Turn It Up! 12" 2003
Interview (The Giant Peach)
Ugly Duckling had the questionable fortune of forming in late 1993, at the height of the "G-Funk" era. As the gangsta stylings bred in UD's native Long Beach conquered the country, Andy, Dizzy and Young Einstein set off a battle of a distinctly different sort: a four-year struggle to get anyone to listen to their music. (It was also during this period that Einstein hit the crates with Long Beach beat-digging collective the Drum Majors, Andy toiled in a bookstore and Dizzy made some money, shall we say, "off the books.") In 1997, they released the independent 12" single "Fresh Mode," which actually put the Duckling on the underground hip hop map (and funded the purchase of Young Einstein's "dookie" gold rope).
Fresh Mode also landed Ugly Duckling a deal with 1500 Records one year later. The group's debut EP, also called Fresh Mode, followed in 1999, meeting with voluminous critical acclaim. But a sheaf of good reviews and a quarter won't get you a cup of coffee, if you know what I'm sayin'... Undaunted, the group did no less than three UK/Euro tours and two in the U.S., building a loyal cult following (especially in the UK, where Wall Of Sound's Bad Magic imprint issued Fresh Mode to a particularly enthusiastic response).
Ugly Duckling fans responded to the trio's positive and melodic old-school approach to hip-hop. Those who had given up on this music--or who had never been interested or aware of it in the first place--connected with UD's accessibility to anyone willing to listen, regardless of background... or rep. The Ducks met many of these soon-to-be fans on the road in the early days, sharing stages with The Roots, Kool Keith, Black Eyed Peas, Del The Funky Homosapien and Jurassic 5, to name a few. It was during this period of traveling and playing that Ugly Duckling gained not only new fans, but experience, exposure and determination.
"We want to make this artform fun again because it has become so mean and nasty," Andy explains. "It's not even about the music anymore. It's about trying to shock listeners into buying a CD and we'd like to change that." Perhaps he's on to something...