Getting ready for her show at Dekmantel, Glamcult got the chance to talk to UNIIqu3
Missing female representation in the Jersey Club-scene, she decided to take matter into her own hands. The Newark-born DJ, rapper and producer UNIIQU3, aka Cherise Gary, has been carrying the distinctive sound from New Jersey dance floors to worldwide audiences, and is widely recognized as Royalty in the Jersey Club scene. Having created the blueprint for Black female success, her stage name does her character and unmistakable sound justice. Below we can read our conversation with the self-titled CDJ-Assasin about the passing of legendary DJ Tim Dolla, Drake giving Jersey Club a try, and her passion that not enough people ask her about: Gardening.
Hey there! How are you today?
Super tired, out of nowhere yesterday at 2AM I was like… I’m gonna just work on some music. It was nice and productive, I made some cute stuff that I can return to so I’m here for that.
Nice! So, jumping right to it; you started DJ’ing when you were 19?
Yeah, I just didn’t see a presence of women in my scene. So, I was like, you know what, I really feel like I wanna be a DJ. I just needed to switch things up. And then producing would follow shortly after, because all the DJs were playing the tracks that they produced, and that’s kinda what gave them their own appeal. I wanted that.
Do you have a preference between DJ’ing and producing?
These days I definitely DJ more than I produce, but producing is very central to me because I play all of my own tracks, so I’m like, even if you’re not gonna be a producer today girl, you gotta make music… it keeps me on all of my toes.
What’s your main source of inspiration? What happened last night that you were suddenly inspired?
I just randomly woke up late because I overslept on the nap I was trying to take. I just like that magical hour where it’s still… outside, nothing going on, inside, my phone, not going off with a thousand notifications. I just feel like my brain can then just tap in to that magical place where you create stuff.
Maybe a sensitive topic – I saw you posted about DJ Tim Dolla who recently passed away. I’m so sorry that such a pioneer in the Jersey Club scene has passed. I hope you don’t mind me asking how he’s influenced you?
Not at all a problem. Tim Dolla was definitely like, a big brother. He was one of the creators of Jersey club. I’m so appreciative of him creating something that changed so many of our lives, he kept us safe in school because we were busy dancing and not hanging out in the streets. And he did it without any other intention than to make music. He didn’t do it for money, he just did it because it was fun. It was something so second nature.
He definitely left us a blueprint to follow and build off of, you know. I feel like off of his blueprint, I was able to make one for women. And to show what success can look like for a girl from Jersey who likes Jersey club music.
We’re all still super sad about it and we still haven’t believed it yet. He was a funny person, and he was always the first one to crack a joke about you. He believed in tough love. It was really a lighthearted but competitive spirit that he put in all of us. He really pushed us to be our best. We have so many good memories of him, we’re gonna make sure everybody knows about Tim Dolla.
Did he ever make any jokes about you? Give you tough love?
Oh yeah, he would crack up on my wig! When I would just be in a state of wearing big, big weaves he would just get on the wigs. Especially when I had my headphones on, he’d be like where ya headphones at? They’d get lost in the wig.
Thanks for sharing. Who do you want to connect to with your music, and what message do you want to give to them?
I want to connect to the warmest, most unapologetic people, whether they’ve found who they are or aren’t, and I wish I can help them find that. I’m so honoured to have fans like I do, they’re so sweet and they really know how to express themselves through their fashion and their makeup when they come to the shows. I get really stimulated by them.
I feel like you bring that out in them! Your music really dictates that kind of people to step to the forefront, so that’s good, you’re really connecting to them.
Yeah, I feel that too- when I press play, I just feel my spirit gets elevated to a new space and frequency that just demands me to be here. I’ve been trying to make different kinds of club music. Before, my music was super aggressive and in your face. And there will always be some type of spiciness in my music because that’s just the type of person I’ve grown to be. For the most part I’ve told myself I shouldn’t have a filter like I used to when I was younger, but I’m still super shy sometimes. I’ve been trying to also mix Jersey club with RnB and they touch like topics on love, and reassurance. See if my audience can feel that way too?
How are people responding to it?
People appreciate the range. You know the beat patterns and all can be very repetitive, so to be able to tap into different styles… I like to make people happy, make them dance. I’m happy to give them a wide range of ways to express themselves.
If you could change anything about the industry what would it be?
For one thing its decolonizing the dance floor. The dancefloor is for everybody, so is the stage. I’ve spoken so much about diversifying the dancefloors, and bringing women and POC and black people and queer people to the front.
But another thing I wanna see is people not paying attention to numbers so much. Seeing the real-life influence: that means so much beyond clout these days. Big publications and institutions look at numbers and try to gatekeep people from their own influence. Same with Drake hopping on Jersey club without getting anyone from Jersey to produce it. If Drake would’ve actually tapped someone from Jersey you know… the things that it would’ve done… So, I feel like clout is horrible, and it makes people gatekeep stuff that doesn’t belong to them. You know, we have real life influence, I never needed no @ to pack a room. We outside.
I was going to ask what would you be doing if you were home this minute, but I understand you just came back home?
I’m home right now, it’s really a unpack, laundry, sleep, make music, see my friends, pack, fly, club, ‘nother club, repeat kind of thing.
Do you enjoy touring?
I do but as of late the plane situation is horrible. It’s been really hectic and I enjoy touring so much, but what would I give to not be at an airport… People don’t realize until they’re at the airport a lot how sad of a place it can be. Everyone’s in a rush, nobody’s happy about the luxury of travelling, everyone’s just stressed like TAX! SECURITY! Expensive food! Expensive water! It definitely makes me understand for who I’m doing this. I do it for them, do it to spread the culture.
What is your biggest accomplishment thus far?
I feel like I’ve made my own mould, and I’m really proud of that. Jersey club has gone through so many phases and stages and I’ve been such a part of that growth. I feel like having this big community is also such a big achievement and it shows what happens when you water a community like, for real for real.
Besides making a name for Jersey club I’ve also made a name just for myself and what my mission is personally. When I was younger, I didn’t know I would have so many different ways to share my talent, like through radio, touring, producing and having sounds that shape a whole genre, it’s crazy.
I’m proud of myself for putting the blueprint down for what I feel like success is like for black women in dance music because there’s been examples of that, but still I feel like women have never gotten their fair end of the stick. When It came to all the house divas before me, and reading their stories I feel like I’m definitely making a statement by all that I do and just showing that women can do this too. And they can do it their own way. Not no industry plant, this is home grown.
What is your favourite song at the moment?
That’s tough! There’re so many good songs out there! I think it’s the last stuff I’ve found on Soundcloud for my boiler room set.
I saw that crowd really went wild.
Yeah, honestly biggest crowd I’ve ever had, in New York City. I just found this bomb producer. His name is Galathik Base Musik, he did a vogue edit of The Price is Right, I just thought that was so cunt. I thought it was so silly, I’m so here for it. It would go off at a ball! I really gagged, you really need to hear it. You know how some people get bored, but then it slaps. That’s how I felt.
If you could think of your favourite club lineup what would it be?
Wow, that’s tough. I’d like the club lineup to be… Sega Bodega but a DJ set. I would want it to be… rrr. Byrell the Great. And Missy Eliott would be his commentator, specifically. And then I’d want to get… Munchi with a bubblin’ set, and it would be b2b Chippy Nonstop. That would slap. That would go stuuuupid.
What makes someone in the crowd stand out to you?
Their energy, how they’re wearing their outfit. I’ll be looking at the crowd and just be like okay! Working that hat! Working those horns! Or whatever you’re wearing today! There be a lot going on aside from the deck.
What’s one question a journalist has never asked you that should really be asked?
I think… what’s my favourite thing to do outside of DJing and partying and raving.
So, what is your favourite thing to do outside of DJing and partying and raving?
I love to garden. I love plants. I got hella plants. I take my plants really seriously. I have two money plants, and I feel like they mimic the money in my pocket. People are like “I kILL pLaNts” I’m like “Damn… I don’t know bro. I don’t know what’s going on with you bro, but you can’t even keep a plant alive…” So yeah, I’m big on plants. I want a garden one day. And I’m going to grow my own fruit and stuff like that. I like to propagate. I got into it during lockdown. I was like huh… I need something else in this room that has life except for me. So, I got mad plants in the house. They reflect me. When I’m like oof, you need some water today… maybe I should drink some water too. It’s actually so cool to be able to grow shit. If you can grow plants you can grow anything.
See Uniiqu3 at Dekmantel on Sunday at Amsterdamse Bos/The Nest from 18:00 – 19:30h
Images courtesy of Uniiqu3
Words by Pykel van Latum