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Making Seattle Beats Since He Was 8 Years Old

Upendo Moore makes beats.
Courtesy of Upendo Moore
Upendo Moore makes beats.

"Music is my life."

Upendo Moore finds it hard to go a day without wearing his headphones. He'll often put them on and make beats in class at Garfield High School, where he's a junior. 

Don't be fooled, though - Moore gets A's and B's. He is a very dedicated person, especially when it comes to music. "I wouldn't be able to live without it," he explained.

So many people fantasize about being an artist or a musician. Moore does the work to actually make it happen. His parents' musical heritage and his roots in Seattle's Central District led him to the art of hip hop.

Moore said he had a great sense of rhythm before he could even talk. He started playing drums when he was 18 months old. "I've always been around music," he said, "and I've always just absorbed the way of the game through my parents and their associates."

Moore's parents are Jonathan Moore and Erika Kylea White. They started making music in the early 1990s and passed down their knowledge of music and rhythm to their son. Jonathan Moore now manages numerous musicians, including Vitamin D, and was the tour manager for Blackalicious.

When he was 4 years old, Upendo Moore performed on stage with The Roots. The band was working with his parents. 

That was the year Moore realized that music was going to be a part of his life for the rest of his life.

"I'm not new to this. I've spent years developing my sound," said Moore. After drums, he started playing other instruments like piano, guitar, and trumpet. He's been seriously making beats since he was 8 years old.

As a child, Moore made beats by playing drums and beat boxing. Now he uses every instrument he can, and when he isn't making his own beats from scratch, he finds awesome samples to use.

Upendo said that this beat, "The Blind Samurai," represents struggle and power in the black community.

Listen to "The Blind Samurai" by Upendo Moore:

Moore said that growing up in Seattle's Central District and going to Garfield High School pushed him to be more involved in hip hop. He always thinks about what life would be like if he were involved in the violence he's seen and heard about. So he pushes himself to do better, continue to make music and never give up.

"Hip hop, in the time that it came out," explained Moore, "was a way for people of color - mainly black people - to express themselves."

Another way Moore expresses himself is by the way he dresses - no flashy stuff, just original and old school. He hangs around people who always want to make music, even on a bad day.

Just like any other up and coming producer, Moore is already making his own name and labeling his product: U Moore Productions. His dad helps him get some of his equipment and hosts and books his shows.

Growing up, Moore had to learn how to balance his musical side and his school side. He's in AP classes, but he still manages to fit music into his schedule - after homework.

Moore isn't making music to get famous or fit in. He does it to inspire people. He said his goal is for his music to "touch as many people as possible, and spread a message or provide a feeling of happiness or empowerment."

He described what he does as "creating [my] own lane," and added "The smart will follow."

Listen to Upendo Moore's music:

RadioActive is KUOW's program for high school students. This story was produced in RadioActive’s Spring Workshop. Listen to RadioActive stories, subscribe to the RadioActive podcast and stay in touch on Facebook and Twitter.