There’s no doubting Uno The Activist‘s vision. When the Atlanta rapper speaks of his goals and the future he has his in hip-hop, he’s very matter-of-fact. He knows what he was put here for, even if he’s still trying to understand the message he’s supposed to share. At 20 years old, Uno’s still got time to figure it out.
While rap fans likely know him for the Chris French-produced song “What,” which he dropped with his cousin Playboi Carti last year, Uno’s been releasing music since he was in high school. He began rapping in the ninth grade — a “nice hobby,” as he calls it — and even formed a group with Carti at one point called TFZ. Once he debuted his first song, “I Doubt It,” during his senior year, Uno knew he really had to “go hard” with his music career.
A year after he graduated high school, the self-proclaimed “young O.G.” went to the Art Institute to study audio engineering. School wasn’t his thing so he only lasted a semester before calling it quits. Lucky for him, this was around the time he dropped “Parkin’ Lot Pimpin’” in 2015, and began getting calls to perform shows outside of Atlanta.
Two mixtapes later, and Uno The Activist is proving to be no flash in the pan. His debut tape, No More Thotties, released in 2015, had just eight tracks but showcased the fact he was riding his own wave with songs like the Shing-produced “Guiseppe Swag.” Gift of Gab, which dropped last year, highlighted his growth across 15 songs featuring collaborations from the likes of Thouxanbanfauni, Playboi Carti, Maxo Kream and MadeinTyo, among others. Uno’s versatility is his gift. He dances across the beat with his sing-song delivery on “Runnin Runnin Runnin” and plays no games when he flexes his trigger finger (“Bitch I carry shells by the box like some Adidas”) on “Whole Thang.”
Since then, he’s dropped more than a few loosies and his SoundCloud page is steadily racking up plays. Songs like the Thouxanbanfauni-assisted “Parkin’ Lot Pimpin’,” “Whole Thang” with Playboi Carti and “Every Since” featuring both have crossed one million streams territory. Looks like they’ve got a rap trifecta as a team.
Now Uno is preparing to drop his next project, Live.Shyne.Die. The effort will reflect his life story and what he’s gone through during the past two years — being shot last October will likely pop up in his rhymes. So what’s the message he’s trying to send on the new tape? “I’m like saying watch who you keep around you, do what you gotta do ’cause you gonna die so while you live you gotta shine,” he tells XXL. “Sometimes I feel like singing, sometimes I feel like rapping. I’m just taking people into my world. All I really wanna do is inspire and motivate.”
Get to know more about Uno The Activist’s rise to hip-hop acclaim in XXL‘s The Break.
I grew up listening to: “I grew up listening to a lot of Andre 3000, a lot of Lil Wayne. OutKast in general. My dad used to always play 8Ball. 8Ball and MJG. One day my friend gave me a CD and it had like four songs on there. Two of them were Mike Jones, one was Paul Wall and the other was Sammie the singer. So when I heard them, when I heard Paul Wall and Mike Jones, these songs I never heard before.
“Like these songs ain’t the biggest songs that everybody knew. These are like real sipping lean sipping songs. So then I started getting into the chopped and screwed wave. That really helped my music.”
My style’s been compared to: “I get [Young] Thug. I get [Lil] Wayne. I get Wayne a lot. I just think like with Thug and Wayne, they versatile as hell, you feel me? And I’m versatile as fuck myself. I guess the way my voice sound on a track. I grew up on Wayne. He played a big influence on my rap career. ‘Let the Beat Build,’ that was when I was like, God damn, yo I can do this, you feel me? The way Kanye made that beat for him and the way he rode it and how he built it up, like, Damn, that’s real artistry. That really like sparked like, Damn, I gotta do this. It made me feel good listening to it so I wanna make other people feel good when I do it.”
Most people don’t know: “I played basketball from fifth grade all the way to 11th grade. I could dance good as fuck. I could dance like Chris Brown if I want to.”
My standout records to date have been: “Obviously ‘What.’ Even though I don’t really be getting much credit as I deserve on that muthafucker. That was the most major platform I got. Shout out to [A$AP] Rocky for shooting the video. That’s just a big ass song a nigga just made in five minutes. That song is just a hit. We was in a studio in [New] Jersey. There was a mic right here [points in front of him], two headphones and me and [Playboi] Carti were like this [simulates putting his arm around Carti].
“There’s a video out but nobody knew we was making ‘What’ though. There’s a video just show us going back and forth rapping, he doing my ad-libs, I’m doing his ad-libs. We talkin’ to each other like, ‘Check this out.’ That’s why I say before my verse, like we was just freestyling. We was just list. Like, ‘Check this out’ and I started going in like, ‘I don’t give a fuck/Keep that 40 tucked/Nigga try your luck…’ One take, we was just vibin’.”
My standout moments to date have been: “I’d say Made in America. They still show my video ’til this day. I was crowd surfing like I was getting crucified. It was a big moment because I didn’t know what Made in America was until I did it [in 2016]. I’m from the South side of Atlanta. Everybody was just telling me like, ‘We see you on Tidal, bro. You came so far. Who would imagine you would be doing that shit?’
“Overseas tours, who would imagine that? Twenty years old. That was a standout moment for me. I had a couple standout moments but that was a big one. They had booked Carti at SXSW and I still didn’t even know what the fuck that was. They booked him extra early. He’s like I’m taking you to Made in America with me. So boom, niggas came out and rocked that. Whenever we perform we just bring so much energy to the crowd.”
My goal in hip-hop is: “I know I was put in this world for something. I know it’s to influence others. I think God gave me my way doing this through music, you feel me? I’m still young trying to figure out what message I’m supposed to be relaying, you know what I’m saying? I bring versatility. I bring energy. Straight raw energy, you feel me? Undeniable energy, you feel me? It’s undeniable when I make a song.
“When you hear it you gotta move. I don’t know, it’s like you go into a trance. You gotta move. That’s a hit factor for me. My versatility will really be my standout. And I rap better than a lot of these niggas. I know I rap for all the real niggas. I been through a lot of shit too. I just want to let people know they don’t really need nobody to be leaning on. In this world, you live alone, you die alone so you really have to get it for yourself. I want everybody to know they can get it for theyself. Of course with the help from loved ones and others. But like, you can do it, bro. You don’t have to be one of them bystanders watching. You can be doing it. That’s what I stand for. I want everybody to believe in theyself.”
I’m going to be the next: “Mogul. ‘Cause I can do it all. That’s what I’m going for. I’m trying to be the best in every category there is. That’s what I find my end result being. One of the greatest ever, legendary stories.”
“What” With Playboi Carti
Subscribe to XXL on
Subscribe to XXL on
“Amazing” With Thouxanbanfauni
Subscribe to XXL on
Subscribe to XXL on
“Whole Thang” Feat. Playboi Carti
“Parkin’ Lot Pimpin’” Feat. Thouxanbanfauni
Gift of Gab
No More Thotties
See 15 of Hip-Hop’s Weirdest Album Titles