Why Duckwrth Nearly Stopped Making Music
Los Angeles artist Duckwrth is still in awe of how far beyond his South Central stomping grounds that his music has traversed. The genre-hopping rapper and singer, who dropped an Xtra Uugly Mixtape in November 2017, remembers logging onto Instagram and witnessing the project’s reach—it went as far as Australia.
"My song, 'Michuul' is on repeat on Triple J—that's like their Power 105," the 29-year-old artist tells XXL of his internationally celebrated track. "My homies who produce out there, Sachi, they was on IG like, 'Look here bro, it's on the radio,' they had the lil’ zoom-in video and shit."
For Duckwrth, the feat was a lesson in perseverance. As recently as 2016, Duckwrth, dissatisfied with the traction his music was making, had strongly considered leaving music behind altogether. His career kicked off around 2012, when he was releasing songs online on his own, trying to find his sound. He settled on a unique style of music—toeing the line between funk and hip-hop—as he dropped projects like 2014's Duckwrth® Taxfree V.1 and Nowhere, his 2015 collaboration album with production team The KickDrums. But the results didn't match the heights that Duckwrth saw for himself (the video for his 2015 song "Psycho" is currently sitting at 57,000 views on YouTube.)
"There was a moment where I was gonna just say 'fuck it' and do graphic design, advertisements and shit, garment design," he says. "Just with the state of where hip-hop was, I was over it. And just the fact that it was such a struggle because I been making awesome, creative music, but it wasn't hitting the way it should."
Things began to take shape for Duckwrth in 2016, when he would routinely record in luxurious Hollywood studios only to return home to his rough neighborhood. The topographic contrast helped Duckwrth’s perspective and musicality to evolve. "That shit was taking a toll in my brain," he told XXL that year. “I feel like those textures in that experience made this whole next-level vibe on the album. I don’t want to be in a comfortable environment and make crappy music.”
Those sessions led to the creation of his 2016 release I'm Uugly, which showed a more polished and concise Duckwrth. The songs seamlessly covered a breadth of topics, from love to police brutality, catching the attention of Urban Outfitters. The clothing retailer booked him for its 2017 SXSW showcase, and has kept him close since.
The I’m Uugly follow-up, 2017's An Xtra Uugly Mixtape, brought him acclaim of the international variety. He now has hopes that his upcoming U.S.-based tour will expand to other countries. "For me to actually be able to go overseas is big because a lot of people from my neighborhood, they don't even get to leave my fuckin' neighborhood," Duckwrth said. "I need that experience, 'cause I need to be able to take that back, and tell the people that are in my neighborhood that it's possible, I did it."
While he's gained some fans overseas, things are also going well stateside. Duckwrth wrapped up a tour with Rich Brian in late 2017, then hit the ground running in 2018 with a special show in Los Angeles at Hollywood’s Space 1520 in February.
"We did this event with Urban Outfitters where I pretty much created this circular stage, a 20-foot circular stage," he says. "Then the audience, they were like 360 [degrees] around the stage, and we recreated my album I just dropped, from like scratch, with all instrumentation."
He also dropped a limited-edition cassette of An Xtra Uugly Mixtape—exclusively in Urban Outfitters locations—and wants to put more music on the retailer's shelves, particularly vinyl releases."I swear when I walk into Urban Outfitters and I see a vinyl, I'ma call my mama," he says
Never one to get caught up in his own hype, Duckwrth has more plans on the horizon: a spring tour, landing radio play for his an Xtra Uugly Mixtape single "ThrowYoAssOut" and finding ways to be more engaging on social media. "I just hate talking about myself a lot," he says. "For me to boast about myself all the time, it just feels weird. That's what I feel social networks are sometimes, it’s just like 'Hey, look at me, I'm doing this, I'm doing that!' So I'm tryna find a new way."
You get the feeling that whether he embarked on Plan A, B, C or Z, Duckwrth would’ve found his way. And he’s still going. "It's trippy... I'm sitting here scratching my head, like 'This shit is crazy!'" he says. “There's more to be obtained, for sure. There's hella more plateaus to reach."
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