Uffie - You Ready To Uff-
Tuesday, 18 December 2007
The anti-‘It’ girls are the antithesis of the ’90s’ manufactured pop starlets. In contrast to the Spice Girls, they’re not wannabes – they just are.
What’s more, unlike those pop princesses currently unraveling in paparazzi images, they never aspired to teen perfection in the first place. The anti-‘It’ girls were always bad – and rad. They’re ‘street’. Born to be wild. Electro riot grrrls. And, happily, considering the scarcity of female MCs these days, they’re a little hip hop.
The electro-rapper Uffie is, following Princess Superstar, a postmodern ‘b(ad)-girl’. But, then again, Uffie, her flow critiqued by hip hop purists, maintains that she’s no MC. Uffie is, well, Uffie.
Still, Uffie is gratified to be positioned alongside other maverick femmes restoring personality – and spunk – to pop after the goodie-two-shoes stars of the ’90s.
“Britney Spears’ big fall ruined the ‘sweet pop girl’ image for everyone – and people were just getting a bit fed up of it,” Uffie laughs. “There are a lot of girls now who don’t really give a shit any more. They’re just speaking their minds. The world is definitely ready for that right now.”
Uffie claims to be tired and sick, but the sole clue to her condition lies in her congested speech. She is alarmingly perky – and talks at rapid speed. Signed to Pedro Winter’s Ed Banger Records, less ‘French touch’ than ‘French punch’, Uffie is, ironically, famous without releasing an album.
There is, in fact, scant information on her. Uffie may be a MySpace progeny but, aside from a few tracks, her MySpace contains no biography – and no blogs.
By rights, Uffie shouldn’t be chatting to the media about music at all. She had planned a career in fashion. Indeed, Uffie could be hanging out with glam heiresses such as Margarita Missoni instead of underground DJs.
Today Uffie calls France home. She is a true global wanderer. Uffie speaks with a hybrid accent – part American, part English. She was born Anna-Catherine Hartley in Miami to a Japanese mother and an English father. Hartley’s nickname ‘Uffie’ came from her Liverpudlian Dad, who, on her birth, reputedly declared that he wanted no more kids. ‘Enough’ morphed into ‘Uffie’.
With her father presiding over a clothing company, Uffie spent her formative years in Hong Kong. She returned to Florida to attend high school. In her mid-teens, Uffie, a budding party girl, flew to Paris for a holiday. She stayed. Uffie picks up the tale.
“My Dad was living in Paris. I didn’t really like the States so much. When I went to visit him, I decided not to go home. I ended up moving there and finishing school there.”
Uffie befriended DJ Feadz, an associate of Mr Oizo’s. She was organising a fashion event and approached him to spin. They became an item and, importantly, collaborators. Like MIA, who dated Diplo, Uffie is reluctant to discuss their relationship.
Charmed by Uffie’s sassy demeanour, Feadz asked her to drop vocals over Audio Two’s oft-sampled Top Billin’. She flipped some gangsta-isms. The result was Pop The Glock – paradoxically cute and hardcore. Very Uffie. And so Uffie, confidently straddling electro, rap and, broadly, hip hop, unleashed her buzzworthy first single, together with Ready To Uff, on Ed Banger just under two years ago.
This accidental foray into music forced Uffie to re-evaluate her vocation. She had enrolled in ESMOD (Ecole de Mode Internationale) to study fashion design. Uffie put that on hold to focus on music. “I figured this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so I stopped school to do it, but I do wanna work in fashion one day.”
Apparently when recording with Kylie Minogue, Scottish electro whiz Calvin Harris created a track in the Uffie ‘mould’. Uffie, into Kylie, is thrilled. (“I love her new album!”) Yet Uffie’s distinctive style has evolved unconsciously as well as spontaneously. “I didn’t really think that they were gonna be heard,” she says of her early efforts.
Nevertheless, Uffie enjoys being subversive. “In general, I’m kinda like a rebel little child.”
In 2007 Uffie is Ed Banger’s First Lady. She recently guested on Justice’s †, enlivening Tthhee Ppaarrttyy. Ed Banger is her ‘click’ – a family. “I’m the only girl, and I’m the youngest, so they’re all like big brothers who take care of me,” Uffie reveals. “They’ve been like my guardians since I was 17 – they’ve had me since then. They’ve helped me grow up, and become a grown-up, helping me with tax papers and all that.
“Outside of music, it is a real family vibe.”
Uffie, 20 this month, instills the stable with her youthful spirit. “[DJ] Mehdi told me once that I showed him how to bring fun back into doing music.”
She’s not beyond corrupting her labelmates. “I’m a bit crazy,” Uffie divulges. “I drag them out to have fun... They hate it!”
As she prepares to tour Australia with Feadz, Uffie is wrapping her LP. She’s largely worked with Feadz and Mr Oizo, but SebastiAn is also linked to the project. She’s aware that it’s overdue.
“It’s just been so difficult because it’s been two years, it should be done by now, but we’re away four days a week.
“We come home, and it’s just like, ‘I’m too tired to go into the studio’ – and I’m sick right now from travelling. I actually cancelled my Asia tour, the first two weeks of December, so I’m gonna finish it before I come to Australia.”
What can Uffie say about it-
“Obviously there’s still the fun, naughty tracks like Ready To Uff, and the sweet ones like Pop The Glock, but I am experimenting a lot more. As it’s my first album, I just wanna take this time to experiment with different styles. Lyrically, it’ll go more in-depth.”
Uffie intends to get it right for another reason. She’s unwittingly sparked an online backlash – unfairly accused of posing. Uffie responded to the hatas, offering Dismissed on the second Ed Banger compilation.
She acknowledges her hip hop influences yet doesn’t identify herself as an ‘MC’.
“When I was in the States, it was all about the Dirty South and Miami bass,” she recounts. “I never even listened to electro before I met Feadz and Oizo, so they really brought that style to it. And I’ve never had any musical training. I don’t know how to sing properly. I think that’s why it sounds a bit more like hip hop, ’cause it’s more speaking than singing. But [hip hop is] a big part that rubbed off – and I have the electro part. It just clashes together.”
In many ways, Uffie owes her celebrity to the internet. The blogger’s fave has been compared to everyone from Roxanne Shante to Peaches to Annie. One commentator described Uffie as “MIA-meets-Vanessa Paradis”, while another suggested that she’s “a rougher and edgier Hilary Duff” (isn’t that Pink-).
Uffie is into regional genres – crunk, Baltimore club and UK grime – but, as far as her contemporaries, she adores the ultimate hip hop renegade Missy Elliott. The party rapper is in awe, too, of tortured Byronic soulstress Amy Winehouse (“I love her – she’s amazing!”) and, unexpectedly, the indie Kate Nash. Uffie can’t be easily pinned down.
At any rate, Uffie will appear with Feadz at Field Day and Sounds on Sunday and, a year since their last trek, she’s hyped.
“It’s still the classic DJ/MC show, but it’s gonna be way longer with way more tracks – and whole album songs.”
The femcee recalls the generosity of our crowds. Most of all, she remembers partying. “I loved it. I mean, we only had four days, so I think we slept, like, four hours. We just loved it so much.”
WHO: Uffie & Feadz
WHAT: Plays Field Day in the Domain / Sounds on Sunday
WHEN: Tuesday 1 January / Sunday 6 January