[INTERVIEW] DUCKWRTH TALKS SUPERGOOD, GROWTH + ART SCHOOL

What was it like growing up in LA during the 90s west coast rap boom?

It was kind of scary at times, because a lot of the content of the music was centered around gang violence. That’s something my mom was intentionally trying to protect me from. Then i’d kind of see it sometimes in the streets, like a drive by or gang members. It was scary, it was definitely scary. But things got better later on in the 90s. 

Do you think it influenced your music at all?

I mean, funny enough, the thing that came from that music was funk, and G-Funk which came from funk. So G Funk was a segway for me to get into more soul and funk music, and that influenced my music today.

When did you start doing graphic design? What was your art school experience like?

I went to the Academy of Arts. It was fun, a lot of work, and expensive as shit. But I built a community. And that’s one thing about college which is tight. You get to meet other people who are working for the same shit, with the same status. And those are people that you can know and still create with years after.

Tell me about this new project you got coming out?

The album is called SuperGood. Planning on dropping that at the end of August. There’s a lot of rhythm, things she can Dance to just more like chill moments. It’s all a celebration of black music. It’s RnB, it’s Afrobeat, it’s house, it’s gospel. All of that combined, really.

Have you ever worked with Kaytranada and do you ever do you think you ever draw influence from his beats at all? I feel like you guys would really complement each other on a song. 

Yeah we would. I don’t really draw influence, but we fish from the same pond I would say. I respect him. He’s an amazing producer. Funny enough, I’ve worked with his brother in the past. He came to the studio with mad Kaytranada beats. I got a beat from his brother, but I think I may have out done his brother on the beat. It never became public. With all respect I fucking love Kaytranada.

What was it like collaborating with Earth Gang?

I’ve been a fan of Earthgang for a while, and I think it was vice versa. We went on tour last year and, you know, we linked up and they’re great, both of them. Olu and WowGr8 are great, they’re both amazing. I chop it up with Olu every once in a while. So I sent dude the track and I was like, “Bro I really feel like you would go ham on this.” Maybe like two weeks later he sent me his verse. And I was like “Damn this is amazing.” It was like no ego, you know, he said I fuck with this, boom boom boom here’s my verse. They’re tight and super creative. All three of us are fish from the same pond of outcasts. It’s that type of appreciation. 

Do you think that you’ll ever do a live performance of the album when it drops? A lot of artists have been doing Instagram live performances and twitch performances and stuff like that. Is that something you think you’re going to do?

I’m not really into the Instagram live performances, but either we been doing this thing where we, my band, will social distance in a studio. Just perform the songs in the studio and record it, stuff like that and just send those out and we’ve been doing that with a couple of different platforms. I guess if I were to do the IG Live again, it would have to be saucy. It kind of takes away, like just looking at the phone with like you’re like iPhone mic and stuff. I think if I did more stripped down stuff like little small things, but it’s like I’m about to drop an album bruh. You got to do it the best you got to do it the biggest. People really have to feel the music. We just got to find our way man. Translating what a live performance can be, what it can look like and how it can safely happen within covid and stuff.

Which song on the album was most fun to work on? 

It would have to be between Find A Way and Super Good. Super Good, we were just sitting there working on this melody. It’s kind of like a dissonant chord that we sung. This very minor chord that we probably stacked like 20 times. If you broke down the stacks, you’ll start hearing these really weird notes that we were singing but we stacked them together in a way where it made sense. We came up with a new phrasing, and it’s called Scooby Doo. It’s pretty much when something sounds mysterious, it sounds off, it sounds weird. Kind of like that ghostly feeling. It’s off, but it’s on, you know? Like those dissonant minor chords. So that of course, is very Scooby Doo. But yeah and writing a chorus to it, just making the song in general was so loving, because it felt like a gospel song. In Find A Way it was the same thing. On one side, there was production happening and we were live recording the production and streaming it into the other room where there were all the vocalists and we had a regular mic that we were passing around the studio. It was like whatever comes to your brain, don’t write it down, just say it. Everybody was just tapping in and streaming it, one homie was chanting! He did like two minutes of chanting. That’s the piece that we took from it. Then my other home girl, she was just singing different phrases. And then she sung, “we gonna have to find a way”. And we cut that. There was a lot of freestyling and just letting everything flow. That’s my favorite process, because it’s the most spiritual and natural. 

Is that why you paired them right after each other on the album? 

I would say I did that more so because it sounds like the end of the film where like two characters finally fall in love or, they admit that you’re all I need and then Find A Way is like the celebration that goes into the ending credits. It’s like the confession of love and because of that we celebrate, and that’s Find A Way. 

Are there any boundaries or lines that you feel like you pushed yourself to cross when working on this album? Either personally or musically. 

I allow myself to be less of a front seat driver. Vocally, at least. I was very much on the composing side, doing more orchestration. I think that’s what it was, me as a rapper its expected for me to be in the forefront, for it to be like a whole Duckworth moment and stuff. But it’s like, a lot of my homies really helped me build this project. And I think I allowed allowed myself to just step back from the rapper side and just try to produce. Yeah. Like “Oh that’s great. You do that. OK, cool play that in a minor chord. Instead of playing that in four counts, make that eight counts.” I think that’s the boundary I crossed from being a rapper, to a composer.

Why so long in between albums/full projects? 

You got to live life. If you don’t, you don’t have anything right about, you know, I’ll just be in the studio, making a compilation of songs. I think the time between Extra Ugly and Super Good is that I learned what love looks like, what love takes. I think the Falling Man was me denying love, and then this one is just like what happens if you say fuck it and let go. This is the manifestation of that. But I think you just got to live life. At least that’s my process. I like to live life. It gives me something to write about. 

Tell me about the song World On Wheels, and what that place means to you.

In L.A. after school we used to go to this skating rink called Word On Wheels. In mid city, this legendary L.A. spot. They got shut down maybe like mid 2000s. I wasn’t even in L.A. at that time, but I heard about it in San Francisco, bummed me out. I think they opened it back up in 2014, if I’m not mistaken or not, maybe later. That spot kept a lot of people from like joining gangs, and gave folks something to do. That’s what happens with like gangbanging, at least back then, you didn’t really have too much to do. So it was like extra-curricular, but it was a place that you could hang out with your homies, you can chop it up like with females, learn how to skate. It’s super fun. It’s classic and it’s a staple in Los Angeles. I just wanted to make a song that was a nod to that. Crazy enough, the song before that, Tuesday, is a very L.A. song. It’s like, this is an L.A. function, it’s very much a regular party and then going into Word On Wheels, which is more of a classic type of vibe.

Do you think you’ll do a headlining tour when this is all over?

Yes Definitely. I mean, a lot of the music would translate well in a live performance. A song like Say What You Mean which is halfway through the album, it feels like a movie, you know. It’s not the most easy listening, but when we perform that shit, it’s going to go ham it’s going to go ballistic and I cannot wait. Mixing those two worlds of like regular easy listening with bigger music. All of that.

Is there any message you have for your fans or the world?

Joy isn’t illegal, love isn’t illegal yet. If you can find it during this time, keep holding onto it, hold it close, keep it close, because we’re gonna need it. It is not problematic to have joy or find joy. A lot of times we’re activated and we’re like turnt up because the world fucked. Sometimes we feel like there is no place for us to have that energy. But it’s like joy is going to be the the energy that’s going to help us think rationally, logically and be able to progress into this next level. So, yeah, love ain’t illegal, joy ain’t illegal.