Over the last five years, LA-based wunderkind Duckwrth has quickly risen up the ranks as a promising star of the future of music. His collection of critically acclaimed projects—starting with his solo debut album I’m Uugly in 2016—have transcended streaming platforms and landed in films, TV series and brand ad campaigns. But the goal, as always, is to level up and with his Republic Records debut Super Good he does just that. Only this time, his focus is to level up emotions.
Growing up in South Central, Los Angeles, Duckwrth’s life was something of a dichotomy. “Life was interesting,” he says with a laugh. “I was born in the ‘80s but raised in the ‘90s and this was during the height of gang violence and police brutality.” His mother did her best to shelter him from the storm of the streets, and in doing so he turned inward and found art within the walls of his room and his mind. “I watched a lot of X-Men and drew the characters and just used my imagination,” he adds. “I drew a lot of superheroes.”
While also part of a Pentecostal household, he would sing in the church choir and so began his balance of art and music. By the time he graduated high school, LA was progressing, though San Francisco was becoming a growing hub for the arts. A speedy acceptance from the Academy of Art University led to Duckwrth’s relocation, and it was during college that he began recording and releasing music. At this point, his musical tastes traveled from gangster rap staples like Snoop Dogg to Earth, Wind, and Fire coupled with coming from a musical family. “Music wasn’t something I initially sought out to do,” he says sincerely. “It’s in my DNA.”
He recorded a demo of rough cuts which both highlighted his experimentation and lyricism, yet after leaving school, he bounced around from Los Angeles to New York City on the pursuit of creativity. After relocating to Brooklyn in 2015, he linked with noted producer The Kickdrums to release Nowhere, highlighting NYC’s struggles with police brutality at the time. Sonically, however, Duckwrth was in search of something deeper for his next work. “There was a certain sound I was looking for,” he adds. “A certain magical, mystical chord progression, like Stevie Wonder, Minnie Riperton, even The Neptunes.” He found it right back where he started in LA, with producer Channel Tres who together made the groundbreaking I’m Uugly project, which was listed as one of NPR’s 5 Essential Albums Slept-On in 2016, still garnering praise from outlets like The FADER, Complex and XXL.
It was followed by An Xtra Uugly Mixtape in 2017, and most recently The Falling ManEP in 2019, also regarded as one of the best releases of that year by NPR Music. That same year, Duckwrth joined celebs Keke Palmer, Becky G and Soyeon of G-Idle for the League of Legends championship super group “True Damage” as the voice of popular gaming character Ekko. He made a dynamic live appearance at their Championship games in Paris, viewed in person and online by over 99 million fans. Add to that, his debut at Austin City Limits and played his first set of Arena dates opening for Billie Eilish.
Duckwrth’s music has appeared on shows like CW’s All American, HBO’s Insecure and Real Time with Bill Maher. His superhero dreams came true when his song “Start A Riot” was featured on the Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse soundtrack. His songs have appeared in campaigns for the likes of Cadillac, Microsoft, Peloton, Amazon and Apple Music, and he’s worked with fashion legacies like Levi’s, Vans and Fila, as well as high fashion men’s suit designer Paul Smith. His first touring experience was opening for Anderson .Paak and since then, Duckwrth has become an international touring staple, headlining shows globally. His songs translate from stereo to stage with ease.
Each project and its songs exude a graduated level of color and detail that can only come from an artist who can both paint pictures and sounds with his mind. Super Good is no exception.
“I was calling it electric soul,” he describes of the project’s sound. Rooted in movement, yet full of futuristic vibes, Super Good is more of an experience than an album. The lead single “Find A Way” comes at a perfect time given the state of the world. “It kind of naturally came together,” he explains, as the cut utilizes old school synthesizers like the Moog and the Juno to create a feelgood anthem at a time when the world needs healing. The assisting vocals from Alex Mali and Radio Ahlee give it an added global feel. Other songs like “Coming Closer” speak to the hopeful future, as the overall concept of Super Good is love and unity.
Duckwrth has solidified his stardom, yet his mission remains intact, both on and off stage. “At this moment, people want to feel good,” he says. “I want to create that soundtrack.”