How Uffie survived bloghouse, became a mother, and returned to music

The onetime Ed Banger affiliate’s seen a thousand lives, and she’s just getting started.

September 20, 2019
How Uffie survived bloghouse, became a mother, and returned to music Rosabelle Eales

Bloghouse died its hundredth death earlier this year, when reports emerged that Myspace had officially deleted most of the content uploaded to the platform between 2003 and 2015. Alongside hundreds of thousands of photos of asymmetrical bangs, this included an estimated 50 million songs from 14 million artists, a great deal of them presumably unarchived anywhere else. (The mind reels imagining how many baile funk remixes of Lil Wayne’s “Lollipop” are forever lost in the ether.) These were the relics from our introduction to the overlapping agendas of music, digital media, and self-promotion that currently ruin our lives, but we didn’t know that back then. The internet was a creative utopia, and it was gonna make us all famous overnight.

ADVERTISEMENT

Just ask Uffie, who lived it in one of her many lives. When the globe-trotting teenager — Miami-born, Hong Kong-raised, Paris-based — uploaded her first song “Pop the Glock” to Myspace in 2005, she found herself a globally-recognized dance-pop oddball, the First Lady of the terminally cool Ed Banger crew, and the poster girl for the mid-aughts bloghouse scene. Uffie rapped over ‘80s cokewave electro in a vaguely British accent reminiscent of Lindsay Lohan in the midst of a dissociative episode. (It should go without saying that I mean this as a compliment.) She’d spit winking bars like, “Sound like Twista, fast as hell!” when she by no means sounded like Twista, though she did kinda sound like L’Trimm circa “Cars That Go Boom.” She wrote diss tracks directed at members of Diplo’s Hollertronix message board.

Outside the sphere of Myspace scenesters and MP3 bloggers, nobody really got it, nor were they supposed to. This was underground club music at the exact moment underground club music was becoming viable. The “Pop the Glock”/“Ready to Uff” 12” was released on Ed Banger in early 2006—a year before Soulja Boy’s “Crank That,” two years before Myspace queen Tila Tequila got a VH1 show. She was viral before we knew what viral was, and she made it all look like a never-ending party.

Then, life got real. Uffie gave birth to her daughter at age 21, fell out of love, released a critically divisive record (2010’s Sex Dreams & Denim Jeans, which holds up a lot better than you’d think), lost her mom, got divorced, gave birth to her son, and moved to the desert to deal with it all in a place far away from the noise. In the span of a few years, the ultimate mid-aughts party girl had fully pivoted to domestic solitude. Soulwax once told us part of the weekend never dies, but that’s easy enough to say when you don’t have infinite diapers to change.

There was a fair amount of bloghouse-era nostalgia in the air when Uffie re-emerged earlier this year with her Tokyo Love Hotel EP, the follow-up to Sex Dreams that hardly anyone expected—a longing, I think, for a naivety regarding how much our relationship with the music we love would be guided by The System. And some of that old Uffie remained: the modulated android raps that have served as inspiration to pop innovators from Kesha to Charli XCX, the crying-in-the-club melodies of stuff like “First Love.” But she’d also grown into a serious songwriter, channeling heavy feelings about bad breakups and capitalist burnout into sad-girl synth-pop that felt all too 2019. It made perfect sense, and it felt good to have her back.

Now 31 and living in L.A., Uffie splits her time between writing for other artists—she’s a co-writer on the Khalid-featuring title track from Pink’s Hurts 2B Human album, released earlier this year—and working on her own unnamed forthcoming full-length, which will feature “Weed & Drum Machine,” a cute club track that sounds like a bloghouse throwback in the best way. In the meantime, we caught up with her between a studio session and cooking dinner for her kids to talk about what happens after the party’s over. “I remember the fear of the party not continuing, of missing something or no longer being relevant,” she tells me with the certainty of someone who’s seen it all. “But I got to the point where it was clear that this wasn’t the life I wanted anymore. And it was a saving grace.”

How Uffie survived bloghouse, became a mother, and returned to music Rosabelle Eales

How does one find themselves in the role of International Cool Girl?

Completely by mistake. I was living in Paris and going to high school. My dad was living there, and I went to visit him and just fell in love with it. He was in fashion on the textile industry side, so that’s why I ended up in Asia when I was quite little. When my parents split, my mom moved back to Florida and my dad went to France, where there aren’t really age laws as far as going out. I spent a lot of time dancing and checking out DJs, and I became friends with the Ed Banger squad and Feadz. Feadz eventually asked me to try writing a song for this small label called Arcade Mode that did limited edition, hundred-copy presses of blue 7” vinyl every month. I wrote “Pop the Glock,” and from there I was like, “All my friends have music profiles on Myspace—I want one too.” I had no idea how to sing, which was why “Pop the Glock” was rap. I loved writing, and I was such a fan of music, but getting into it never seemed like a possibility.

ADVERTISEMENT

For me, that was the appeal of so much stuff coming out in that era. A lot of that shit was so good because people didn’t know what they were doing.

There were no rules! It was a huge time for the bedroom artist. I see people today who are so technically gifted that end up getting tripped up on technicalities. It loses a lot of the soul.

How did you come upon the accent that you rapped in on “Pop the Glock”?

I had a stronger British accent back then — I had one as a kid from living in Hong Kong. By then, it faded away a bit, but it felt more comfortable and cooler to get into a character. Because I thought “Pop the Glock” would be my first and only song, it was more comfortable to get a little outside of my skin.

How Uffie survived bloghouse, became a mother, and returned to music Rosabelle Eales

Did that song’s virality give you confidence, or did it make things scarier?

Both. I felt like this little kid that would go on stage and scream—and I was! It was really fun, because I was doing it with people I loved and it came so fast. The thought of it being a career did not weigh on me. My first real tour was in Australia, and I booked it with a stranger over Myspace. Thankfully everything turned out fine, but looking back — ugh! As I started touring, we were literally making songs to play live.

Were you specifically looking to make party tracks?

Everywhere I was playing was basically a DJ night, and I don’t think parties are necessarily like that anymore. It was literally all about fun for me at that time. I miss that magical mindset, because eventually you’re aware that you’re going to have to go onstage and play these songs again and again. Part of the beauty and innocence of that time was not knowing that yet. When I started to work on my album, I started to feel like, “Okay, that’s what I need to keep doing.” The party tracks were working, and while I did want to do something more than that, I didn’t know how to make the crossover. Then I felt obliged to continue to play those kind of parties, and as soon as you feel like you have to be in the club, you start to not like it.

Between those early singles and the album, it seems like there was a lot going on in your life.

We found out that I was going to have a child after the first section of the “Pop the Glock” video was shot. We had to postpone the shoot until after I had my daughter so that I'd look the same, which delayed the whole record. Promoting the record was a really hard time for me. I’d just had a baby, the dad wasn’t with me, and it’s really hard being 21, getting your body back, going on the road, and being a mom.

ADVERTISEMENT

Before I started working on my second album, my mom was diagnosed with cancer. The day she passed, I found out that I was pregnant with my son. I shelved the second record. I didn't want to lose the experience of being a human and a parent in the first year — that’s so essential. After the birth, I moved to Joshua Tree and went to school to study science and biology. I’d always wanted to be a biologist but school had been way too much for me. I didn’t talk to a lot of people. I kept in touch with family, regrouped emotionally, and took time to do day-to-day things like washing my own clothes and cooking meals.

That is a lot to handle for someone in their early 20s!

When you enter the industry as a teenager, you get stuck being a teenager. You’re exposed to very adult things at an early age, but that doesn’t mean you’re mature enough to handle them in an adult way. You’re in an adult world with alcohol and parties, and it’s conflicting for the human brain to grow in that situation. I was the kid in the group for so long, and suddenly I found myself in the position of taking care of someone else. On the flip side, being so young may have made some things easier, because I was so un-set in my ways. Now, I can’t imagine not being a mother.

What brought you to making music again?

After Joshua Tree, I got divorced from my son’s dad and moved to Seattle because I have a sister there who was pregnant with her first child. I started really missing music and being able to express myself. I started flying out to L.A. and talking about getting back into it, and I met the writer and producer Ammar Malik at Benny Blanco’s house. In France, there wasn't a songwriting scene, but in L.A. there are so many songwriters and it’s so collaborative. Seeing how different the process felt made me fall in love with music in a whole other way.

The heartbreak theme on Tokyo Love Hotel was pretty explicit.

Did it come through? [Laughs] I was in a two-year relationship as I was writing the music. It didn’t end up working out, and it was so hard, because that person was my best friend, and nobody did anything wrong — it just didn’t work. Every song ended up being a dialogue on that as I was trying to figure it out. I didn’t set out to make the “I got my heart broken” EP, it just happened.

“Sad Money” was a critique of Instagram materialism and the logical opposite of stuff like “Pop the Glock.”

It felt like a good time to be brutally honest. Social media was still so new around my first records, but it’s out of control now.

The Myspace era was a test run for this hell world of social media, but it felt less pervasive and more DIY. Are you nostalgic for that time?

ADVERTISEMENT

I was just in a session today and we were talking about how great that time was. There was a naiveté to it all. If I look at the current situation positively, though? Right now, anything can be pop. Labels don’t know how to break an artist anymore, so there's a gap — or there could be, hopefully — for more DIY artists to break through. On the flip side, the music scene is so oversaturated. Music’s in a very strange place right now.

Do your kids know about your life as Uffie?

Kind of. My daughter came home from her friend’s house the other day and was like, “We Googled you today!” So they know, but they also don’t. I’ll play them my songs that are appropriate after work, just so they get what I’m doing. I’ll bring them to the chiller sessions sometimes, and they have fun. My daughter actually writes songs. She has one hook that’s like, “You are the snowflake of my heart.” You know when you’re listening to music in the car and “Artist Unavailable” pops up? She wrote a song about being unavailable and how she couldn’t connect because the WiFi wasn’t strong. It’s pretty genius for a nine-year-old. I was like, “You’ve got potential, kid.”

How Uffie survived bloghouse, became a mother, and returned to music