Looking back at ChicpeaHQ, the art was the greatest part of the space. Uncutt was one of the artists who added his touch to our office. Any time you walked into our bathroom, you can see the work Uncutt and Hota Te put into each corner of the room.
Walking around NJ and NYC, I would see the words “Protect Yo Heart” everywhere, but I didn’t know the artist behind the work. When I talked to Hota about painting the bathroom, he brought up the idea of working with another artist and brought in Uncutt. I didn’t know who he was until I saw him painting
What I love about him is that he’s so positive, he’s good vibes. He’s all about positive energy, being helpful to people, and helping them realize their true worth and value. All of his messages are of self-love, acceptance of others, and empathy, which is what ChicpeaJC is about as a brand.
I got to know him over the course of the three days while he and Hota were painting the bathroom, and it sort of felt like the universe brought him to us to teach us lessons. It was an energizing experience and a highlight from ChicpeaHQ, and something that will always remain with us even though we don’t have the space anymore.
Press play or read the interview below.
What’s your name?
I have a couple of names. UnCasso, like Picasso, and UnCutt Art.
How long have you been doing art?
I actually started doing art on sneakers back in ’03.
How did you get into it?
It’s a weird story. I used to be a casting director and I used to work on set with a lot of different people, and I had this little doodling design I used to do while I was on set. One day, somebody approached me and told me that they would pay me to do something for them, and that kind of rang in my ear. One day, I did it on a pair of sneakers, came on set with it, and one of the stylists saw me. She was like, “I know one of my clients would love this!” That was the beginning of that.
So since then, you’ve been doing art?
Yeah. Since then, I’ve been taking it seriously.
What made you fall in love with it?
The freedom. The freedom to be who you ought to be, to just allow yourself to be. There’s no rules to it.
Can you tell me more about your art because it’s very inspiring and positive. You write a lot of positive messages. Where did that come from?
From me. My art is a reflection of me. My art is a way to let myself out in a different form to millions of people without physically having to give myself to people. My art was a way to transfer my mind and my energy into something I could let go. That’s what I chose to use. People use music, poetry, writing in the form of books. I chose art.
How did you start with street art?
I had to find a way to get to the people. At that point in my career, after doing casting, I had a sneaker deal. I went through ups and downs, and working with people and realizing that if you want something done, you actually have to do it yourself, and the best way to travel is light. Street art was the only thing that allowed me to be independent and not rely on anybody. I’d just make my own stuff, and it’d just be me from beginning to end. It was a no-brainer because I didn’t know anybody in the art world to say, “Hey, put me in a gallery or art shows.” It was just, “Take it to the streets.” I’m from that era, from the street promotion era when Def Jam used to run the streets and put the posters up and all that, and I used to see that back in the day. It was effective and I knew it was effective, so when I started trying to figure out how to get my art out, street art is the first thing that came up.
Tell me a little bit about the pieces you’re most known for.
The first piece I was known for was the Michael Jackson piece. It was the first thing I put out on the streets. Then it was the Steve Jobs piece. The following year, I wanted to come up with something that would top that. The Protect Yo Heart project was sitting in the back burner forever and I was trying to figure out how to make it make sense because it was such a big thing to me. I decided to just run with it and that is huge, and it’s going to be huge for a long time.
Tell more more about Protect Yo Heart. I remember you said that people call you the Protect Yo Heart Guy, but you’re not just that.
The whole Protect Yo Heart project and the whole idea came from my process as an individual and what I went through. Like I said, my art is a reflection of me. Protect Yo Heart means a whole lot to me and other people, and it’s officially more about protecting your purity. There are two aspects to a person – it’s your heart and what comes from your heart, and it’s your brain and what comes from your brain. What people need to understand is that your brain is like a computer. It holds informations, stores information, and that’s all it does. It spits out information when you need it and does all that good stuff in your heart. It’s something you’re born with as far as the goodness in you, and your purity comes in your heart. People do a lot more based on their brains than their heart, and I feel like it should be the other way around because nobody’s brain is solely them. Your brain consists of your upbringing, which is everything you know in life, so you’re actually not yourself. You are a collection of thoughts put into you by things, people, and experiences. What’s in your heart is always going to be you and it’s never going to be compromised. I just want people to understand that factor because that’s really what Protect Yo Heart is. It’s about focusing on what’s in your heart more than what’s in your mind because you’ll get a lot further and interact with people a lot better because you won’t really focus on what you think about them or what you know about them.
You’re like a modern-day philosopher. What inspires you to come up with what you put in your art?
Everything inspires me. What’s going on, the imbalance of life, and just trying to keep some kind of balance. Just playing my part, really. One of the main sayings I focus on and one of my main messages is people not understanding the power of the mind and the heart, and the power they have as artists. We as artists are the future of everything because we are the people who think outside of the box and, therefore, we get to think and create the future. We’re not stuck in that box, we create the next box for people to get stuck in. When you have that power, you have to use it wisely. Artists will create art and not understand that art has so much power in it to create worlds for people who come in contact with their art.
A lot of artists create art based on social things, and they’ll probably paint a picture of Trayvon Martin, for example. They’ll call it “raising awareness in people,” and I call it “bringing back something that is not positive.” When somebody who has experienced that in the past comes across that picture now, it actually brings back all of the negative thoughts and feelings that came with that picture. Now you’re raising that thing and bringing back into that person, and now you have that person walking around all day with that thought process and it’s not positive. We have the power to create positive within people’s minds, so why create things that have happened already? With that same person, for example, their mind is so consumed of that thought of fear and not wanting to come across that same situation, and in turn create the situation themselves. That’s the power of the mind, that’s the low of attraction. If you’re going to create something, I would love to see artists create the future and put thoughts in people’s minds that would help them create a better future.
Exactly. That’s where my art comes from. If I’m putting something out there, it has to have some kind of power within that art that will take that person outside of their normal thought process and into a better thought process that will benefit them and anybody around them. We have the power to do that. If you don’t know you have the power to do that, you won’t take advantage of it. I think we’re creating unconsciously, and we need to create consciously and do stuff that will benefit people. One of the things I want to do is art about people now who are doing things in the community that’s positive. I want to do a painting on you and put it out on the street.
People like you need that attention and that power because I’m not going to put that energy or power onto somebody who doesn’t need it. I’m not going to do a painting of Trump. Why put my energy into that type of stuff? Even if I want to deface him or make fun of him, it’s a waste of my energy. I’d rather put that into something I know will benefit me and people in the future.
Right, and you want to incite thought and make people feel good. When I went to to Bushwick and saw a Trump mural, it made me feel shitty. I wanted to see something that would make me feel good. Art is an escape, in a way. You want to feel and think, but seeing something so negative doesn’t inspire.
We have the power to fuck shit up differently. If we decided to put up nothing but dope images, it would fuck people’s heads up. It’s so powerful. My thing is, I can’t tell people this all day. I’d rather just do it, and people will see it and understand what it’s about. When I first started doing street art, there wasn’t even a heart in the streets. I don’t care where you look, there was a whole bunch of art everywhere, but no heart because everybody was “tough.”
Right. I mean, your art is very colorful and loving.
So boom, I came out with the Michael. The first time I did the Michael, it wasn’t in the heart. I carved it out and pasted it. The first day, I was like, “That looks like everything else, I need to come up with something that will stand out in front of all this other shit that’s in the street.” There was a lot of art out there. It just dawned on me… I remember when I was a kid and I first learned how to just fold the paper and make the heart, just cut around and make the heart. I tried it, I cut the heart around it, and it was so perfect. So I had colorful hearts all over Jersey, New York, Philly, and artists were clowning like “Who’s this? Who’s this soft artist putting hearts?” They didn’t understand. When the posts started coming and I’m getting everybody like Sarah Jessica Parker and celebrities posting my hearts, they started thinking, “Oh, maybe we need to do hearts because we want to get more posts.” Everybody’s motivation to do hearts was based on, “If everybody’s going to be posting hearts, we have to do hearts, too.”
Exactly. Now they understand what drives people, what touches people. Even though they did it for the posts, it’s still doing what I want them to do.
For the longest time, when Protect Yo Heart was on the streets of Jersey City, so many people messaged me on Instagram asking if I knew who did it. I had no clue, no idea, because you don’t tag your name. It’s like you’re leaving it up to people to discover you.
I mean, I didn’t want to be discovered. This whole thing just happened by accident, and I just had to come out and say I’m connected to that.
So you didn’t want people to know who you were?
It wasn’t about that. With Protect Yo Heart, every single one out there is strategically placed to the point where there’s no thought involved. It was straight energy and positive love. Every time I put one out there, it was left for somebody that vibrates on the same energy to find it when they really need it. That worked out perfectly. It wasn’t for me, it was for them, and that connection was made. When somebody finds it, they get that connection and know what’s going on. Even if you’re not on the same thought process of “Your heart is precious,” it takes you out of your regular life and makes you think there is more to what you’re supposed to be doing. They take the energy that I leave and they leave their energy. It builds a nice, positive vortex. It’s stationed everywhere. The more positive things that are going around, things get a little bit better. I’m not saying it’s going to change the world, but shit will get a little better.
I love that. Now, why do you hide yourself?
I’m not even done with this shit. I’m nowhere near done. I don’t want to be walking the streets trying to do what I gotta do and everybody’s just stalking me or watching me. This is not abut me doing it, it’s about it getting done. I’ve had people call me and ask me, “Where can I find Protect Yo Heart? I want to take pictures!” I had to tell them it’s not the type of thing that you find. It’s something that finds you and comes up at the right time. I’ve had people get back to me and say, “Thank you for not telling me because I found it when I really needed it.” That was the whole plan. It’s not about the hoopla, it’s about the real shit. It’s changing people’s days and lives. I’ve gotten DMs and different messages from people on how this changed them and how this helped them out. It’s been great.
Tell me specifically about some of the work you have in Jersey City. How did you get here?
Jersey City is a place that I was always looking forward to moving to. I’ve always been told there are a lot of good spaces around here and I’m actually looking for a big, nice space to work out of. I’m always out here, I have a lot of friends, and I just jump on the PATH train to come here. One time, I jumped on a PATH train and got off at Journal Square, and I walked from Journal Square to Grove Street. That’s the kind of walks I do at night by myself when I’m out working, and I noticed there was a nice art scene out here. I’ve been trying to get down with the art scene and I’ve been asked to work on some things in the past. I wanted to have a mark out here, so when the time comes, people can already have a sense of who and what I can do.
Cool! So how do you know Hota?
Oh my god, Hota… See, I don’t work with a lot of artists. It’s not purposefully, I’m just not in this art thing for what other people are in it for. I’m passing through it. I have a lot more in store and in me, so this is not the end-all for me, but it’s definitely something I’m passionate about, something that I know can end up in museums and different history books for what I’m doing. I’m very passionate about the change and the growth of us as artists and as people. Dealing with certain people is based on energy. I did a project one time, I worked with this guy, and he’s a cool dude. He kept in touch with me, he called me recently and told me about the project, and normally I don’t do things because I stay to myself. He just hit me up and said, “Hey, I need help with this project. I want you to do a background thing.” So I came out here and met this young lady…
That’s me! Haha, that’s awesome. It’s funny how things happen, right? When he told me he was bringing Uncutt, I was like, “Cool.” Then when you came and started painting, I was like, “That’s the guy! That’s the guy who does the stuff everyone asks me about!” It was funny how that happened.
It’s another funny story. While he was driving me, he said we were going to Jersey City and didn’t tell me where. He pulled up on this door and I was like, “This block looks familiar. If I’m not mistaken, I swear I have a tag somewhere around here.” As soon as I got out of the car, I turned around and literally saw it right outside the building. It says “I Love New Jersey.”
That’s hilarious! What a small world.
He was like, “You made your mark, and now look at you. You came right back to the same spot.
It’s crazy, the universe is weird like that.
The universe is beautiful like that.
What’s next for you?
Everything is so independently done. This is what I do. I wake up and plot every day, so I don’t have a budget or the necessary things to move smoothly. Right now, it’s all about selling paintings and raising some funds so I can hit some more states. The whole thing about Protect Yo Heart is still in Phase One, and Phase One was making sure they were out there and in particular places for particular reasons in every state that needed it. From there, I was going to reach Phase Two, go global, and then go from there. It was getting that out before revealing who I was. If I had a budget, this would’ve been done and nobody would’ve known because this is so easy, but I have to stop and make myself public. Now it’s cool because a lot of people buy Protect Yo Heart paintings from me, so that’s how I raise my funds to do what I do. It worked out, and it’s working out. As we speak, I’m getting tagged by people taking pictures of Protect Yo Heart. It’s at least 30 people per day.
That’s great. Social media is amazing.
I know! That wasn’t really part of the plan, so now I have to make plans for the branding of this global thing that’s going to be a household thing in the near future. I’m preparing for that. I’m just trying to get the right people on my time who I can trust and would allow me to continue doing this, focus on the money, and raise funds while keeping this as pure as possible. People want to do merchandise, and the least I would do is hats because people can’t afford a painting. The paintings are $423, and a lot of people can’t afford that, so we make the hats and sell those to raise more funds. That’s as much as I want to do. I make some custom things here and there, as well, but I’m trying to keep it as pure as possible so it can touch many people and just do what it’s supposed to do before it gets watered down.
Right. Any last words?
Yeah. Thank you, and I appreciate you so much. You’re so funny and active. I’ve seen what you’ve been doing with your interviews and how you’re hands-on with stuff. I would definitely take you one night to tag the streets.