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March 2020

Duckwrth: "Stagnancy is not allowed"

Why WOULDN’T we interview rap sensation Duckwrth in the UK headquarters of Major League Baseball? That’s the question.
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Published: 11:01 am, November 21, 2019Words: Jake Hawkes.
Duckwrth: "Stagnancy is not allowed"

"I never really fucked with baseball, to be honest with you." We're with Californian rapper Duckwrth at the UK headquarters of Major League Baseball, and he's as confused as we are by the surroundings. "You just gotta roll with it, I guess," he concludes, leaning back on an MLB-branded chair and looking around at the array of baseball bats mounted on the wall. Luckily for everyone involved, there doesn't seem to be any employees around, so no impromptu quizzes on favourite teams take place.

The surreal setting is only enhanced by Duckwrth and his friends, who are all dressed in a mish-mash of punk-inspired clothes and streetwear, topped off with coloured hair and jewellery. Duckwrth himself is wearing a greenish poncho and at least two rings on each finger, which he taps on the table periodically. Probably not the usual dress code for the MLB boardroom.

The reason he's over in the UK (aside from brushing up on his baseball knowledge) is to record some of his new album and play some sold-out shows to some screaming fans. "I've been over here for a few days, up in this little village called... Fingest? I think," he explains. "I was recording with this producer named Fraser T. Smith up there, his studio is pretty lit, and the village is pretty cool too. I'm working on a new project which is gonna be coming out next year. Only thing I didn't like is not being able to go to the grocery store to get food, that shit closes at like 7pm, and it's far as fuck, you gotta take a trip just to get out there!

"I feel like I have a very good way of adjusting though, it's all Earth at the end of the day, in different forms, so even though I travel a lot and change environments a shit ton, I don't get too much of a culture shock." He pauses. "Oh, and I went out to Barcelona to do Mercer festival too, performing for like 4,000 people – that was pretty trippy. And now I'm back here, except this time it's more of a city vibe, the shops are actually open, for one thing."

He laughs. "Nah for real, I love it here, the people are all pretty chill, I can go to the park with my homegirl and walk around, and nobody cares. In America, you see a black dude with a white girl there's always this weird feeling, but I'm walking around here, and there's nothing but multicultural couples, like a big cupcake. It's tight as fuck.

"I love how old the city is, too." He turns and points out the window at a building opposite. "That building's probably older than America, that's crazy. It's awesome, all the stories that come with the architecture, and you guys are just walking past like it's nothing? You got the punk scene here too, I like that. There aren't too many remnants of it, just a load of designer boutiques, but shit, just even knowing that it happened here is too cool."

Duckwrth: "Stagnancy is not allowed"
Duckwrth: "Stagnancy is not allowed"
"I'm not into ego, I'm just here to create amazing shit"

The punk connection isn't one that many hip-hop artists would leap to, but Duckwrth likes to take inspiration from anything he can. "I like everything," he says when asked what he listens to. "I mean it, ev-ery-thing. Nothing has a cap bro, I listen to this app called Radiooooooo, which lets you pick a continent or a country or whatever and it plays you a radio station based on the music from there. I just stay on that, always searching. Favourite continent has to be India, always find some good percussion in there, but Ethiopian jazz is lit too.

"I feel like I'm not the only eclectic artist out there, no way." He continues. "but even within that sphere, I still feel distant. I do relate to certain people and sync with them really well like Olu from Earthgang, he's tight. But I feel like overall I don't fit with the music industry, especially when egos get involved. I'm not into ego, I'm just here to create amazing shit, and I don't give a fuck about anything else." He laughs again, but it's clear he's only half-joking. "To each his own, I guess. Maybe that ego finds its way into people's music, and they flex a bit, and the fans wanna hear about it. It's all love, it's just not my particular mindset."

"I fuck with Tyler [The Creator] too, I don't get to see him much, like I don't have his number or anything like that, but we bump into each other every once in a while, and it's all love. We've just got a mutual respect, we share a lot of the same energy – his is sharper and a bit more radical than mine, though. Saying that, he's calmed down a lot and got recognition for that, which he deserves. He on a level that he created for himself, he's exceptional."

Despite his broad music taste, his upbringing was more restrictive. Raised in a strictly Christian household, he wasn't allowed to listen to hip-hop as a child, not that the rules stopped him from listening anyway. "If you tell me what I can't do..." He spreads his arms wide and shrugs as he speaks. "Well, now I wanna go do that. I wanna know why whatever you're shunning is being shunned, why it's being held from me. I understand it, I do, but I'm naturally a rebellious individual, so I'm gonna find out.

"I remember that with hip-hop, listening to – and falling in love with – Outkast. First Stankonia, then going backwards from there all the way to their first one: 'supercadillac... no, what's it called?" He repeats himself a few more times before trying again. "Southernplayalisticcadillacfunkymusic!" He slaps the table with both hands when he gets it right. "That one, it's a classic, before they went on that conscious effort, that's got some real player's shit on it. It still sounds fresh now, but I guess maybe that's because we're all hipsters, we just take everything from the 90s."

"I'm thinking of getting into psych music"

This broad taste makes its way into his music, too. "This next project I'm planning to cross over from straight rap, for sure," he explains. "It's gonna sound good and feel good – I'm calling it 'Supergood'. Then after that, I'm thinking of getting into maybe psych music, just getting way more psychedelic in general. I'm always moving around." This rapid movement is one of the reasons that 'The Falling Man', released earlier this year, is so short.

"I'm still working on a main project, but I wanted to be able to give something to my fans while I continue trying to make it to the next level musically. It was just where I was at at that moment in my life, and I wanted to get it out there. I like my projects to be as immediate as they possibly can be, no waiting around.

"I say that, but I do like spending the time to make sure everything's right before I release. I had a bunch of different songs that didn't make it onto 'The Falling Man', but when you feel the strength of a song, that's when you know it needs to be on there. Then you add a feature or some strings and just get it to where it needs to be.

"I do produce, but not in the sense that I'm there touching keys. I let people who are for more talented than me handle all that! I'm more part of the orchestration, the arrangement, suggesting different chords and just the building and the structuring of the song itself. It just goes hand in hand, the producer creates this nice little basket for my vocals, which is great."

As he talks production, Duckwrth again shows that he's not taking things one day at a time, no matter what he says. He's clearly a guy with a vision of what he wants to do and when he wants to do it. When asked what he wants to do with his new project, the answer is already on the tip of his tongue: "I want it to feel like I'm taking the torch passed from Outkast, NERD, Gnarls Barkley, even Stevie Wonder. I'm still gonna have that punk influence, that energy, but I'm swerving into funk and just trying to reach that next level – as well as rapping really good. I want the album to convey movement, it's all about getting your ass up and moving, doing something. Stagnancy is not allowed."

Taken from the November issue of Dork, out now.

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