It’s fair to say that South Central Los Angeles has a pretty rich music heritage. Areas like Inglewood, Compton and Hawthorn have spawned a generation of artists like Dr Dre, Snoop Dogg and Eazy E that have refused to conform to industry clichés, and their combined discography is a sound that’s not only borne of the South Central, but has come to represent it, and even push it forward.
One of the area’s latest exports is genre- hopping, multi-hyphenate DUCKWRTH. Whether it’s music, video or apparel, DUCKWRTH’s flow is constant; a sort of effortless effort where his vibrant and colourful personality transcends convention. Growing up amidst the Punk Rock, skater and the creative community, DUCKWRTH’s broad perspective of the world would mean that the hood was never meant to be his oyster.
“There is a lot of people that I have met that know that the other world is out there, but they have no drive to go out and see the world. It’s a personal thing. You have to want that for yourself.”
Orbiting between northern and southern California, DUCKWRTH would start to release his blend of Electro-Funk-Rock back in 2012, but it wouldn’t be until the release of his collaborative project with the Kickdrums that his signal would make it outside the border. 2015’s ‘Nowhere’ got him on enough radars to launch his closely-followed LP, ‘I’m Uugly’.
DUCKWRTH spits with conviction; merging the influence of his early Punk Rock days with fluid melodies and suave, Michael Jackson-inspired flex. Speaking on the project and the accumulated life experience gained from ‘I’m Uugly’, it transpires that the end result was far from the intention at the outset: “‘Uugly’ was meant to be ‘Super Good’ – he pauses – But nothing in my life was actually super good. It was okay, but it wasn’t super good.”
At the time this record was being made, DUCKWRTH saw himself having to deal with and embrace the contrast of recording in the Hills and living in South Central. It was his experience of these two very different realities that inspired him to persevere and commit to the world he dared to imagine. “Uugly is about knowing that you’re going to fail a hella of a lot of times. I’m not trying to highlight it – it’s more about saying that you’re going to fail, but that’s okay. It’s part of the human experience. That shouldn’t stop you from reaching your goal. Unless you want it to.”
Since then, DUCKWRTH has toured North America alongside the likes of Rich Brian and Anderson .Paak, performing more than 30 shows in less than two months before dropping follow-up mixtape, ‘Xtra Uugly’. Singles like ‘MICHUUL’, ‘THROWYOASSOUT’ and ‘HELLO GOD’ crown this project, which was released exclusively on cassette in high street Hollywood retailers. When asked why this format as opposed to other physical formats he replies; “The sound that I have on my mind is like analogue a lot of the times. So cassette is the closest that I think I could get for people to get it. I like when things are just nicely delivered. It takes a bit longer to deliver it, but it kinda becomes like a treasure hunt. I want that type of effect. I also didn’t have money to press it on vinyl back then [giggles].”
We met DUCKWRTH at sound check just before his performance at underground London venue Birthdays, and the conversation turned to his experience of the British capital: “I am still in tourist mode. I’m all sparkly-eyed. I haven’t gone past Buckingham Palace,” he exclaims. “My mum always exposed me to stuff that was outside of the hood. She loves classical music. She loved the old European sounds, and I remember hearing a lot of that growing up. A lot of art that we learn about in America it comes from here.”
As we leave to join the growing crowd, there’s a palpable buzz building outside the venue. Despite only being announced the day before, the place is packed as he takes to the stage. His spontaneous energy and natural gravitas of course make him an instant hit. A promising sign for an artist with growing international acclaim ahead of a new EP and a headline tour back in the states.
✏️: Catarina Ramalho
📷: Charlie Edwards
👕: Ella Tyson