With a distinct name like Upper Echelon, the duo from New Jersey, better known as UE , offers a unique and eclectic sound of instruments and melody, influenced by the musics Motown Era.
Winning, among many awards, the Underground Music Award for Best Duo of 2007, UE members Caliph and Tunde, strive to be recognized for their own music production, unique sound, along with their musical live show performances.
With their latest album release, Tragedy 2 Triumph, both members reflect on their personal accounts of tragedy, struggle and overcomingobstacles they have faced. In their track “Things R Changing,” track Tundeand Caliph speak on their own evolution, while still maintaining theentertainment and performance appeal on the track “Heat Wave.”
AllHipHop.com: Where did you guys get the name UE from?
Tunde: We are looking for something that represented what we were all about, what we were trying to do. Our whole ideology when we go into the studio, we came up with Upper Echelon and it means a higher level.
AllHipHop.com: Both of you used to be solo artists. What made you want to link up and form a group?
Tunde: We started off solo artists and met each other at Seton Hall University, just going to different ciphers and battles. Back then I was a solo artist working with a producer in New Jersey and Caliph was pretty much doing hes own thing. When Caliph met there was a certain chemistry that we had with him, kinda like a ying and yang chemistry. We just automatically bounced and decided to come out with Upper Echelon.
AllHipHop.com: You guys do all of your own production. Tell me about your process of creating a track from the ground up.
Caliph: Off the Tragedy 2 Triumph album, the way it really worked was just about digging in the crates and listening for that certain sound, something would match our sound. Well take something from Motown Era music, but we still like to feel like we got our own sound. That just comes from us sitting down with records and records and finding it. Its not just coming off of records, its coming off of records we feel match our sound.
AllHipHop.com: If you had to put a label on that sound, what would you call it?
Caliph: [Laughs] Good Music. We give our best and our all into every song. So, if I had to put a label on it. Good Music.
Tunde: To add on to that, I would say were very musical. Were more musical, some artists are focus on beats, but we focus on melody and music, which gives a variety of different instrumentations. A lot of which that has been created by live instruments with a unique twist and you get melodies that stick out.
AllHipHop.com: Do you feel like that is a sound that missing in the game right now?
Tunde: Yea, absolutely. I feel like nowadays, the sound people are going for is real synthetic. I dont have anything against synthetic instruments. I just know, personally, that we dont go for a lot of fake sounds if it sounds like they are coming straight out of a computer. We want people that listen to our music to feel like they can imagine a band behind us.
Caliph: We keep that musical feel to our music, because we gear all of our music to be preformed live. A lot of artists dont think about their live show. Ultimately, we wanna be able to rock the crowd with a live band behind us. We make all of our music like that. Our ultimate goal is to live onstage.
AllHipHop.com: Do you enjoy performing live more than creating in the studio?
Caliph: I dont know. I think I like both for different reasons. When I get to sit down and make music Im diggin deep in my soul for that sound and when Im onstage Im giving it more life Im transferring this energy to other people to use. It feels good for two different reasons.
Tunde: Exactly. Thats a good question because when youre going through the recording process your really writing music to really satisfy yourself and when youre performing to the public your really putting yourself out to the crowd. When people getting into the energy that you created, it gives you a sense of satisfaction but, I cant really choose one over the other. Theyre both on the same plane.
AllHipHop.com: I noticed a lot of your lyrics have been based on positive messages. Is this something that youve done purposefully, as far as your lyrical content having a message?
Tunde: Yea, we believe that you can be positive and its still make good music. While you have peoples ears its always good to throw in certain content and a certain message. Thats what makes your music more valuable. If you gear the music towards not really saying anything, then the music is going to be disposable. When theres a message behind it and substance behind it but, it doesnt mean you cant be entertaining.
AllHipHop.com: Do you guys write based on personal experiences?
Caliph: I would say about 90% of this album is our experiences. On the title track of the album, Tragedy 2 Triumph, we feel like its the pillar of this whole album, because it shows that we came from this tragedy to this triumph. Its all our personal experience, our highs and our lows, our everyday life. Were not gangstas, were not drug dealers, we miss our parents that passed away, I have a son, our family, going out, having fun.. You hear about all of that. Life isnt just one thing its multifaceted and you hear all about that. Its a very personal album.
AllHipHop.com What does the title Tragedy 2 Triumph mean to you personally?
Tunde: We came up with that title, cause it pretty much shows how you can create a triumph out of a tragedy. Most people that are successful in this lifetime, usually reach their success out of a struggle or some type of tragedy. Those are always the always the most successful people. Success is really that journey from struggling to triumph. About three and a half years ago my father passed away, it was shocking and very hard. And then Caliphs mother passed away around at the same time and everything just kinda came to a standstill. The only inspiration to pick up music again came from wanting to spill out emotions of the tragedy that had happened. So out of that tragedy, came such a successful album and that is our triumph..
AllHipHop.com: Whats some of the pros and cons of working in a group setting?
Caliph: Theres really only pros. I say that because he might see an area where I might be lacking at and I would love to say vice versa. But when Im slipping, he pickin up, when he slippin, Im pickin up.
Tunde: Basically, as a solo artists, sometimes you need that ear to tell you whether the verse or beat is really hot. Sometimes as artists you think something is hot because youre so involved in it so, basically what we do is check and balance each other with each other.
AllHipHop.com: What are you guys doing to create mainstream buzz for yourself or do you feel like you dont need it?
Caliph: No, we definitely need it. We consider ourselves commercial artists, we dont consider ourselves backpack rappers. We got a lot of love for Motown, Rock, R&B, and even alternative music. So, we do everything we can. We just did another showcase out in Virginia and trying to spread the UE movement everywhere. So, we definitely dont want to be local artists or confined one genre and one region. We really want to be international.
Tunde: Heres the thing about us and our struggle, when we make our music we gear it towards being universal. We make a conscious effort to appeal to a mass amount of people. The struggle is, that our music really doesnt sound like anything else thats out there. As universal as it is and as many people that are feelin it, once you listen to it, you see that it really doesnt sound like most of the hip-hop thats out there right now. So, when it comes to really getting it out to mainstream, or taking it to radio and DJs or to A&R sitting down to it, most are just listening to whats on the radio right now. We dont sound like anything thats on the radio right now, but I guarantee you, if we were on the radio, people would gravitate towards it. What were trying to do is reach the people first. Once you have the people on your side, the industry has to move towards you, regardless. Were doing as much as we can, if its radio shows, showcases, publicity, anything we can to get the people.
AllHipHop.com: A lot of artists do showcase in the hopes that theyll be discovered. Is that your ultimate goal to get a record deal out of it, or is it just a platform to perform for your fans?
Caliph: Our goal is to be on a major label. Right now were just paying our dues. Anybody that has made it and sustained a long meaning full career has paid their dues in one way or another. A lot of people that have been one hit wonders, havent paid their dudes. They just got in cause they paid somebody or knew somebody or didnt have the talent and perseverance to back it up. So, we grinding, and once we start shining, were gonna be shinin for a long time.
UEs MySpace Page is www.myspace.com/uehome