UZ came to life in Barbier's bedroom at the end of 2011. The turntablist started making one evil trap beat a week, the catch being that he had to make it in a few hours. He kept the ID secret and developed his own alphabet to describe each tune. Copy and pasting everything was a real pain in the ass, but his friend made him an HTML page, and he was off and running. His dark sound and wild style got the attention of the Internet and AM Only rep. The agent picked him up, and everything went off.
“The mask idea came because clearly nobody knew who I was, and me and my manager thought, 'why not wear a mask?'” he says. “He had a special FX artist named Ralis Khan living in the same building, and he asked him to design a mask for me. He gave me two options, and I opted for the gold one with the bandana. Ralis is actually the artist that made Slipknot's mask, and many more. Keeping the identity secret was difficult, especially at festivals for example where so many people would be around. It was really difficult to find places to hide. It was fun for years, but it slowly started to be more of a hassle for me.”
Maybe we have Future to thank for this reveal. It was the rapper's tune that first got him mimicking the reveal. After a few times faking the mask removal a few times, P and his management figured, “why not go all the way?”
“I did it first at Belasco without really telling anybody, and we really had a great response from the crowd,” P remembers. “They were like, 'Did he really just take the mask off?' So I kept doing it at every show. Finally, I decided it was the perfect timing for the unveiling.”
What changes in a post-mask UZ world?“ I've done what I had to do, and I now want to step up to the next level for my career and me,” he says.
“I've been touring the world for five years now, and it's really physically tiring me. I will do less shows, make more music, but more importantly, I will concentrate on developing my label Quality Good Records. We've done greats thing in a year, and we have a lot to do and a lot of great music to release.”
First up? A new album from the unmasked man himself. Layers is out today on Quality Goods. It's 12 tracks opens with"Introspection," and follows with "Stockholm White," a tune Billboard Dance premiered in February featuring Two Fresh and Elliphant about daring to stand out in a mediocre world. It includes heavy features from fellow DMC champ Craze, OG Maco, Stooki Sound, Foreign Beggars, and a tune with UZ's house-driven alter-ego Plezier. Listen to Layers in full below, and buy it up on iTunes.