“I’m excited, stoked, nervous, anxious — all of it,” Duckwrth grinned as he strode into his green room at the Fox Theater in Oakland. As he tapped his matte black Doc Martens and twisted the charm bracelet on his wrist, he chatted with The Daily Californian about his Xtra Uugly tour, making art and incorporating more produce into his diet.
Duckwrth — styled as DUCKWRTH — is a multi-genre hip-hop artist right on the brink of something big. He was covered by XXL Mag, he opened for Anderson .Paak, and he’s tucked into the lineups of some of the biggest festivals this year. Even as he grows as an artist, he still credits his beginnings to his family.
“My family does music, so it’s a kinda like a DNA thing,” Duckwrth said as he tucked a few dreads back into his ponytail. “Yeah, I don’t know — it’s just like art, and I love art. It’s like another form of creation. Once you know how to make art, then sound is just another form.”
At the heart of Duckwrth’s artistry is his music, but his creativity seeps into every medium he touches.
“Graphic design, illustration, sculpture. I did bookmaking once! Just everything,” Duckwrth said. From the offset of meeting him, his inner DIY punk comes through. It’s not just his safety pin earring — it’s in the cutoff white denim, the passion he shows for all his projects and the pride in which he wore his own tour shirt to his performance. This eccentrism goes deeper than just his fashion. From his merchandise to his music videos, Duckwrth’s distinct, creative vision shines.
Duckwrth’s artistry even reaches into the world of dance — he’s known to hit the dance floor pretty hard in his performances. “Last tour I rolled my ankle three times: twice in one show, and then rolled it again a week after,” he laughed. “I had to get new shoes. Forget how to wobble dance a little.”
Last year, Duckwrth released his newest project. Entitled an XTRA UUGLY Mixtape, the album is a compendium of pop-funk vibes that even includes a track dedicated to the King of Pop. He touched on the process of going from beats to the fully fleshed out tracks that appear on his albums.
“If (the track) is something that’s already produced, I’ll see if I just vibe to it. I try to catch a groove. If I’m making it, I just try to keep creating and producing until it feels right. When it feels right, you just lock into it, but it’s really just trusting your gut, trusting your intuition,” Duckwrth said. “Usually if the words start flowing — like random phrasing and stuff like that — that’s what becomes the song, like high key. That’s the most genuine; that’s the most raw.”
Even though he’s been putting out so much content — coming so far from Nowhere, his collaborative album with the Kickdrums from back in 2015 — Duckwrth still says he looks back on his old music.
“In certain ways I’ve changed. I wouldn’t say I’ve grown, because I was spittin’ way harder back in the day,” Duckwrth said.
Although his aesthetic and music reflect his unique, personal style, Duckwrth is still keen to the ebb and flow of the music industry. “I feel back in the day, people had more of an ear for lyricism. Today is different because it’s back to music. I like it overall rather than it just being this specific talent for just putting rhymes together.”
Despite the change in trends, Duckwrth has always been able to strike a groovy balance between music and lyrics in his projects. In an XTRA UUGLY Mixtape, the listener is wilin’ out to “MICHUUL.” in one second but then racing to keep up with Duckwrth’s verses in “TAMAGOTCHI” in the next.
When Duckwrth got to talking about the atmosphere of concerts versus the sound of recorded music, he whipped out a Kanye West quote. “My only thing that I regret in life is the fact that I’ll never be able to experience myself perform,” Duckwrth paraphrased. He broke out into laughter as he delivered Kanye’s words. “It’s such a terrible quote, but I get it so much!” he said. “I would love to experience what I am delivering from the other side, so I could make myself better, really.”
When his manager came in to get him prepped for the show that night, Duckwrth gave some parting words. “Eat produce,” he said. He paused a little before speaking again. “It’s just been something I’ve been thinking about all day … Eat produce.” He was silent for a bit, then took a massive bite out of his take-out box of glass noodles.
Duckwrth’s eye for the creative, combined with his sensitive, profound perspective of the world he travels through, makes for a dynamic artist — one worth keeping an eye out for.
Annalise Kamegawa covers music. Contact her at [email protected].