A stranger to the rap game is something Thurz is not. Born Yannick Koffi (which means “boy born on Friday” in Ghana’s native language of Akan, although he was born on a Thursday.) in Los Angeles, Inglewood to be exact, Thurz has been a player in the game since 2006. As half of the rap duo U-N-I, Thurz, formerly Thurzday, broke onto the scene between 2007-08 with hits like “K.R.E.A.M. (Kicks Rule Everything Around Me)” and “Beautiful Day;” the latter receiving more than one million views on YouTube. The group received plenty of attention in the underground world and some mainstream sources.
Accolades include, but not limited to, “Best Breakout LA Artist” at the 2008 MTV Video Music Awards, part of URB Magazine’s “NEXT 100,” XXL Magazine’s “New Kids in Town,” Billboard Magazine’s “Acts to Watch,” The Source Magazine’s “Unsigned Hype” & “Off the Radar,” Time Out New York’s “The Volume,” MTVu’s “The Hot Seat,” BET.com’s “Rookies of the Year” and ending up on the “SoundBoard” of The Los Angeles Times.
Fast forward to 2011, and all of that is in the past. U-N-I split up due to creative differences, and Thurz is doing his own thing now. On August 9th, he dropped his debut solo album “L.A. Riot,” which I listed as the 4th best album of 2011. Evidently drawing influence from the Rodney King beating provoked aftermath of 1992, Thurz received a plethora of acclaim from critics across the board.
With a new year here, and new plans ahead, Thurz took the time out to talk about the feedback he’s received on “L.A. Riot,” his transition from one half of a group to a solo artist, and what he has in store for 2012.
Coop: Your debut album “LA Riot” has been out for almost half a year now. How do you feel about the feedback you have received from it? Do you think the people saw and appreciated the vision you had for the album?
Thurz: I’m very appreciative of the acclaim that it has received thus far and I believe that it will continue to grow along with my fan base. The album was made to showcase an artistic side not heard in my music with U-N-I. I connected the emotions of social events with my art in breaking away from something and burning it down in attempt to rebuild something more beautiful.
Coop: For those unfamiliar with your music, how would you describe Thurz and what he brings to the table?
Thurz: With L.A. Riot, my mission was to steer away from being boxed into a “rapper” with no substance. I wanted to tap into the fire that’s dormant in a lot of people’s souls. My overall purpose with my music is to be a relatable, prominent voice that can relate to the listeners going through all walks of life, and yet, never make the same song twice. I bring passion, story-telling, lyrics, art and life to the table.
Coop: Who, or what albums, would you point to as the biggest influences on your music?
Thurz: Illmatic (Nas), Death Certificate (Ice Cube), Muddy Waters (Redman) and Aquemini (Outkast) are probably the albums with the biggest influence on my music.
Coop: Unlike many rappers today, you decided to keep the features on “LA Riot” to a minimum. Did you set out to do that? Or was that just how the flow went?
Thurz: This particular project didn’t call for many rap features. LA Riot was a statement to let the masses know that I am stepping out on my own with power. The only rap feature is an artist that has inspired me, Black Thought. If anyone were to feature on this album, it would have to be someone that pushes to raise the bar.
Coop: My favorite song on the album after “Prayer” would have to be “Riot” with Black Thought. I know working with him had to be dope, but how did that come about?
Thurz: I met Tariq in NY at the Highline Ballroom. The Roots brought U-N-I on stage to rock and we were received with open arms. We connected again through the homie Truck North and set out to collab. Khalil made the beat from scratch with Danny Keyz and we made magic.
Coop: Are there any other artists in particular you would like to work with?
Thurz: I would love to do a record with the Foo Fighters.
Coop: Speaking of “Prayer,” there were some issues addressed on the song. A couple rumors were laid to rest; one being the state of U-N-I. How has the transition from being in a group to becoming a solo artist been?
Thurz: The transition wasn’t too hard as far as music and business goes. I created the majority of the U-N-I records and it was a time where creative differences were unbearable. I had to make the best decision to progress my career and let the world know what I could do.
Coop: You and Ro BLVD have done a lot of quality work together, dating back to “A Love Supreme.” What’s the chemistry like when you two get in the studio together?
Thurz: We usually just build from scratch. Ro will play some sounds that might just spark an idea and melody, and we’ll continually build off that. We never force anything, we just aim to get ideas down and make sure we’re in love with the sound.
Coop: A lot of people don’t realize underground artists have a wide variety of fans from all over. Where’s the furthest place support for you has come from?
Thurz: I’m fortunate enough to be in contact with fans from all over the world; Africa, Japan, Europe. I appreciate you all.
Coop: What does Thurz have in store for 2012?
Thurz: I’m going to be the face of music and continue to build with the same team. There are a lot of gems I can’t wait to share.
Stream and Download Thurz debut album L.A. Riot here.
Below are some of Thurz’ standout tracks:
“Great Going Good”
“Riot (feat. Black Thought)”