Unique: Long Hair, Don’t Care

Life for a young, burgeoning artist is all about the hustle. Luckily for R&B singer Unique, he’s made working his way to the top a high priority.

At 19, the Brooklyn-born entertainer’s résumé reads like that of a seasoned vet. He’s co-written songs with singer-songwriter Claude Kelly (Leona Lewis, Akon), produced with Eric Hudson (Kanye West, John Legend), and opened for acts such as Chris Brown, T.I., and Ciara. So how is the long-haired crooner dealing with his rise to fame? “When it first happened I was still kind of numb,” Unique admits. “Before the deal, I was already in the mindset that I had a deal. There were concerts, there were fans, and everything already, so having a deal just kind of made it all come together.”

Before signing Def Jam’s dotted line, Unique was marketing himself virally through outlets like MySpace and YouTube, and performing in every venue possible. “That’s been my grind since day one,” the singer reveals. “From being in school to performing at churches and community centers to talent shows, getting involved and showing up at block parties like, ‘Hey can I sing?'”

Though people ask him to perform these days, there was a time when he wasn’t welcomed on the stage with open arms. A former contestant on “Showtime at the Apollo,” Unique was booed off and carried away by the infamous Sandman. “He stomped me off stage and my mother is like, ‘You alright?’ The cameras are just right in your face [asking] how you feel,” he recollects. “I really wanted to break down, but I told them I’ll be back.” True to his word, last month, the Def Jam signee returned to the Apollo as the opening act for Day26 and Bow Wow, rocking the venue with his new single “Beat of My Drum.” Listen below.

–Tashal Brown