Published in the Pulse of The Twin Cities
By Kandis Knight
Matt Meyers and Jamar Hardy are not your typical business executives. As they approached me in their big, bright orange bomber jackets I realized the dainty table in the cute little coffee shop was probably the wrong setting to select for an interview with 6-foot-plus, 200-lb. Hip-Hop professionals.
Nevertheless, we somehow settled in for the interview about music and fashion. Meyers and Hardy are literally the muscle behind Underground Music and Fashion (UM & F), a local Hip-Hop generation company that has been around since late 2000.
Meyers, aka DJ Squire, is the former host of "Everlasting Beats", a Hip-Hop show on 91.7 FM. Hardy is a former buyer for a major retailer who is now a local high school basketball coach and a metro area realtor. Meyers and Hardy are not the only ones in charge at UM & F. Additional partners include DJ Kamikaze, aka Eric Pugh, who heads up the company's West Coast branch and is the former DJ of Wolfpack One, and James Houston, a retailing industry professional.
The company's founders were in their early 20s when they landed a huge deal to promote Adidas at the Final Four. "We contacted Adidas, and were like ‘we can do street promotions here in the Twin Cities.’ The next thing we knew we were getting like 20 boxes of clothing and promotional materials. It was big for us," said a smiling Meyers.
The company has grown and expanded since, even withstanding the post-9/11 national economic downturn. This week UM & F's first musical product will hit the streets. It’s a 16-track remix CD titled DJ Kamikaze First Strike featuring remixes of some popular Hip-Hop songs alongside some original material.
The only downside of First Strike is that it’s more or less a remix CD featuring national artists, there’s a distinct lack of a local presence on the disc. The music, however, is good and the blends are pretty interesting for those of us who pay attention to aesthetics like that.
"We let Kamikaze have creative freedom on the project because he’s in L.A. and he’s there to tap into that market,” said Meyers. “There wasn’t a lot of local talent represented on this project, but on our next release we will be tapping more into local talent."
In the meantime Kamikaze is busy making waves in L.A. on behalf of UM & F and the Twin Cities in general. First Strike is his new calling card and it it will only help out since Kamikaze is now rubbing elbows with industry A-listers such as Swiss Beatz. Meyers and Hardy remain behind in the Twin Cities, working at getting a store and studio up and running for UM & F before year’s end.
Prior to 9/11, UM & F had investors lined up and planned to open a store in Dinkytown. When those plans fell through, the young entrepreneurs had to put everything on hold until now. "Our new store will focus on our fashion and our music,” said Hardy. “It will be a place where people can gather and we will incorporate a studio also. The store will help us promote our idea of what underground music and fashion is and we’re going to want to be able to make the clothing in house. It will be like a base," said Hardy.
The music production side of the company is actively soliciting material from local emcees to be featured on their follow-up compilation CD (slated to be released in late summer). The company is also interested in signing local emcees to their label as their business expands. "There is no shortage of talent here in the Twin Cities,” said Hardy. “It’s just hard for local emcees to get on here—hopefully our company can help that."
Although it’s difficult for local artists to gain national fame, Meyers and Hardy are proud of recent advancements of Twin Cities Hip-Hop and seek to support the local emcees in any way possible. On a recent visit to L.A. Meyers was shocked to see another Twin Cities Hip-Hop artist making big waves on the West Coast. "All the way down Hollywood to Venice Beach there were Atmosphere signs at every bus stop."
For more information about UM & F, to purchase clothing, buy CDs, submit demos or simply show love and support log on to http://www.umandf.com/