We met six Los Angeles-based creatives, part of a new wave that is shaking up the fashion and entertainment industries.
Here, a brain lamp. There, a buzz lighter. Then, a Mario Bros soft toy, a sword, a writing machine, a Hello Kitty figurine, a bunch of DIY things. Duckwrth’s home is like his music: diverse, colorful, instinctive, fanciful. The sound universe of the South Central-bred rapper oscillates between nonchalance and ferocity, vibrance and sensuality, nostalgia and modernity. Behind the dyed hair, the rock star looks and the explosive stage performances, he also reveals an almost shy sweetness.
You grew up in South Central. Did it impact your aesthetic sensibility in any way? I am thinking in particular of your taste for finding beauty in unexpected places.
Musically, it affected me. My cadence, how I put lyrics together or the pacing of it. Because we used to listen to a lot of G-funk, like OutKast, Snoop Dogg, DJ Quik… and the music always has that high end beat, which is what creates the funk. So I feel it inspired me musically but as far as aesthetically, my influences are more international, or kind of mid-century modern.
You’ve just mentioned some of your music influences. They are actually very eclectic, from hip-hop to punk, by way of funk, soul and gospel. How did you build your musical culture ?
I come from a musical family. My father, my mom, my aunties and uncles did gospel. So music was always around. My sister would also play different types of music. She would play Coldplay, OutKast, Erykah Badu… All these things were sounds I would commonly ear when I was young and it kind of expanded my mind. Then, when I left for college, I started to find other people who were into different types of music and culture. And they further educated me and expanded my tastes.
You are very comfortable with saying you have both a male and female energy. When did you start embracing your feminine side? I guess it was not that easy for a young black man from South Central, raised in a church-going family.
I guess I felt it when I was younger but I was raised around a lot of women, so it was kind of natural to me. I am very familiar with the feminine energy.
Then, in college, I lived in the Bay Area where it’s very universal. It’s all genders, all sexualities. People kind of exist how they want to exist. And my circle was heavy queer. So they helped me, even with my own masculinity, to be more fluid. I feel like the way I express myself is much more fluid than my particular sexual preference.
It feels like you really found yourself in college.
Definitely found myself in college.
You have such a bold and assertive sense of style. How would you describe your relationship with fashion?
I find myself having to express myself in every way. Even just being in my house.
You know, I can’t have conversations with people when I am in the street, walking past, but my clothing can have a conversation. It can say more than I can say sometimes.
It’s the way you present yourself to the world.
Yeah. And I feel more comfortable in my skin if my outer layer is colorful, textured or layered. It’s something important.
Does it make you feel like powerful?
It’s just like a language, I guess. I’m not very expressive, so it’s my language.
Where does that vital need for expressing your creativity in various ways come from?
Specifically in fashion, my sister. She wouldn’t let me go out of the house looking crazy. She didn’t want me to embarrass her, when we were out. She wasn't actually in fashion at the time but later she moved to New York and went into fashion styling. She put me on different brands and I would see her style, the cool way she dressed. I guess I just inherited it.
You studied graphic design and handle all the visual aspects of your music. When working on a song, do you think of images at the same time as words and beats?
I wish! I don’t. But I think the visual side comes in when I tell a story in a music. I have like characters or sometimes a theme. And from beginning to end, it creates a bit of a visual.
What are your biggest visual inspirations?
I know it would sound corny but Earth. Nature. All the tones out there that everyone uses in graphic design or garment design. It’s like all the palettes are in nature.
That’s not corny!
No? Okay. You know, when it’s 6 o’clock in the morning and the whole sky is pink and orange, it’s so beautiful.
L.A. is great for that!
It is! Being from here, that's definitely a bit of an advantage!
Your stage presence is very strong and energetic. Would you say it’s your alter ego performing, or on the contrary, your most authentic self?
Neither. I wouldn’t say it’s an alter ego, it’s more like Clark Kent versus Superman. I see me out there and I think that’s the time and place for me to be really expressive, jumping here and there and being loud as fuck. Versus in normal settings where I’m more introverted. I’m actually an extroverted introvert.
I guess music is a bit therapeutic for you?
Very much so. For lots of musicians. At the last show I did, there were speakers in front of the stage and I literally hopped from one speaker to the next one. And there was a good distance between those speakers. And I was dancing and singing, loosing breath and everything. It was crazy, I wouldn’t do that normally in life.
What do you want your music to convey?
I want my music to convey whatever its function is to whom that’s listening. Some people listen to my music to work out, some have it in the background while they study, some play my music to make love. I like that I can create something that has purpose and function in people’s lives.
What are you the most proud of ?
Choice. Having the choice to travel, eat what I want to eat, dress how I want to dress. That’s what I am the most grateful for.