Charged with creative energy and a precise holistic vision for his art, DUCKWRTH is the musician you ought to know. He's ethereal yet tenacious, a rare combination for the so-called archetypal hip-hop artist. But the 26-year-old South Central native is anything but typical; he's a singer, rapper, and graphic designer who marches proudly to the beat of his own drum, and who is slated to release a new musical project -- NOWHERE -- in collaboration with Alex Fitts of The KickDrums.
Fitts has worked with the likes of A$AP Rocky, Lana Del Rey, Kanye West, and Freddie Gibbs, among others, and the partnership integrates a hitherto unheard punk side into DUCKWRTH's sound. The anti-police brutality single "Super Soaker" is an exciting preview of what to expect from NOWHERE, which drops this summer, and which sees its San Francisco live debut this Friday.
But in the meantime, here are five things you ought to know about this wordsmith from L.A.:
1. Earth to DUCKWRTH... His Upbringing Was Strict
DUCKWRTH calls himself a GPK (Grand Pastor's Kid). Raised in the home of a Pentecostal pastor's daughter, he was sheltered from a lot when he was young: "I couldn’t really listen to hip-hop... I couldn’t go outside until I was about 16, 'cause my mom thought I was going to get shot in South Central." He was the standout kid who didn't fit in, and as a result developed an affinity for all things extraterrestrial. "I really just created my own weird world when I was young," he says, "and I kind of never left."
2. Cartoons are His Thing
His graphic design work has a cartoonish vibe à la early '90s Nickelodeon, but surprisingly, the artist didn't have cable growing up. Instead, he watched PBS, because "they had more cartoons going than any other station." These days he watches plenty of Cartoon Network, and he's a huge anime fan, too.
3. DUCKWRTH's Style = "Sporty Cultural"
Looking at the art-school dropout, it's evident that many unique elements come together to make up DUCKWRTH's fashion aesthetic. On any given day he's '90s, punk, Tokyo street style, Andre 3000, or a mix of it all. He likes bright primary and secondary colors. He wears brass rings with precious gems on his fingers and a clashing neon green fake g-shock, only a couple inches away, on his wrist. Not to mention the "fakies" he's been rocking on his feet lately: formerly plain white sneakers decorated with cherry blossoms, Japanese characters and a faux Nike logo, created with a couple of sharpies in a moment of boredom. "I couldn’t get the Jordans and stuff," he says of his self-designed kicks. "When I got a little bit older, I didn’t want them anymore. I wanted to create my own shoe."
4. He Reps the Bay.
DUCKWRTH moved to San Francisco to study graphic design, visual media, and web design at Academy of Art University back in 2006. He dropped out after four years, but stayed in the city for four more working with a collective he created called "Them Hellas." He's hoping to help bring the entertainment industry to the Bay Area, which he calls a "creative bubble": "I learned a lot of my creativity from the Bay Area... and there’s a lot of cool sounds and art, just creativity itself in the Bay Area."
5. Outkast, Bad Brains, N.E.R.D., Kanye West, the Casualties, and No Doubt are all Influences.
Truthfully, there's a whole laundry list of acts that helped a young DUCKWRTH blossom into the artist he is today. He started listening to hip-hop in the early 2000s, but his teens were mostly about punk and other rock music. With each project, DUCKWRTH continues to create his own high-energy colorful musical sound, and this one is no different. "A lot of my stuff from the past has been very hip-hop oriented," he says. "In this album I get to sing a lot more, 'cause I was singing before I was rapping." Plus, he's adopted the rebellious attitude of punk to create his own musical reaction to the social and political climate.