Being black in electronic music presents all kinds of challenges, mostly of a political nature, but Yuni Wa has navigated through the industry with a deft touch, propelled by his work ethic and unique approach to the craft: inspired by J Dilla versus Diplo. He has more albums out than most of the artists that you can think of across any genre, and yet he’s still hungry to progress to the next level of his career and continue the grind. His mercurial work ethic makes him one of the most exciting new black musicians that you can find — one driven by the struggles of standing out in an industry that doesn’t always want the oppressed to succeed.
Yuni Wa, in broad terms, is an electronic musician from Little Rock, AR that, for the duration of his career, has been focused on creating “a whole new whirlpool of sounds” as he happily explains. He comes from a spiritual family: his grandfather was a preacher and he grew up in a Southern Baptist household. Being so spiritually intertwined, he spent years in the choir, picking up the essence of how chillingly beautiful that gospel music could be. He started to attend the Boys and Girls Club in his city and learned how to play music, picking up the guitars and drums.
By the time that he was 13 years old, Yuni Wa was ready to start releasing music. His earliest electronic recordings blend the extravagant nature of gospel with his early understanding of the genre that he would come to call his own. His first album, Wa, would come out after four years of finding his sound, in 2014. From there, he was hooked, beginning on a superhuman work schedule that followed with projects like 501x99, The Infinity Club LP, A Good Time, and ChillDays Vol1 all released that same year. It was a divine sign from above that he could work at this pace and continue to.
Success in the electronic industry came swiftly for Yuni Wa, even in the midst of some troubling times in high school. He got kicked out for truancy, while sick, and nearly went right to the prison pipeline. He ended up having to go to alternative school, and it’s here where he credits the music for kicking in and keeping him going through his trials and tribulations. He collaborated with producer Chris Travis when he was just 18 years old and has also done work for Cuz Lightyear, the rap protege of Killer Mike. While connecting with artists with larger platforms, he didn’t slack on his output: he released more albums than ever. By the time that he was 20 years old, Yuni Wa had 39 projects publicly available through Bandcamp, continuously unpacking your expectations of electronic music and repurposing the style from a black lens. His fanbase continued to have explosive growth as fans dug into the story that he spun without words.
As Yuni Wa’s growth propelled him to new heights, he began to realize that he wasn’t just a great electronic musician: he was actually the future of the genre. Black musicians have taken over pop, country, and other traditionally white genres with inventive and original takes on music. Yuni Wa found through being named one of the Visionary Arkansans by the Arkansas Times and also being nominated for Best Electronic Artist/DJ at the Black Apple Awards that he was revolutionizing the music itself and pushed himself even harder to leave a massive imprint on it. This led to huge strings of important performances such as at the Goon Des Garcons Def Jam Signing Announcement Show as well as a sold out one at the popular restaurant Vinos Pub and Brew. As of the last count of albums on his Bandcamp page, he has 57 projects altogether — at least three dozen more than your favorite artist will ever release in their career.
To give you an essence of what goes into his inventive, never-repeated process, here’s the story behind his 2020 album Allegory. Created entirely in his hometown, he wanted to turn electronic sounds into traumatic soundscapes instead of the traditional robotic style that they are known for. He was inspired by the foreboding essence of movie music and how that makes you feel while watching it. That’s reflected in the final project as the LP crescendos and decrescendos from start to finish. It’s a collage of unpredictable sounds that add up together to tell a haunting story — far different than the beeps and boops that you come to expect from modern electronic music. This originality is par for the course for Yuni Wa and comes from how he approaches the creation of it all.
When Yuni Wa creates, his inspirations take over his mind, but they’re far different from what you would think when you hear his music. Flying Lotus, Daft Punk, and J Dilla each contribute to the producer’s mysterious musical aesthetic that starts in electronic music, but has also ventured out to other genres like hip-hop and R&B. The uniqueness of his sound has won fans over, but he’s still working to make that next step that comes with having an original perspective. Coming from somewhere like Little Rock that’s just a blip on the map, it’s been harder for him to break out to the mainstream than he has hoped for.
That’s all set to change with Yuni Wa’s upcoming music. Aside from working on some secret projects with an artist on Def Jam that he’s excited about, he’s also preparing to release another album, Yuniversity 2, on November 27. And then after that, he’s not waiting another year to share some more music with fans — he’s already got another project, Context 4, that’ll be out sometime after that. He’s constantly working, perfecting his sound, and then detangling it to build from the ground organically again. There’s value in his unique black perspective in this genre, and the reception to this has proven that. So stripping naked each go around and starting again, with this in mind, keeps him hungry, creative, and ready to prove to the world that he deserves to be here every time.
Yuni Wa wants his music to prove that no matter the circumstances of one’s rise, they can achieve what they want with the right focus. Music was liberating for him early on, and being able to continuously explore the depths of his perspective and upbringing in his music has brought him happiness as he battles with the industry and its politics to make it to the next level. Yuni Wa continues to innovate and excel in electronic music with this focus on outlook and origin and, as he moves on into a new era, will keep inspiring others to do the same. For him, the sky's the limit.
“The Little Rock, Arkensas-based artist showcases a level of ingenuity through his music, thanks to paradoxical productions and craftily curated layers of sound.”