Can you talk about the dance culture in terms of gqom and UK funky and how that translates to how you produce? How have you been getting Americans to get into your sound?
KG: I'm an R&B baby, through and through. '90s R&B is my vibe, so even with the harder stuff that I produce, I always try and infuse a bit of soul. That connection is the bridge. In my personal time, I listen to a lot of Jersey Club and a lot of B'more. I'm hearing a lot of B'more club flips that have old '90s R&B chops and the heavy kick underneath. It's that energy that I want to pull from and push towards, like gqom. A lot of my U.S. friends, they say, "Even though you do the harder stuff, we can still feel the soul." I think that's where the appeal is.
UNIIQU3: Definitely. I feel that because, after I discovered you, I started to get into more Afro-house. Y'all vocals are just so harmonic that it goes with the percussion. It's something that Jersey people could relate to.
KG: So, why does your music resonate so much in the UK? What do you think the connection is to us over here?
UNIIQU3: That's a hard one. I feel like Jersey's always subconsciously remixed UK songs and not known it. You know "Heartbroken" by T2? You will find a thousand remixes of that.
KG: I can imagine.
UNIIQU3: I really just think it goes back to the root of things. If you want to get honest, we're all from the same place. The music has just grown regionally from Africa because we all have that drum pattern.
KG: We all have that bass, that low-end.
UNIIQU3: I feel like there's just a subconscious pulse within us that resonates with Jersey. And also just the youth, the lifestyle that it is to be a club kid. I always admired the way that you guys were able to party over there. It reminded me a lot of me being young because now that I look back, I was like 16 going to teen raves to dance to Jersey Club. This is very similar to you guys out there; you're very free and you have access to nightlife for younger kids. And it looks like a safe space. So I just feel like it's just something that is a part of us and they could just relate to it... We've got to get back to Africa and go crazy.
KG: Yes! It's the core. I was saying this on Twitter as well. It all starts from home when it comes to rhythm and these little pockets that you hear in these mainstream genres right now, it starts from there.
UNIIQU3: Is there anybody that has inspired you since you've been on your journey?
KG: I'm looking at you, I'm looking at Honey Dijon, I'm looking at DJ Paulette. Connecting with Jamz and following her as well—even though me and Jamz probably crossed paths years before we started to connect. These were and are women that I still hold in very high regard. How about you, sis?
UNIIQU3: That was beautiful, first of all. Honestly, as far as this year's inspiration, I feel like with everything that went on with being a Black person, I wanted to dive into my history and see examples of me and see how they handled stuff. I just try to do my history more, like with dance music—period. And of course, women. But really, it's just doing my research and finding out there's more of a mission here.
KG: It's a mission.
UNIIQU3: Yeah, it really is. And this year just brought all that to the forefront, that you have more of a purpose than just being a DJ, getting lit and stuff like that. So that definitely inspired me this year, specifically. But as far as women in general, just the legends. I come from Jersey, so we have a lot of legends here, like CeCe Peniston—she's always been a staple here—and Robin S. I'm very fortunate to perform and work with very amazing women in general, but especially Black women and I can't wait to do more of that. Like you, A.G., Jamz...
KG: Come on! That's what I'm here for. If in 2021 all your dreams could come true, what would you want to happen?
UNIIQU3: It would be for things to open back up. I wouldn't need anything extra on top of that. It won't be back to normal because things are never going to be back to normal, but just getting back to a better place. Performing would be lit.
KG: I'm with you on that, sis, to be honest. I just want the ability to connect with my fans worldwide and get on a plane or something. I think 2021 and onwards, it's going to be really great for us.
UNIIQU3: I agree. Every person that is a creator should feel somewhat optimistic. Things are changing and they have the opportunity to dictate their future.
KG: I love the way you said that. Hopefully, people don't stay disheartened and just look up, really. I feel like 2021 could potentially be better. I'm hopeful for it.
UNIIQU3: For me, one thing I felt was outlandish this year was how so many parties went virtual. I loved experiencing that and I found it mad progressive.
KG: I can't do that forever, though.
UNIIQU3: Yeah, I know. It's selective, but I feel like the fact that parties really were able to go virtual and hold this space and be a thing, I think that's so futuristic of us. All those movies lowkey predicted the future.
KG: It's just a digital thing now.
UNIIQU3: Yeah, but I can still see that being a thing. Imagine when we get holograms, it's going to be lit! They already have VR so it's really going to become a thing. And that's kind of creepy.
KG: It scares me that I'll be able to put dimples on my hologram and stuff.
UNIIQU3: It's creepy, but it's cool.
KG: I'm scared [laughs].