words by Rae Witte
Growing up in South Central, Los Angeles, his Pentecostal Christian mother did not allow her son, born Jared Lee, to listen to any hip-hop. His early influences include bands like Queen and Pink Floyd. Later, finding hip-hop, it would actually be “You Can Do It” off of Pharrell Williams’ debut solo album that Duckwrth and his brother would listen to obsessively while in college when he finally decided music would be the route he’d take. “Me and my brother Reggie, we were listening to In My Mind. It didn’t come out then. It came out like in high school. We were listening to it hard. The song ‘You Can Do It’…” Before he could finish his sentence, he goes on to sing the intro, “My ni–a you can do it too, (turn me up, turn me up), you can do it too.”
“I was avoiding doing music because of my family all doing music, so I was like, no, that’s not for me. I’m trying to be different.” However, while going to college he realized he couldn’t really deny its hold on him. “It happened naturally. Music speaks to me. It’s like another form of design. I was doing graphic design so I looked at it like, yeah, this like audio design. It starts from the base, then you have your primary, secondary, and accents. The primary is like the bulk of it, sometimes the hook, and the secondary is the verse because people gravitate towards the hook more. The accents are the ad-libs.”
Despite having a very musical family, he believes his love for and need to look out for his grandparents forces him protect them from his path. His grandfather once cried at the sight of his then mohawk and chipped nail polish. By no means is he ashamed of his funkwave, psychedelic rap sound, but in an effort to almost reverse parent them, he keeps his music a secret from his grandparents. “I’m more concerned about their health. I’m not trying to have my grandma be like, ‘OH LORD!’ The first think they’re going to think about is my soul.” Much like his mother felt the need to protect him from certain types of music, Duckwrth now feels like he needs to protect his grandparents from his own.
But, he recognizes there’s no denying the influence his upbringing, love, and family values has had on him and his art. “There’s definitely things I take from it. It all has to do with Jesus. [Laughs] Between Jesus being super giving and believing in miracles (or the supernatural) or believing that even if your enemy spites you, you don’t spite them. In certain ways you turn the other cheek and focus on being a forgiving person.” Even in referencing some his musical influences like Pharrell and Michael Jackson, he mentions their connection to their childhood showed him he could still “grow up” and become a father but maintain that mentality. “Pay your bills. Take care of your kids, but you can still have an amusement park in your backyard.”
Recently signed to Republic, Duckwrth is also a firm believer in knowing his self-worth and believing in himself, another thing he picked up from his mom, and making sure to discuss the level of creative freedom he would require in order to sign a record deal. “I started hearing that you can have more control with a label deal and within what you’re creating.” We can expect Duckwrth to have a hand in everything he’s working on–sonically to visually–following An XTRA UUGLY MIXTAPE and him continuing to build the legacy he hopes to leave. As he puts it, the plan is to continue “being amazing in the art I create and also giving back because if I’m not giving it’s like what the fuck am I doing? But also, I want to look back at old photos of myself and be like, ‘Oh I was a bad mothafucka.’”
With releases like new video for “TAMAGOTCHI,” premiered here on ILY, Duckwrth shouldn’t have a problem with that. “TAMAGOTCHI” is the second visual from An XTRA UUGLY MIXTAPE. Directed by Lino Asana, the visual follows Duckwrth on a very attractive and insanely fun looking high-speed chase across California’s Mojave Desert all while Tamagotchi-esque pixelated highlights pop-up throughout. There is absolutely no doubt an older Duckwrth will look back on this with approval.