Imagine if Prince and Andre 3000 had a baby, and this child was raised by Pharrell. Vibrant, experimental, groovy; DUCKWRTH is this musical progeny I speak of.
DUCKWRTH is a South Central, Los Angeles based artist, rapper and designer who’s unapologetically genuine yet grounded nonetheless. After dropping a collab album Nowhere with producer The Kickdrums in 2015, DUCKWRTH released his full length debut album I’m Uugly in September of 2016. The album, in my opinion, is one of the best projects of last year, despite many sleeping on it.
Recently, True Too had the chance to speak with the artist. Throughout the interview. we discussed the origin of his name, his man crush on Pharrell, and the meaning of his term “uugly,” among much more. Peep the conversation below, and enjoy!
I Do Do it for the People
CJ: We got DUCKWRTH here with True Too Hip Hop, this is CJ. My man, where did your name DUCKWRTH originally come from?
DUCKWRTH: It’s from my mom; it’s her maiden name. Even though she doesn’t really claim it. People really just started calling me that in college, and I just ran with it. It seemed, like, awkward. As awkward as me, so yeah.
CJ: So was it kind of like a purposefully awkward thing, like ‘oh it’s awkward, I’m going to play off that awkwardness?’
DUCKWRTH: It just fit, like I don’t know. There wasn’t too much thought put into it really. It was one of those, ‘oh this feels right.’ The DUCK part is the awkward, waddling animal. And then the WRTH is the exquisite, fine, detailed gentlemen. So they kind of fit together in a fun way.
CJ: That’s pretty interesting. So I’m sure many have noticed that you either omit vowels, like on your name, or include doubles, how did this aesthetic start?
DUCKWRTH: I just wanted to have fours. Because I used to separate it as ‘Duck Worth,” they’re together now, but in my logo I would put four letters on top and four letters on bottom. And when it was four letters on top and five letters on bottom, I just didn’t like the way it looked. So I just took the O out for aesthetic purposes. Once again, another seamless thought, just felt right.
CJ: What about the double letters?
DUCKWRTH: Well, I have this corny translation of it. My efforts are not just for me but for you. So there’s like always extra U’s in it cuz it’s for the people. Once again, I just thought about that when somebody else asked me the question. It’s a little funny though (laughs). I mean, it’s true though, I do do it for the people, but to tell you the truth it’s just attention to detail. I’m very much about people, if you really care, will pay attention. And if people don’t care so much, don’t pay attention. Like right now, the name of my album (I’m Uugly), if they used one U, they didn’t really pay attention that well. So it just kind of shows me. Even something like Anderson .PAAK, like he has two A’s and the dot PAAK. It’s about attention to detail, and some people will omit those because they feel it’s not relevant, but it may be totally relevant to the artist, you know. Attention to detail.
CJ: Yeah, now that you point that out, it is kind of something that you do remember.
DUCKWRTH: Mhhm, yeah. I mean, it stands out cuz when you see it off the bat and it’s like, I would feel like the first question is ‘why did he use two U’s?’ So naturally your subconscious would make an effort to remember that cuz you were caught off guard. Sometimes some blogs and features don’t use two U’s, and I’m like, ‘oh okay, cool.’ (Sarcastic)
CJ: Completely get it wrong.
CJ: Speaking of .PAAK, you just toured with him. How was that, and do you have any cool stories from that experience?
DUCKWRTH: Yeah, it was the first time I went to Vancouver, and I was trying to hook up with some homies there for hella long, from college. So it was like, ‘ay cool I’m on tour with Anderson .PAAK’ and they’re just like ‘hell yeah.’ It was a cool little reuniting. Other than that, it was dope. I learned a whole shit ton about performing. Like being a better performer, performing for bigger crowds and actually entertaining. There’s two different things: there’s being an entertainer and being a spectacle. If you’re a spectacle, you’re just about as good as a, you know, a dancing fucking bear in a circus. Or like riding an elephant. You know, a spectacle? But being an entertainer, you captivate them but there’s also a certain sense of respect that comes with it. Like I don’t think a person wants to get to know the dancing bear at the circus (laughs). But, I think, before the way I was performing I would be performing with so much energy; jumping, bouncing around, I felt like a lot of performers do that, jump around and everything. And it’s like, okay cool that’s the spectacle for tonight. But to actually captivate a person, making them entranced into you and want to get to know you and get to know the music, it’s different. Once again, it’s the attention to details. Connecting eyes and energy and having moments. Like Michael Jackson! He was an amazing entertainer because there would be like music playing and then all of a sudden little boards would come from under the stage and he would jump up from the boards with his dances, bounce on to the stage, and look up to the right corner for like forty seconds. And those amount of forty seconds of him sitting still, people would be screaming, crying, passing out, shitting themselves, like all types of shit (laughs). It’s those moments where you don’t always have to bounce around and try to get attention. Sometimes it’s about being totally still and it’s a different type of entertainment, like captivating the crowd. So that’s what I learned most while on that tour.
CJ: Yeah, being unique and standing out like that. I actually have been to one of your shows; I shot for your show when you opened for Awkwafina probably about a year ago. At Los Globos.
DUCKWRTH: Oh shit, I remember that.
CJ: Yeah man, super small, low key, but your performance actually really stood out to me because you were very energetic and entertaining, and also engaging. You like to engage the crowd a lot, it was very memorable. I was wondering, do you always that much, like it almost seemed you were doing some sort of tai chi while you were on stage, if you know what I mean?
DUCKWRTH: Yeah. Yeah, I mean you could definitely say that. It’s all about energy. If the energy is put out, then it’s reciprocal. If I put it out and if they take it and extend it back to me, then I’m gonna take it and send it back. Sometimes more, you know, it’s just back and forth. If it’s not being reciprocated, then I’m still gonna go in but it’s not gonna be like ‘oh my gosh, that was amazing.’ There’s been times where there was no love in a room, and it’s like ‘dude I just can’t wait to get off this fucking stage, you guys suck.’ But yeah, the times where it’s reciprocated though, for sure. Kind of like an energy, spiritual, whatever you want to call it really, it’s not really tangible it’s more so about feeling so it could be comparable to tai chi in that way, the movement, every movement has intention. And it has energy put behind it. At the end of the day, it’s just about having fun. We have a structure with how we set up the music and everything but my main thing is just having fun. Even if we switch up one of the songs or something like that, I’ll do some type of weird ass breakdown or whatever it may be, right. I don’t give a shit, let’s just have fun.
CJ: Hell yeah. And I see that you’re about to play a set at SXSW in a few days. Is this gonna be your biggest festival?
DUCKWRTH: As far as back to back to back situations, yeah definitely. It’s gonna be fun too. I’m excited.
CJ: Yeah, that festival looks hella fun.
DUCKWRTH: Yeah, I want to meet all the artists. I just wonder what type of demographic is gonna be at these corporate shows, you know? I’m not exactly sure. At the end of the day it doesn’t really matter to me I’m have as much fun as possible like I said. I just hope that it’s a whole variation of people.
CJ: Yeah, we’ll see. So, can you tell me about time where you were not really proud of something you created, whether it was music, or you know, anything else? And then on the flip side, about your most proud creative moment?
DUCKWRTH: It’s not that there’s something I’d say I’m not proud of, there’s some things that make me cringe because, A, it was corny, or B, it was just not that great, like as great as I thought it was at that moment, but everything that I did, the intention was to do it in the best way possible. So with that intention, there’s nothing that I can’t say that I’m not proud of, because it took minimal funds, and sometimes free, and we created amazing shit, whether that be through the music, or through the videos, this shit was created with the best intentions. As far as my proudest accomplishment, would be pretty much my next accomplishment. Like I’m literally about to drop a video tomorrow (“I’m Dead”) and I’m already writing the script for the next video. I’m just super fucking stoked for the next video. At this moment, the video that I’m dropping tomorrow is for the fans. It’s for the world, it’s not for my enjoyment anymore. When I made it, I enjoyed it. The process of editing it, going back and forth with the director sucked ass (laughs). But you know, to actually hold back on creating something that could help someone in some type of way, that would be the worst. That would be something that I’m not proud of. But like I said, my proudest is the next, being able to get the resources to make the next.
CJ: Yeah, I feel it. Could you provide any details on the music video for tomorrow?
DUCKWRTH: It’s a lot of dancing. And pelvic thrusting (both laugh). The best way I could put it.
CJ: Did you film it locally?
DUCKWRTH: Yeah. Actually, damn near fifteen minutes away from my house in South Central. So, hella local.
CJ: Word. So, I read about how you derived the term “uugly” from your experience in creating the project Super Good. The way you kind of described the transition from one to the other, as in you said you were recording this one project and from that you 180’ed, it almost feels as if the way your portrayed it was metaphysical in a way, both in the symbolism of losing your music both physically and digitally, and then your self-realization and decision to turn it off. Do you consider yourself a spiritual person? Could you elaborate more on this change of heart?
DUCKWRTH: The spiritual belief, I was raised Pentecostal Christian, but I wouldn’t say that I subscribe to the traditional structure of Christian, Pentecostal Christian beliefs. But, from a lot of the things that I learned in that remain to be the same. One of them being modesty and two being faith. Having 100 percent faith, you know. They used to say if you have faith the size of a mustard seed you can move mountains, and it’s just like ‘whoa, this shit’s real.’ Believing to the point that it becomes real. That is one of the biggest powers we have as human beings. Also, just listening. Like shutting up. It takes turning off your ego and just listening. My ego would have been ‘nah, my heart is set on Super Good, this album. I have to drop it.’ But, you read, everything was just not working towards it, like at all…No efforts put forth was pushing through. And this other concept starts leaking through, and when I said it out loud, it just felt good. It literally just felt good. Like another seamless act, like my name or taking O out. And when it feels good in certain ways, you kind of have to just run with it. So yeah, I just ran with it. And Super Good, as long as I’m on this Earth I’ll still have chances to do Super Good, God willing, but it can wait. For now, just go with your gut, go with your intentions, have faith in what you do, proceed with it. I guess that makes me spiritual (laughs).
CJ: Fasho. So you speak about modesty, and being an artist/entertainer, balancing that modesty with the ego…Is it difficult? How do you cope with that?
DUCKWRTH: My ego is not something I’m proud of, it’s just a natural part of the human experience, like the emotion. The ego is literally like a defense based off of experience you have had previously. First, you have to know when the ego is running the course in your life, within what you say within your actions, and from there, then decide whether it’s worth it to keep it going. For some people, their ego works. Like Travis Scott. People LOVE him for his fuckin’ ego. Or Kanye West. They love him for his ego, and it’s guiding them to these points. Now, the sacrifice they have within their own personal lives, it could be detrimental, so that’s your own decision in which ways. But I don’t know, their whole ego shit, it works for them. Kids love it. For other people, the investment, it’s beyond the quick looks. Like I feel Pharrell is one of the most modest artists in hip hop, in pop, in music, and in culture in general. He could be as egotistical as Kanye. Kanye’s speech was ‘I can’t get these companies to collaborate with me because of this and because of that’ while on the side Pharrell is doing collaborations with Chanel and Bionic Yarn and G-Star. Like taking pictures with Karl Lagerfeld and doing creative direction FOR FUCKING CHANEL (both laugh), you know what I’m saying, that’s like next level. And he’s modest. He knows that when he gets the inspiration for music, it’s not him. Like, he knows he’s channeling. He knows his works is beyond him. So, it depends on what you want, as far as your results. It’s not just music, but for your human experience, how you want to inspire people. Like, I feel sorry for the kids who are so inspired by Travis. I know somebody who just committed suicide three days ago who was, you know, inspired by Travis. Not saying he started off like that, he was on his own shit, but you can tell he was on the whole Travis wave and shit. The glorification of drugs, and depression, and darkness, and everything. And darkness got the best of him and he ended his life. Like, what’s the point? Let that ego shit go. People can be modest AND be successful artists. So that’s the shit that I stand for.
CJ: Yeah definitely. Pharrell is definitely low key ballin’. Low key and high key.
DUCKWRTH: Yeah, right? He’s doing quite well for himself. He has four kids with a bomb ass wife and the most amazing collaborations that a music composer, hip hop/pop composer, can do.
CJ: Yeah man, it sounds like you look up to him a lot.
DUCKWRTH: Hell yeah. Definitely. I can’t wait to sit down with him. I met him on my birthday, and that was amazing! I would say that I’m heterosexual but, I don’t know, I was pretty gay for him when I met him (both laugh).
CJ: You were fanboying out, huh?
DUCKWRTH: (Laughs) Nah man that dude’s amazing, man. Love that guy.
CJ: So, HipHopDX actually compared your sound on the song “Get Uugly” to that of Prince, which is quite a compliment I would say.
DUCKWRTH: Damn! (Laughs)
CJ: What was your experience recording that single like? It’s definitely one of my favorite songs of yours.
DUCKWRTH: I don’t know, to tell you the truth. I can’t even tell you bruh. Literally, we got the spot in Koreatown, Los Angeles with the producer that I worked with on the album, which is ChannelTres. He had to go somewhere someday so I had the whole spot to myself. And anytime I get the studio to myself, I’m in my bag. I can do things to the best of my ability. I can perform in front of people, but when you’re by yourself, you are in your own world. I had the beat, and I don’t know, it just started pouring out. I didn’t even write that down, I just started singing on it. But I think, if anything it did have to do, in certain ways, with Prince. It’s sad, because in order to gain our attention, people have to die or shocking news has to happen to shake us up. For a moment people were just not interested in funk and androgyny and all that stuff. I knew I was channeling that vibe. That’s the best way I can put it. I don’t know how that happened (laughs). But Channel came home and I was like ‘hey look what I recorded’ and he just looked at me like ‘what is this, bruh? This is amazing. We gotta put it out.’
CJ: You’ve also described another aspect of that “uugly” theme as your expression when you would hear a sick beat. I know you rep the bay and your record label is from San Francisco. Was this “uugly” expression your own version of a thizz face?
DUCKWRTH: AHHH! (Laughs). I never thought about that. I was never able to do the thizz face, like all my Bay Area homies, I’d be like ‘look thizz face,’ and they’d just look at me stupid ‘nah that’s not a thizz face, you just look ugly.’ But yeah! I guess I may have mastered the thizz face with my own interpretation of it. And it’s funny too, because I haven’t got much hassle from the Bay Area like ‘bruh that’s not the uugly face, that’s the thizz face.’ It’s only really my homies that be saying that to me. But nobody online, really. Like, ‘he’s doing that for Mac Dre.’ I don’t get that.
CJ: Yeah man, its low key, the Bay Area culture. I’m actually from there, I know the kind of bubble of culture that you speak of.
DUCKWRTH: Oh word. Yeah it’s great.
CJ: I read that you’re also into graphic design and visual art. Does this mean that you design all your own visuals and images, cover images, album art, everything?
DUCKWRTH: Mhhm. Mhhm. Yeah I definitely do.
CJ: And how would you describe your style, or is just kind of how you feel at the moment?
DUCKWRTH: You just said it, whatever I feel at the moment. I mean, I try to keep as the main focus, is tight space. Fonts. Hierarchy. Stuff like that. In most cases, I make my own type but if it’s not, I stay in a certain space. Sometimes I use the serif font if I want to get a little fancy with it. But I keep it in a certain moderate place, and build everything around it. Color and type first and foremost. And my style is always grunge/punk in a certain way, but not from a literal standpoint. I use a lot of ripped paper, or just old vinyl, textured stuff. I love that stuff too. Those are my inspirations and I try to tap into them sometimes.
CJ: The way you describe the DUCKWRTH thing: four letters on top and four letters on bottom, do you always try and stay symmetrical like that?
DUCKWRTH: Yay and nay. Like the number 3 is way more interesting to me than the number 4. Number 3 is odd but they always say ‘if you’re a square you’re a loser,’ because you’re predictable; all four sides are the same size. But if you’re a triangle, there’s something odd yet beautiful about it. Even though triangles sides can be the same, but it is still 1 and 2, not 1, 1, 1, 1 or 2, 2 or just 4. It’s odd, more interesting than a square. And it has a point to it, so it’s kind of giving you a direction. Squares just kind of keep you in the middle. But, specifically, the logo I was doing at that moment I wanted it to be “perfect.” Harmony and hierarchy. But, as of now, I’m not so much as interested in keeping a certain symmetry. As long as it just feels right. I think that’s what it is, at first, when you gain consciousness, you “awaken,” you feel like you need to be perfect. You feel like you need to be so on top of it. But as you get older, you kind of figure out: the wise man, he knows nothing at all. And he also just doesn’t really care (laughs). Because it’s more so what he feels like. Not what people tell you is right. What is harmonious to your life and what adds to the prosperity of your life and others. If it’s destroying your life for others, then it’s probably not the best for you. If it’s adding onto it, and feels right, then by all means.
CJ: Random question here, what’s your favorite type of food or dish?
Eat some fruits and veggies. Don’t be weirdos.
DUCKWRTH: Pad Thai. I know it’s basic in the Thai realm but you can’t really fail with pad Thai. I mean, I guess pad see ew, eggplant stir fry, or something like that, so just Thai food in general I suppose. It’s the combination. Like jambalaya too if we want to talk about soul food. But pad Thai and jambalaya, I’d put those at my top.
CJ: Consistent. Pad Thai is consistent.
DUCKWRTH: Yeah. I like options with them, a lot of options.
CJ: Alright boss, before we end this, is there anything else that you’d like your fans to know?
DUCKWRTH: It always comes to this part of the interview, I never know what to say. Umm, I don’t know. Eat some fruits and veggies. Don’t be weirdos. Add health by eating fruits and vegetables. That’s the best way to put it. (Both laugh)
CJ: Fasho man. Well I appreciate your time.
DUCKWRTH: Appreciate it, man. Thank you for very much.
CJ: Yeah no problem. Talk to you later, dude.
Stream I’m Uugly below and stay up to date with DUCKWRTH on twitter. For all things hip hop keep reading at True Too.