Dominique Young Unique
By Kevin Zimmerman
The World Belongs to Dominique Young Unique
Nineteen-year-old Dominique Young Unique makes no bones about where she’s headed. “Me and my wannabe cousin started doing music when I was 11 years old,” she declares. “And even though she didn’t go on with it, I always took it very seriously, and I started writing my own verses and making my own music. It’s about taking the talent that God gave me and taking it to the next step.”
Frequently compared to the likes of M.I.A. and Santigold, the fast-paced rhymes of Tampa-based Dominique (born Dominique Clark) actually have more in common with straight-out hip-hop forebears like Monie Love and Roxanne Shante, not to mention Miami’s own queen of hip-hop Trina – one of her all-time favorites. “I spent a lot of time when I was younger studying videos on MTV and YouTube, seeing how others did it and getting ideas for how I wanted to present myself and my music,” she notes. “I was like, ‘Ooh, I wanna be that girl!’ I didn’t want to struggle, or see my family going on struggling, to make ends meet, so music kind of took everything over.”
Such talk of struggle isn’t just hyperbolic platitudes. She once spent a week living in a car with her mother, sister, and brother, wondering just where life was going to end up taking them. Her grandmother eventually came up with some accommodations, but such experiences marked both Dominique’s mind and her music.
By the time she was 14 she was hanging out in studios alongside acts like rapper Shunda K of Yo! Majesty. “I was doing some rapping with her,” she recalls, “and then one day I went into the next room over, and there was [producer] David Alexander. I was just feeling like I was finally getting on my feet, and then to meet him – it was pretty wild!”
Alexander now provides the beats and loops for her to deliver her trademark rapid-fire raps over, with several self-released singles and mix tapes the result. Working together constantly, the pair can end up with several completed tracks per week, she says, releasing them on Alexander’s Art Jam Records as they continue to seek a record deal.
Those releases, along with a steady stream of concert appearances and profiles in the likes of Radar and Nylon, have helped tip Dominique as one to watch. In all it’s a productive and natural evolution for the talented artist.
“There’s pain involved in some of my stuff,” she admits, “but there’s a lot about freeing yourself too. Just letting yourself go, and feeling the music.”
What’s On My iPod?
Tupac, Jay-Z, Nicki Minaj … and of course Trina. “I’m still listening to her stuff all the time,” Dominique enthuses.