Before yU the 78er became a fan of music, he acquired certain tastes from his mother, Gina. Many artists trace their roots back to the funk, soul, jazz, or R&B sounds that were household staples during times of youth, but yU was born to a true female hip-hopper. Mecca and the Soul Brother and early A Tribe Called Quest stayed in rotation in their Alexandria, Virginia home. Moms led trips to the theater to see Breakin', Beat Street and Krush Groove, and as a teen, he was encouraged to videotape segments of Yo! MTV Raps and BET's Rap City. Hip-Hop was always in the mix, so when yU began his own career, he was well equipped to become a creative force within the culture.
yU was born Michael Willingham Jr. on April 14, 1978 in Cheverly, Maryland. The year of his birth forms the second half of his moniker – "the 78er" – with "yU" in reference to his battle rapping days on Davey D's Hip-Hop Corner website. While most of the competition was posting with typical "oh, you mad ‘cause I'm stylin' on you" braggadocio, yU was honing his storytelling skills and putting his opponents in wild predicaments (like working for mall security). People couldn't understand his approach, so they began to ask, "Why you do this?" and "Why you do that?" With the numerous "Why you?" questions, yU the artist emerged.