Unagi was raised in a musical household where playing multiple instruments was the norm. As a kid, he played piano and trumpet around the house and in the school band, progressing to guitar, bass, and drums in junior high. Access to his stepdad's gigantic record collection and vintage recording equipment fueled his interest, and he spent his formative years listening to everything from free jazz to heavy metal. Coming of age alongside hip-hop, he was busting the worm in grade school and listening to Rakim and G Rap by seventh grade.
Playing with various noise-rock bands throughout the nineties, the transition to Unagi came in 1997, while working with freestyle rap maniacs Discs of Tron. Bored by the simpleton "shiny suit" sound that was blowing up at the time, D.O.T. blazed a path of destruction throughout Western Massachusetts, instigating crowds with lyrical assaults centering around terrorism, sexual deviancy, and current events. Unagi started producing tracks for the group, initially using nothing more than a record player, the pause button, and an entry-level drum machine. His equipment slowly evolved, and soon he was writing his own songs, performing around the northeast as a solo emcee. In early 1999, he relocated to San Francisco, and began focusing on making beats exclusively.
Once settled in the Bay, he continued to refine his signature sound, unearthing obscure loops from discount vinyl, banging on the Dr. Rhythm, and reconfiguring it all into hard-to-classify but easy-to-dig instrumental compositions. By the fall of 2003, he had established his own label 442 Records, (a tribute to the 442nd Infantry, the infamous Nisei WWII unit that his grandfather had served with), and released his self-titled debut. Despite limited promotion and distribution, the album was well received and led to various licensing deals with cable television and films, plus a Japanese reissue. The follow-up "Keepin It Eel" dropped a year and a half later, winning over more fans and further spreading his soulful and charismatic music across the globe.
For round three, Unagi added emcees to the mix, partnering with talented rappers from across the country. "It Came From Beneath The SFC" found Unagi and friends striking back against mediocre music everywhere, with a guest list that included Motion Man, King Cesar (Monsta Island Czars), Infinito 2017, Kero One, and Melina Jones, among others. The album received positive reviews from outlets like Okayplayer, XLR8R, PopMatters, Giant Robot, TinyMixTapes, and many more. It also led to more licensing deals, with a track featured in a commercial for MTV.
In 2007, Unagi released two EPs, the Valentine-themed "Unagi For Lovers," and a 7-track collaboration with Infinito 2017 called "You and Eye." Both projects received critical acclaim from a variety of music media outlets. He also put out the cult favorite digi-single "Pouring You Mo Champagne" featuring Motion Man and Jethroe, whetting appetites for the trio's upcoming concept album "Adult Situations."
Now in 2009, Unagi is doing it big. His fourth full-length "Reinventing The Eel" drops this summer, following the lead single "Grown Man Flowin" b/w "Song of Satisfaction" with Motion Man and Eddie Meeks. The new album is without question his best work to date, recorded on better equipment, mixed and mastered in a real studio, and sporting more live instrumentation, but still maintaining the raw funk, unpredictable beat changes, and ear-tickling loops that listeners have come to expect. It features five instrumental selections and ten rap songs; other guests include Bay Area emcees Orukusaki, Gigio, Linkletterz, and Substitute Teachers, plus Queens duo Uppanotch, Chee Malabar (Himalayan Projects), and frequent collaborator Infinito 2017.
While underground heads stay complaining, and radio rap gets more ridiculous every day, Unagi keeps it moving, creating dope music for your mind, body, and soul. Influenced by the classics but avoiding retro gimmickry, his personalized sonic style is exactly what the game needs. Take a listen and hear the magic for yourself.
| BIO | DOWNLOADS | STORE | PRESS |