If your great-great paternal uncle is John Coltrane, there’s a lot to be said about your path to greatness. If there’s one thing perceptibly clear about LUCI – taken from Luciana – it’s that she is determined to create her own lane and will stop at nothing. This creative prodigy hails from North Carolina and like her legendary forefather, LUCI has developed her unique sound from a wide range of influences – each of which she accredits with every hook, verse and lyric.

Like Coltrane, she embodies the art of learning and understanding instrumentation with sounds that unapologetically enhance her distinctive sound. Her Southern-soaked cadence is an ode to her origins and she holds it dear whilst smothering her lyrics with the gritty brashness of a New York rapper. It’s difficult to pinpoint her sound, but one thing is for sure – LUCI has the sort of sound that renders the listener intrigued by her fearless expression of vulnerability and emotion.

LUCI is far from what you’ve heard before, she’s powerfully vocal and vocally powerful, artistically unrepentant and experimental. She’s the voice you never knew you needed in your playlist. VIPER sat down with LUCI on the set of her first headline show in the UK to discuss early musical influences, her love for Southern culture and heritage, plus her growing anthology of diverse sounds. 

Who is LUCI? 

Well first, it’s short for Luciana. Secondly, it’s for the world to define that and my story will tell itself, I figure. I’m authentic. I’ll be pent up then suddenly, I’ll be free; that’s all I know. 

You’re quite the enigma. 

I literally have a song from 2015 called ‘Enigma’. I’m just raw. I’m intentional. I’m honest. I feel a lot. I say a lot. Then I say NOTHING [laughs]. 

How would you define your sound? I hear a bit of Ma Rainey, Macy Gray with a sprinkle of MIA.
The first time I was compared to Macy Gray I was like, “nah” but I get it. I totally get it. The texture, the rawness, the realness. It’s broken but it’s so together and you either like it or you don’t, but it’s still one of those things where I wanna be as raw and true to myself. But sometimes I know that I need to hone myself in even though I know I’m different and eclectic. They call me an alternative Pop artist but I’m just an expressionist. I hone it so I can still reach the masses even though I am what I am. I still want to be up there with the Drakes and Migos. People who weren’t there in the beginning don’t know how it started. Future, Lil Wayne, Outkast – they all have completely different sounds and once upon a time, it was a new sound but everyone loved it. That’s what I strive for. 

What are your earliest memories of music? 

“Go shawty, it’s ya birthday. We gon’ party like it’s ya birthday” in the back of my great-aunt’s green Chevy. A little two-door, bean-looking car; it was cute. [I’d be] in the backseat with my little cousin listening to all the 50 Cent songs – 50 was his favourite rapper. 50 Cent, Lil  Wayne. My mum was big into Lauryn Hill, she loved Mary J Blige. My first concert was Usher, I was obsessed with him when I was like seven. One day I get a call and they say, “you’re not riding the bus today, you got somebody picking you up today.” It was my grandma and she knew I loved Usher and told me, “We’re going to see Usher today!” 

Who are your influences? 

I get asked that question and I always find it hard to answer because I’ve had different genres that have had an influence on me that are completely random. Probably people whose music I don’t listen to any more. My first two simultaneous influences were Lil Wayne – I love him so much and wanted to be like him – and I’m not talking about the locs – and Soulja Boy. I started writing songs at about nine or 10 and started off with no beats. I wanted to make a catchy song that had a dance with it too, that concept was so cool. 

What was the experience of growing up in North Carolina like and what effect did that have on your development as a musician when you moved to New York?
My music is heavily influenced by North Carolina. As I was growing up, people in Charlotte would randomly ask me, “are you from New York? Philly? Are you from DC?” because I speak aggressively and with a lot of bass. But I’m really fucking Southern even though I love New York. New York helps me with the mind-set; that New York state of mind, that really gets me. I’m not into being overly influenced by my experiences of New York, but I also fuck with a lot of New York artists and what the city represents – the fashion, the constant motion, the never give up mentality, the hustle, the backdrop, the connections. It’s not just the music, it’s theatre. That’s what I love about New York — it’s a place where you can put all that shit together; it’s like a toy box, I’m bringing my own flavour but I’m here to take my accessories. I like the smoke. It’s gritty. 

This is an extract from the SS23 issue of Viper Magazine. Buy physical and digital copies here.

Photography: JOSHUA GARCIA 


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