State In The Real – Penn State Music Scene

Interview with The U

the U

Since we last spoke with Penn State rapper, The U, the man has become a promotional machine. He’s shot and released 3 music videos since summer, and he already has another one ready to drop. Recently we saw him talk to the PSU Song-Writers club about life and music after PSU, so we thought we’d help him extend the message. We caught up with him and one of his producers, Randy Troy, to get a little insight.


Check out these new videos from The U. Also take a look at the work of Randy Troy from Conviction Studios (the director of “Inception”), and Justin Bello (the director of Villain Gone Mad.



Villain Gone Mad:


Randy Troy:

Justin Bello:


When we last spoke, you’d just released your first video ‘Weldon.’ Since then you’ve released 2 more, and just finished shooting footage for the 4th. What’s with the change of pace?

  • The U- It took me a while to find all the resources.. I knew what I needed, producers, videographers.. and actual concepts to go along with my songs. I finally got to the point where I knew the direction I wanted to take the visualizations in when I met Justin Bello and Randy Troy.
  • Don’t get me wrong I’ve been recording constantly for 4  or 5 years.. just tracks on top of tracks, that’s why my mix tapes are so lengthy, but once I met these people, they truly helped me bring visual life to my songs.. at least the songs that I’m trying to release right now. I have so many more that aren’t ready and are still in production mode, but I’m really happy with the ones that we’ve finally added an aesthetic to.


What factors played in picking which songs to make videos for?

  • The U- Originally I came up with the idea for ‘Villain’ with Randy.. but he was working on some other projects (including the new freaking Batman movie) so he wasn’t always able to be on set for it.. but he was able to do some critiquingd, and be part of the post production.. Bello found me and really wanted me to shoot a video.. I came at him and said “I got villain right here, lets see what you can do with it”.. He loved it, he hit me up every way he could, calling, texting, tweeting me nonstop. So we got to work.
  • Its also a fan favorite, its not exactly the most main stream of my work, you might never hear it on the radio.. but I’ve performed it in NY, and many times at PSU. Its pretty dark, but it’s a mosh’s a rager. I’ve always loved performing it and when we went to work on the video it really just came to life.
  • Inception was mostly Randys idea.. I sent him the song when I finished recording it, and he immediately said “I want this, we’re shooting this video.”
  • Randy- When he sent me the song.. I could immediately tell it had a visual quality for it.. it was something that if we wanted to make a video we could get a little artistic, which is something you definitely don’t see enough with Hip Hop videos, except maybe from Cuddi… Everything has Boats booze, babes, clubs, ice and money. I could tell that this was a track that had a very narrative visual element to it.. It just spoke to me. I originally had this elaborate idea for it that would have needed multiple places to shoot.. State College.. Jersey.. The more and more I listened to it, the more and more I wanted to create something a bit more simple simple.. Not in the way that its boring, but I wanted people to see it and think of it as something new to them. Its really a different way of doing it.. to try and do a video in one take.
  • We obviously didn’t have the budget to do what I originally wanted with the video. Then again if we’d had that budget the video might have been over produced. We took key words from the song and we made a complex, yet simple project. People are going to expect cuts and elements of film making that are flipped on their head from this video.. which is what you would expect from a song called inception. Just like the movie.. if you didn’t watch it twice, you probably wouldn’t pick up on most things.
  • The U- A lot of pre planning went into the video, and ultimately it came out as something that we’re extremely proud of. You look at the concepts of the 3 videos I have out right now and its like 3 different worlds. Weldon was kind of like “Hey I’m Ugo.. I rap.. I’m black.” Villain was a straight up slasher, and then Inception was a mind-fuck.  The next ones called ‘Nothingness’.. I originally shot my first ever video for it in Brooklyn, almost a year ago. We got sick pictures from it but I had a falling out with the videographer and it never got released.. In all honestly its  a no brainer that I ended up going with Randy.
  • Randy- Its all about taking music videos to new heights… people cared about music videos in the 80’s.. a lot of people in the indie scene are doing some cool stuff, but as far as hip hop goes there is a real lull happening.
  • The U- Kanye and Cuddi, Lady gag.. they’re making their own rules.. burning the manual on set… People really gravitate to that.
  • Randy- I just never wasted money on the manual.
  • The U- We did enough reading in school haha.


What spurred you to take Villain Gone Mad in such an extreme direction.

  • The U– We rustled with a lot of ideas for the villain.. it was originally going to be Randys project, and it would have been completely different.. much more thorough and planned. Out.. It would have taken a lot longer to shoot longer to shoot.. It wouldn’t have been feasible with his schedule and we didn’t want to rush it. I wanted to get it out soon but I still wanted a great finished product.
  • The first night of official planning with Chewi and Bello, we took down some ideas.. watched the YelaWolf videos.. checked out different elements that people used in direct songs.. Villain is an aggressive song so we wanted the message “This is what it is.. loud and in your face”. That’s how it was live and I wanted the video to enhance that.
  • We had a lot of ideas on the table.. originally it was going to be me and Chewi as the heroes looking for the villain and stopping these serial killings. We were close to settling on that.. But we backed out because we assessed the subject matter of each of our verses and we definitely did not sound like heroes. It wouldn’t have made any sense…
  • Randy- Bello was taking it in a great direction, but I wanted to make sure they incorporated some things so that it wouldn’t seem generic, so I was Skyping with Ugo nonstop from the Batman set.
  • The U- We didn’t want do anything where people would say “oh they ripped that off, or oh that’s fake” we wanted to be as cutting edge as possible.. from the props to the extras. I think we did a good job of that, which is why it took 3 nights to shoot haha. Everything was really planned out. It took a lot of time but we’re happy with it.
  • I’m also glad that a lot of people actually understood the deeper meaning behind the video. The message is there.. I’ve talked to people to understand and people don’t.
  • Randy- Its more about the deterioration of man than anything.. the people can figure it out from there.

What kind of pro’s and cons can you give us about being done with school in regards to music?

  • The U– Well it’s a lot easier without meeting with groups in libraries.. classes.. papers… tests… I loved college and had great grades, but I hated the school aspect haha. Not having the pressures of being a student and those restraints.. definitely a pro.
  • A con.. when you’re out in the real world, you can’t just walk down the street anymore and ask “can I perform at your house on Saturday” RIP Casa Blanca
  • The same basic concepts apply.. I performed twice in New York and it wasn’t through just going to Penn State, it was through the networking and skills that I learned at Penn State. You have to take them to the next level and realize you’re on your own. I know some artists that manage themselves.. I’d rather not do that because I’d rather pay someone to do that, but its good to know that until I do I’m doing a damn decent job of it on my own.
  • Randy- But really networking is everything.. If U continues to impress people with his music there’s not much that’s going to  get in his way.
  • The U- Family and friends have been asking me what’s the next step since the last step. The key at this point is the promotion, it’s the backbone of every artists career. I’ve done a lot of research, a lot of homework… on how other people made their break’s.. They find a manager and a promo team and hit the ground running. It’s a lot harder now to break through on the internet because there are so many people trying to do it.. apposed to 5 years ago when it was a newer idea. Its really performing the right stuff at the right locations, opening for the right artists.. Timing is key.. releasing shit at the right time and making moves on track.

Do you have any specific advice for other artists?

  • The U- Use your resources while you have them.. not to say you’ll never have places to play or play with again, but take advantage while you’re knee deep in’em. If you don’t you’re going to wish that you found more producers.. found a manager or a collaborator. Obviously I met randy from going here. Wiz Khalifas manager went here for crying out loud…
  • Its hard trying to explain to my parents that they didn’t waste money from me going here just because I’m going forward with music. But you just got to have the hunger for it.
  • Randy- If any of the local artists in Penn State think they can sit down and have shit handed to them, they wont. There are a lot of venues in the area open to acts and willing to hear people.
  • In the way of hip hop, you need to be able to open your eyes to other genres. Just because you don’t know a rapper with a mic, doesn’t mean you don’t know a rock band with a mic and a studio.
  • You never know when you’ll meet someone outside your box whose about to stumble on to the right connections.
  • There are huge amounts of people in film production here, but you also have to look for the right people. There are a lot of people out there thinking that just because they spent 700 dollars on a camera that they can make a video.. then again there are many who can. Bello was a bio major!
  • There’s definitely a lot of opportunity here if you seek it out and have the fire.. Billy Joel will help you figure out how to start it haha.
  • The U- Definitely just find the right person who can see what you’re trying to do, and what you’re talking about.. its golden.

What are we going to see from Team Ugo in the near future?

  • The U- Well last time we talked.. at that point we hadn’t even started filming the last 3 videos we’ve done so that’s been a trip.. We did however finish a documentary since then. It took a year in change but its done and its awesome. Recordings interviews… shows… its kind of a visual gap between then and now, what’s happened in between
  • Nothingness is going to be out soon too, and the rough cuts look dope. We still don’t have a release date for the actual EP, but its finished and it’ll be released along side the documentary.. Definitely in 2012 though, we’re not pulling a Detox. Also I got a show on the 23rd at the Spanish Frat here with Chewi.. its going to be a great time.
  • We’re heading up to Williamsport soon to talk to a guy whose from the industry and has wanted to meet me for a while now. We talked about it with drew from Atlas.. we’re not talking about a guy who put some tracks out like 30 years ago.. This guy is active and I can’t wait to hear what he has to say. Its goona be interesting to see what happens over the next little stretch between now and releasing the official EP.
  • Randy- It took an entire year for us to get together and make inception.. not for lack of trying, but it just shows that you have to make the time. The U is an artist that I respect, has the fire, and I’m willing to work with to see him get there
  • The U- Same here.. There’s so many talented people in this place. That’s why the Song-Writers Club and State In The Real are so key and things like that PSU Underground Music group that Ryan Fox  made on Facebook. I didn’t really start breaking through till like my last 2 years. People didn’t even know there was and underground scene.. Everyone was like  “Whoa they got rappers here?”.. Haha, man they got rappers everywhere.