Los Angeles-based duo Uzi — comprised of producer Mike and visual artist and vocalist Gabe — have a simple strategy when it comes to their musical output: stay low and build. “We’re doing the slow burn,” Gabe tells Billboard, calling in from the New York City, where the pair was taking meetings with a few record labels courting them. “We want to get as far as we can while dropping as little as we can.”
To date, Uzi — a twosome that adds other creatives to their work as needed — has only dropped a handful of songs. They’ve also produced and directed the videos, ranging from 2014’s chill groupie alert “Scene Girl” to this spring’s release “Games,” racking up a couple hundred thousand views respectively. The visuals are lo-fi and dynamic, reviving the gritty VHS look while adding modern graphics.
Despite their low key presence, they have assisted some pretty major acts — including the video for Kanye West’s latest single “Famous” and Diplo‘s 2015 offering “Dr. Pepper” (Gabe briefly makes an appearance in the latter, squatting in prayer position).
Today Gabe stars in another self-directed Uzi video for the new single, “Know Me.” Shot in Tokyo about a month ago, the video “is a photo series of the coolest kids in that city,” Gabe says. “[It’s] a time capsule. When it comes to their own musical aspirations, Gabe offers, “We’re trying to make cool pop with the same textures and instruments that you might hear in a Calvin Harris song. The lyrical content is a play on what Justin Bieber would say, but it’s got a street twist to it because it’s talking about weed or fashion.”
True to his mission, “Know Me” sounds akin to trap pop featuring Gabe’s speedy rap flow that leads into a melodic hook, jumping synths and hard-hitting drums. While he confidently says that Uzi has plenty of new material ready to go, don’t count on the clique releasing a full project in the near future. “We just want to put each video out as an art piece,” Gabe explains. “We have a mixtape ready, but we’re dropping one song every few months.”
So far, their plan’s working just fine. “We went on tour with Wiz [Khalifa] after dropping one song,” Gabe says, referring to the rapper’s 2014 Blacc Hollywood Big Secret Tour where they performed as openers. Gabe says that Uzi also wrapped shooting and directing OVO Sound signee Roy Woods’ forthcoming “How I Feel” video.
“We want to become a band that directs as many videos as possible,” Gabe says. “It’s getting harder to pinpoint an artist to one thing. Like Kanye. It’d be unfair to call him a rapper, because he’s got his hands in so much stuff. There’s a whole generation under the Kanyes and Pharrells that is kind of genre-less and doing everything. And not just for themselves, they’re working with other pop stars and companies. We’re just artists.”
Watch Uzi’s video for “Know Me,” premiering on Billboard, below.