Music

Duckwrth’s ‘SuperGood’ Debut Is Just On Time To Bring Back The Funk

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If you can get through more than two songs on Los Angeles rapper Duckwrth’s debut album SuperGood without at the very least two-stepping and snapping your fingers, the term “two left feet” is probably insufficient to describe your inability to dance. Within those first two songs, “New Love Song” and “Money Dance,” the veteran underground rapper utilizes such infectious four-on-the-floor beats and disco-influenced grooves that even the most off-beat person would feel hard-pressed to keep still.

Duckwrth’s debut, which has been nearly a decade in the making, comes along at a time when the lines between dance music and rap aren’t just blurring, they’re skittering and scratching like a California seismograph. Doja Cat scores her first No. 1 with nu-disco hit “Say So,” bringing Nicki Minaj along with her, then Nicki’s main rival Cardi B taps into a Jersey club classic to issue one of the most talked-about smashes in recent memory in “WAP” with Megan Thee Stallion. That’s to say nothing of the resurgence of interest in the history of house music as a creation of Black subcultures in the 1980s.

SuperGood is right in line with these ideals, from the glittering dance-floor funk of lead single “Coming Closer” to “Quick,” a slippery bop that pulls from Afrocentric traditions. It’s the rare rap album — at least, it would have been rare just a year ago — more interested in stimulating listeners’ physical reactions than lighting up their intellect or convincing them how tough its creator had it growing up. That isn’t to say Duckwrth isn’t RAPPING on this project, because he has more than enough silver-tongued, slick observations to have listeners reaching for the rewind button.

But this album is about making you feel something, and that something is an involuntary urge to wiggle. It’s so effective that I was still rocking when I connected with Duckwrth via Zoom call to talk about the album, its eight-year gestation period, his gift for collaboration, the pioneering partnerships he formed over the past few years, and just why dance music is making such a tremendous comeback.

There’s some interesting evolution from your 2019 Falling Man EP to SuperGood, with SuperGood feeling a little more like your older stuff. Was Falling Man more like a detour, or was it a stop on the way?

Falling Man was definitely like a death and rebirth, and SuperGood is just like, “We’re cool.” Falling Man was reflective of my life as a part of me died. Every couple of years, a part of me dies. So at that moment, it was more of a physical manifestation of it. I cut all my hair off and for years people have known me, for ten years people known me for my hair.

So I got on IG Live. I got some razor, electric razor and cut all off. I was like, “Well, I got to do something from here,” so I knew I was going to do that. Actually, I was already writing the Falling Man, but I was like, “Something got to be different about this one.” And it just worked out. So I guess you die, and then you rebirth. So I guess SuperGood is the new launching pad for who I am today because I’ve been wanting to do SuperGood since 2013 but I never was in the right place to do it. I’m Uugly came from me wanting to do SuperGood, but I wasn’t in the right place. Xtra Uugly Mixtape, Falling Man was like, “Well, I know I got to do SuperGood, but until then let me do this.” And yeah, SuperGood it’s finally here. It’s finally out.

I think that for me, it was proving to myself who I am and what sound I like the most for myself, what space I want to be in, and it’s something about soul and more specifically rhythm. Rhythm is my shit. When I perform, I don’t stop moving. Unless it’s just one of those moments I have to sit still, but further than that rhythm is my shit. So I think SuperGood solidified it for me. Like, “N****, this is you, so kick it here for a bit,” but I’m still going to play with different genres.

You have so many of great collaborations on SuperGood. What kind of energy do they bring to the recording process and how do they help get more out of you?

Jean Deaux, we met a year ago in the studio and just vibed immediately. She was hella cool. She’s a real Chicago woman to the truest extent and yeah, I was trying to figure out the groove and I had this beat from Terrace Martin and I was like, “This one thump. I’ll see if we can do some with it.” And it went from there, the relationship was lit because she just hella cool. She really from the hood and she’s intellectual as fuck. I always appreciate her bravery and essence. She powerful. And I always say I’m a dragon, but not on some Kanye shit.

Dragon energy.

We got dragon energy [laughs]. No, no, no, I mean, it’s something about that greatness that I try to find in other people and she got it. She got it hands down. That’s my friendship with her, and then also I flew out my homegirl Julia Romana who’s on “Coming Closer.” She lives in the UK, but I flew her out for a month to stay in the same place. We got one of those studios, that’s like a home studio. So the studio is in the back house and then the home is in the front. I just flew her out for a month and I was like, “Let’s just throw everything at the wall,” and yeah man, she’s on probably 60% the album as well.

She has those great vocals that work well with mine. It’s definitely a sweeter tone. But even shit, Alex Mali too, who’s on “Find A Way,” she did vocals on “Tuesday” and then she definitely did vocals on “Say What U Mean.” So very subtle, but perfect. “Say What U Mean” had a really crazy chorus. I love that chorus so much because it’s not elaborate. They’re just really saying, “Say.” That shit so tight to me.

I really had to research to find out more about G.L.A.M. What made you want to share this platform with kind of an unknown artist and what do you think it brought out of the song?

Well, G.L.A.M. is a long-overdue collaboration. That’s been my homie for a long time. We know each other from teen backpack days in San Francisco. She’s a fucking spitter. We both held back on “Coming Closer” because it’s a dance track, so we just going to try to have fun in it. But she, oh my gosh, she goes ham and she produces all her music. She knows her sound. She likes my sound. We both connect on some NERD shit. Even my song I had called “Love Is Like A Moshpit,” with Rico Nasty, that was originally supposed to be G.L.A.M.

I think she so tight that if I can use whatever bit of my platform to be able to shine some light on her so people can know, and then from there she can take the ball and run with it, whatever it may be. But I think world should definitely know her.

It’s funny because for the last week, I’ve been thinking about NERD and Gorillaz and Channel Tres. Recently, “WAP” came out and now we’re talking about Black people in house music again. We’re talking about those Jersey club tracks. The history doesn’t tell how closely related hip-hop is with these other Black-created forms of music, but now artists like the ones we mentioned and yourself are bringing them back together. Why is it so attractive to us now that we bring these things together these dance music grooves into hip-hop?

Personal theory, I think that the reason why house is so big in the white demographic is because it’s very much straightforward. It’s two, three, four, one, two, three, four, and with Black folks, we like…

We put a little swing in everything.

We put a little swing that thing. I feel the original creators of it like Mr. Fingers. I think Mr. Fingers had a bit more of a soulful flare to it, and then as time went on different people started grabbing it, and then it may have become more simple. Because even Mr. Fingers’ bass top line, it still has some swing to it. And that’s how we got [Kanye West’s] “Fade.” I think you can hear the Blackness in the original house.

SuperGood is obviously your first major label project and in your wildest dreams, in your ideal world, where does SuperGood place you in terms of on the charts, in your life, in the music scene, publications, press? Just spitball wildly here, go for broke.

I mean, my main thought in making it was just “Grammy.” Even if I don’t win shit, I want that shit to feel so fucking great that n****s would really have to consider nominating that motherfucker. Just the way I composed it. Right when you turn it on, it’s bringing you into a world and then just the chorus, or the girls that are singing at the end of “New Love Song,” it’s a Clark Sisters flip. So it’s taking these very classical moments, and composition, and sound, and mixing it with who I am today. I’m trying to bring sounds from the past, sounds from the present and then trying to fill out what’s going to be the future in putting it all into one sound. Even sounds that we use, we use the same synths that they had in Thriller, the [Roland Juno-106] and stuff like that. Michael was a big inspiration for this album. So it’s just taking those different textures of greats and putting that into my music.

What’s the story between 2012 when you were first popping up on 2DopeBoyz and now? What have you been doing? What have you been up to?

Just really finding myself, I suppose.

I think the best musicians are the ones that really know themselves. Because you can find yourself mimicking your favorite artists, but you never really find your sound until you find yourself. So I think for these past years, I’ve just been growing up and really diving into myself, not just as a creative but as a human. I think it’s gotten to this point of today
.
Absolutely. All the projects that you’ve done since Uugly, which is a funny album title by the way, have been-

It has a meaning. People never just look into the meaning.

Okay, what’s the meaning behind Uugly then, because I always wondered.

Pretty much when the bass slap in a certain way, when the snares hit you in the spine, whatever it may be, when a beat knockin, your face frowning up. [We both do the face.] Exactly. I’m ugly.

So you have been pushing boundaries sonically for a while. What was the inspiration behind trying to push the boundary of what LA rap is supposed to sound like?

First, I got to show love to the people that did come before me. It was groups like J*Davey, which is Brook and Jack. It was mainly J*Davey that gave me the courage to, being from LA, just working a more eclectic sound. But yeah, I kind of dipped out… I definitely dipped out 2006. So when I dipped out from LA at that time, a lot of groups really started popping and I was in San Francisco, 2008, 2010, around that time. And then, 2012 or 11, that’s when it really started cracking off in Los Angeles. So it was like, I’m in San Francisco and I moved to San Francisco because LA just wasn’t eclectic like that. I say it was only like gang-bangers and jerkers.

I’m going to tell you, I first became aware that you were kind of on the scene again, when I was watching Spider-Man (Into The Spider-Verse). I actually had the Spider-Man soundtrack ahead of time. And I was like, Duckwrth is on here? And then I heard it and I was like, “This is hard.” But then when I saw it in the movie, I was like, it’s in the movie. A lot of songs get on the soundtrack, they’re not in the movie. And you had a song during one of the more pivotal parts of the movie. What went through your head when you saw that?

They told me they were going to be using that song during a scene where a kid was listening to music. And the way they described it was like, he was supposed to be listening to rebellious music or music you’re not suppose to be listening to, I guess.

But I didn’t know exactly what scene it was going to be in until I saw it. And I was like, “Oh, okay, that’s crazy.” And the feeling I had, I don’t know, man, it’s weird. These type of moments, they’re more surreal. It makes you feel like a dream. It don’t feel real. You know what I’m saying? Like, how is this even possible that my voice is being played in this movie? And it was tight because it was the Black Spider-Man. It was surreal, but it was tight. And then what hit me wasn’t even a scene. It was when the ending credits, when my name came down, my artist name came down and my real name came down. I’m like, “Yeah. Okay. That’s tight.”

Yes, sir. Speaking in terms of just the things that you were able to accomplish since your comeback, the one that stood out to me the most was your League Of Legends role, which is an incredible thing. Because it feels to me it’s getting a little lost in the wash. Travis Scott is in Fortnite and all these other guys are doing virtual concerts in games because of the pandemic and yet you were at the forefront of that before anybody else was whispering about it. So again, you’re a little bit ahead of your time. What’s the process of creating music that is supposed to be music, but as someone else for a very specific thing, that’s a little bit outside of what you would normally create it for in like normal concepts?

I think it’s like acting, like you’re playing out a role, especially in those types of scenarios where I’m playing a character. This is what the character would say. If I was this character, I would say this. And that’s the fun part, really. You know what I’m saying? The moment that you can be outside of your skin, think differently. Especially from a character that lives in a fantasy world, it’s just like, there’s a challenge. And I love that. But also, Gorillaz is one of my favorite groups, and I’ve always wanted to do some CG shit, where I make the music for it, but it’s a totally different character. So between League Of Legends or even the animated video for “Find A Way,” these are my “dip my toe in the pool,” and just satisfy my need to want to do like some type of illustrated character.

What’s a superhero-ish character that you would love to play?

Shit. It’s a great question. Shit, this is an easy one with Miles Morales, if they ever do another one. I for sho would be Miles Morales. Really, I want to do one of the X-Men, but I don’t have then accent. But I like Nightcrawler.

You can learn to do a German accent.

I’m not going to do that. No, there are some German folk they can get for that [laughs]. Okay. Static Shock, hands down.

Hey, a Static Shock reboot, featuring Duckwrth. Let’s pitch that to somebody make it happen.

Go crazy. Static Shock.

SuperGood is out now via Republic Records. Get it here.

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