The Hip Hop Travel Blog: Dubb Ujean – New Jersey


‘Ima­gine someone try­ing to force a reli­gion on you that you know noth­ing about and no mat­ter what they say you can’t argue with them. That’s the same thing with music. You can­’t force know­ledge on people. You have to make it com­fort­able and if they want to listen then they will get into your life’

(Dubb Ujean- 01/08/16 Rot­ter­dam, Hol­land).

For a while now I have been think­ing about how Hip Hop inher­ently con­nects us all in one way or anoth­er. It’s become more appar­ent recently in my encoun­ters with non-Brit­ish people on my travels; wheth­er it be in Lon­don; where I am based; or in the many coun­tries I find myself in for work as a pro­fes­sion­al Dan­cer or just on a hol­i­day. I am cur­rently on an on-going quest for know­ledge about Hip Hop cul­ture and how it tran­scends geo­graph­ic­ally through time and space.

I met a group of guys at the entrance of my apart­ment build­ing in Rot­ter­dam. I came with a group of friends to exper­i­ence the Rot­ter­dam Car­ni­val for the first time. Rot­ter­dam is a rel­at­ively small city, but what it lacks in size it makes up in its effort­less state of chill, com­bined with that awe­some city rush and a beau­ti­fully diverse com­munity. I had learned that this group of men were here on hol­i­day (not know­ing it was in fact car­ni­val) from New Jer­sey. They all worked at a Barber­shop. Steve happened to be an amaz­ing MC and Graf­fiti Artist by the name of Dubb Ujean.

The US; in my opin­ion; seems to be this strange huge bubble in which lots goes out but noth­ing really goes in. I really wanted to find out how true this was. I imme­di­ately grabbed my laptop and my dicta­phone to hear about Dubb Ujean’s love for Hip Hop and why he decide to leave the bubble for his vaca­tion.

How did you get your name?

Ujean is my last name and Dubb was old name I used to go by you know P.O. Dubb so I just kept that end of that and tried to keep most of my real name because it just made more sense. I was gonna just leave it Ujean but it’s just too com­mon you know. No real glam­or­ous story behind my name. It’s my old name and my last name put togeth­er. Some people just wake up and name them­selves.

Talk to me about where you’re from?

New Jer­sey in the States, right now I’m Bloom­field. I grew up all through­out Essex County North, Jer­sey- that’s where we’re at.

Describe the Hip Hop scene there.

At the moment it’s really com­mer­cial. Lots of Trap music. That’s all it is. It’s like that in a lot of dif­fer­ent places around the world but it’s more old school over here (Europe) I like the sound bet­ter over here. You appre­ci­ate music more over here, I can tell. It’s more organ­ic I guess.

Talk about Haiti and being a Haitian man in Amer­ica

In the 90’s, it was hard being Haitian in Jer­sey. Now shit just seems dif­fer­ent. All these Haitians com­ing out of nowhere wheth­er it’s the music industry or oth­er stuff. It was­n’t like that before. Now every­body likes Haitian people. Do you know that Haiti was the first black repub­lic 212 years ago? Haiti is the only slave upris­ing in his­tory that led to the state being free from slavery and ruled by brown people, so I feel like we star­ted all this shit! Hahaha. Free­dom and equal­ity, break­ing down bar­ri­ers and all that. For some reas­on now, Haiti is one of the poorest coun­tries. How is that pos­sible when you had all these riches and you’re the first to set people free? It’s like a pay back thing; it’s crazy. It’s next door to the Domin­ic­an Repub­lic. So I wanna do events for those kinds of people.

Describe your first exper­i­ence with Hip Hop.

I was eight years old, listen­ing to Wu-Tang and oth­er shit I was­n’t sup­posed to be listen­ing to. Because I am Haitian, we do don’t that. We listen to Compa or tra­di­tion­al Haitian music. My par­ents moved to the US when they were in their thirties so everything was very tra­di­tion­al in my house­hold I couldn’t listen to Hip Hop music. That shit was like stuff I listened to when we were in the car and maybe it would come on and my dad would go to the store and I would change the sta­tion whilst he was gone, then change it right when he came back, type of shit. My cous­ins used to have some shit I would want to hear when I went to their house.

Name your Three Hip Hop artists (if you can feel free to name more!).

I don’t care what nobody thinks. Eminem is one of the dopest to me. Not just the song con­tent but his storytelling. He lit­er­ally just talks.…it’s just really fast. Some­times it sounds like he rap­ping but if you listen to it, it sounds like a real con­ver­sa­tion the way he puts shit togeth­er. You can see it. It’s like you’re watch­ing some­thing. It’s real vivid.

Nas, of course. Andre 3000. Jadakiss. He’s just so under­rated. I think he’s still rel­ev­ant. Jadakiss and Fab­ulous stay rel­ev­ant. They’re not too com­mer­cial and they don’t get wrapped up in too much of the hype but in the same point too they always seem to be right there. They know exactly what’s going on. Like day-to ‑day life in your hood, they seem to know exactly what’s going on, it’s so weird. I have nev­er heard a bad verse from either one of those two. West Coast, Kendrick Lamar.

Kendrick made me feel good about doing music again when he came back out. Hear­ing Kendrick­’s shit; I did­n’t really think someone could rap the way he raps and catch that atten­tion from people, I thought people would turn him away but he’s so cre­at­ive. You can’t deny him. So left. He says raises the bar and pushes the lim­it, he makes it com­fort­able. Some people don’t even know what they’re dan­cing to, he’s pas­sion­ate about his shit and I love that. Ludac­ris is dope. Rick Ross has bet­ter songs on his albums then his releases, his albums are way more con­cep­tu­al.

Have you been to Lon­don or the UK?


What do you know about the UK Hip Hop or UK Grime scene?

I don’t know much really. There’s this one dude I heard back in the states I think he’s from Lon­don actu­ally. He’s dope as hell. (refer­ring to Krept and Kon­an — Don’t waste my time).

Why do you think the US has a lack of know­ledge about the UK scene?

It’s not even know­ing some­thing is there to look for it. Amer­ic­ans are so stuck in their box it’s like this is what we do and that’s it. We’ve got to be more open to everything, but I think we lit­er­ally just don’t know, because when I hear this shit, imme­di­ately I like it. Between the accent, the vibe is dope and what they choose to talk about. It just all depends on hav­ing that mar­ket, I mean a lot of people know but more people should know. You gotta be really into the music to know it though. It’s not on reg­u­lar radio or any­thing, like you know how some Amer­ic­an songs play over here? It’s not like that in Amer­ica.

Describe to me your sound.

My sound is dir­ectly in the middle between under­ground and com­mer­cial. I think I have a whole oth­er mar­ket of people that my music has­n’t even touched yet. It’s those people who don’t want to be against everything but they still wanna have fun. You can­’t be in fear of everything and scared of going out­side, you gotta go out­side even­tu­ally. Like some people are so para­noid that they don’t live. What I talk about is not too, too deep but I touch on things every now and then and still try to keep it com­mer­cial and play around. When it comes to music, the only time you’re allowed to sing about being happy is when you’re in the shower!

When you’re mad, you will say that shit any­way. Neg­at­iv­ity spreads faster at the same point too. Some artists feel like when they do music it’s a pain release. Every time you do that song, you feel it; you feel that pain every time you per­form that record. So you wanna tour the world in pain? After a while you don’t even real­ise that you’re per­form­ing the same shit thirty times in the next 6 months on tour or whatever. I have my pain music but I wanna do everything. Just make music and cre­ate, I don’t want to be stuck in that rain.

Describe to me your cre­at­ive pro­cess?

I’ve switched up my pro­du­cers a lot more. I record in the morn­ing because it’s bet­ter for my voice. I like to write when I travel just so I can get that vibe of every­where else and feel. It’s not the same as being at home, so I like to get the influ­ences. I work a lot when I am in the car driv­ing, I just let the beats play and just drive and get con­cepts. I start free-styl­ing in the car, you think about some­thing when you’re not think­ing about it, it’s easi­er. If I sit there and just listen to a beat; some­times it will come; where­as if I am in the middle of doing some­thing else and I’m just like listen­ing in my head­phones, everything pops out. It’s the strangest thing.

Artwork by Dubb Ujean

Art­work by Dubb Ujean

Talk to me about your exper­i­ence with graf­fiti.

I got into Graf­fiti around the age of 21, when I came back from the Mar­ines hav­ing been to Iraq It was a good release. One of my close friend’s; who was in the Mil­it­ary with me; was a good Graf­fiti Artist, so I pretty much just fol­lowed him around — I got good tips from him. I was always good at draw­ing, but Graf­fiti was­n’t a style I was used to. Once I got used to it, I really enjoyed the free­dom of it and not hav­ing a real format. Style-wise, I am a little bit of everything; I grab my inspir­a­tions from every­where.

The main thing I got into was doing mur­als. I do a little bit of bomb­ing and tag­ging every now and then but I did­n’t really get into the whole run­ning around and hanging off build­ings type of shit because I did­n’t feel like doing fed time or run­ning away from cops. Hip Hop is the rebel of music genres and Graf­fiti is the rebel of the art world. People don’t really respect graf­fiti and they can’t even do it! This shit is some of the most com­plex stuff. Someone will throw some­thing on a can­vas from like five feet away and it will be art­work for like a $1,000 or £1 mil­lion pounds. I just think Hip Hop music and Graf­fiti just fall under the umbrella of just being out­casts, but that’s what makes it so spe­cial — but then it’s so under­rated and people just act like they don’t notice it. We’ve been con­di­tioned to see it as crime and not to notice it for what it is. I would like to open an Art Museum one day. It will be a Graf­fiti and Con­tem­por­ary Art Museum but I would like to blend dif­fer­ent art forms, have fea­ture artists come through too.

What’s the dream?

To just do music, travel, tour on a big­ger scale than what I am doing now, as I am just get­ting star­ted. Help people through con­certs, do free con­certs in the most fucked up places; those kids man, they need that shit. There’s artists over here char­ging people $200 for tick­ets. People already love you as a per­son and they don’t even know you and now you’ve got these people that are com­ing out to see you. Why are you char­ging them hun­dreds for a tick­et? Every­one should be able to come. I’m not say­ing my music gen­er­ates tours, because I may not cater to that demo­graph­ic, but I just want every­body to fuck­ing have a good time!! I want to do some human­it­ari­an pro­jects too with my graf­fiti also. I just want my shit to be dif­fer­ent, if you don’t dream about some­thing, what the fuck are you liv­ing for because essen­tially everything is point­less? Because you work to pay bills and then you die, there’s noth­ing to live for because you can­’t take noth­ing with you, except your dreams. I have been doing music for over ten years and now my sound is where I want it to be, I have developed more lyr­ic­ally; I’m men­tally smarter. I needed that time to grow, so God for­bid, I would have got­ten all of that earli­er, but I nev­er lost sight of my dream. No mat­ter what was going on in my life, people not believ­ing in me and shit, I always kept my mind on that shit. You have to. It pushes you.

Talk about the beef in Hip Hop?

It’s all about per­sona. That’s all it is. Listen to the music. You mean to tell me that every­body who is at that con­cert ain’t like that? That’s the whole point of you mak­ing that music, so now those people who it caters to are gonna be there, all togeth­er, from dif­fer­ent groups, dif­fer­ent walks of life. So you’re ral­ly­ing these mother­fuck­ers togeth­er. Think about it. They come there and that’s a prob­lem It does­n’t shock me because that’s what should have been expec­ted, that’s what you’re ask­ing for — like lit­er­ally. How many people get shot at a Coun­try and West­ern con­cert? Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been to mad shows where there ain’t been noth­ing at all. Also it’s the ratio of people too. You got one hun­dred thou­sand people there, some­body’s going to get into a fight, so it’s a bit of both. A lot of this shit people be rap­ping about, it’s real but it’s pub­li­cised so it’s like now say you really do some gang shit or whatever, that’s got to be you wherever you’re at now. You’re lit­er­ally a gang mem­ber and you’re let­ting them know about you and the music makes it okay, but on a day-to-day basis, Being a celebrity makes you dif­fer­ent? It’s always gonna be beefin’

What’s your opin­ion on the US Hip Hop music scene now and how can it move for­ward?

Mother­fuck­ers just need to start rap­ping again. That’s it. Lyr­ic­ally every­body is not ful­filling their poten­tial. I can hear it slowly chan­ging though over the last couple of years but it’s steps. Between Kendrick and J. Cole, Big K.R.I.T. Nip­sey Hussle, ScHool­boy Q, Vince Staples. I think it’s com­ing back but it’s just creep­ing in there real slow. Still it won’t go back to the way it was but it’s get­ting back to being more lyr­ic­al and great again. It’s more con­cep­tu­al because you know not everything is drugs, money, eat­ing good and women on a yacht

People under­value the his­tor­ic­al con­tent that Hip Hop cul­ture holds. Through it I encountered my first Haitian friend who taught me inform­a­tion about black cul­ture that I have not known in the 25 years I have been alive. Hip Hop is Know­ledge, cul­ture and life.


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Valerie Ebuwa

Valer­ie “wing girl” Ebuwa is a freel­ance dance artist and yoga teach­er from East Lon­don. She is cur­rently dan­cing for 3 con­tem­por­ary dance com­pan­ies and is one of the found­ing mem­bers of Eclectics Dance and CEO of Hip Hop House.

About Valerie Ebuwa

Valerie "wing girl" Ebuwa is a freelance dance artist and yoga teacher from East London. She is currently dancing for 3 contemporary dance companies and is one of the founding members of Eclectics Dance and CEO of Hip Hop House.