DUCKWRTH: Into His Funky World

I first set my eyes on Jared Lee, known as DUCKWRTH at a Rich Brian show back in 2017, he was the opening act and I was immediately captivated by his set. His set started off with a DJ diving deep into his funky world by playing “Mirage” by Toro y Moi, although not his song, he carried through with an expressive entrance. DUCKWRTH wore a British flag muscle top, skinny trousers, boots, and a slick hairstyle. He was all over the place in terms of performance: He danced, took of his shirt, and crowd-surfed. His energy, presence, raps, sound, and style were so distinctive and unmatched that it made me an instant fan.

DUCKWRTH is a rapper and songwriter who hails from Los Angeles; however, most of his musical development began in the Bay Area. He started posting music online in 2012 with releases such as the  DUCKTAPE mixtape and the singles “THRILLA” and “Shaolinin’.” While it wasn’t enough to kick him off his feet right away, it gave him a framework for his sound that speaks to DUCKWRTH’s musicality, what he calls a “Jambalaya Concept.” The concept is marked by DUCKWRTH’s ability to deconstruct genres and transform them to create a unique sound. Lee’s style mostly covers funk and hip hop, but blends elements of R&B, rock, and house together. “LOWRIDR” from his debut album, I’M UUGLY, illustrates this: the song uses a boom-bap style beat and takes an R&B and funk groove topped by rap. His raps cover a variety of concepts, but mostly span around themes of coming-to-age, love, pride, and indifference– this being juxtaposed with the danceability of his groove, make serious messages all more accessible to the average listener.

Since the beginning of his musical career, DUCKWRTH has emphasized experimentation and integration in his music. From the laidback DUCKTAPE, to his 2015 collaborative effort with the Kickdrums titled Nowhere, to his debut album, and his dramatic and more intense 2018 releases, “FALL BACK” and “SOPRANO,” -all of which are a part of his “UUGLY” brand. The “UUGLY” brand represents is creativity and authenticity, which is at the heart of DUCKWRTH’s music.

Listen to his debut album I’M UUGLY and the mixtape an XTRA UUGLY mixtape featuring the songs here.

Advertisements

LMK (What’s Really Good Remix)

(Written By Miguel Anderson)

As we watch two rap superstars, Nicki Minaj and Cardi B, engage in a full fledged battle over who is a better rapper, they have left the arena empty for female empowerment. The fighting has forced the masses to pick sides, and as a result, crowds have pit the two artists against each other. Fans and non-fans alike have compared their bars, sales, and reputations and used this as a tool to tear them down.

Back in the 90s, there was a strong unity between female rappers. They coexisted with each other, often sharing the stage. In 1994, Lil’ Kim released “Not Tonight (Ladies Night Remix),” which was a testimate to it; the song featured Missy Elliott, Angie Martinez, Da Brat, and Lisa Lopes, all of who were amazing female rappers. Thinking back, this was a landmark moment in hip-hop history that celebrated females in a male dominated industry. It’s something that’s not apparent in today’s rap landscape despite the fact that we have a vast amount of female rappers who are in the spotlight, but not supportive of each other. This goes to show that now more than ever, rap is in a state where it needs more female empowerment, especially since the last big female rap reunion song was released more than twenty years ago.

“LMK (What’s Really Good Remix)” is the solution to our long awaited call for female empowerment: the song brings together some of the most polarizing and demanding figures in rap today who celebrate each other to deliver an anthem. The ladies call out the men who exploit them when picking them up, telling listeners how someone should pick them up. The song reads well in the club or on a tinder profile. With that said, it’s the girls night out we’ve all been waiting for. These ladies build up their attitudes and agenda, spitting slick raps and verses along a smooth and slick rework of the original “LMK.” They all show their best moments with Junglepussy leading the way with a killer verse: Junglepussy teases whoever might pursue her or not, taunting, “You could sleep on me but then you’ll see me in your dreams / You will never leave me, you my BRB / You’ll be back crawlin’ right back on your ashy knees like please.” Then it turns to the other girls, with Princess Nokia rapping “Will you let me know if you’re riding with?”, CupcakKe demanding that she’s not “looking for Cupid,” and Ms. Boogie stating, “I make the rules so they obey me.” These girls push the most powerful messages and call out the issues surrounding female empowerment across all platforms, not only that, but they push this message together. For a rap crisis, “LMK (What’s Really Good Remix)” saves the day.

All The Work

(Written by Miguel Anderson)

The subject of loss is nothing new to Amber Mark. Her debut EP, 3:33AM was an ode to it. The EP focused on her sorrowful emotions and journey coping with her mother’s death. Just like 3:33AM focuses on loss, so does her latest EP, Conexão. Conexão centers around a relationship that started off with high hopes but eventually failed. However, rather than concentrate on the grief and sulk in the loss it brought, Conexão shifts focus to the victory Amber finds to embrace after fully coming to terms with her loss. The track “All The Work,” full of groove and spunk from her latest, exemplifies this victorious feeling.

“All The Work,” embedded in sophisticated loose cuts of house and bossa nova, is Amber pushing past personal boundaries that have kept her silent and instead, offers a different narrative to her music that is eager to be heard. She flaunts her pain created by her ex and turns it into courage that allows the listener to engage with her story. From the beginning of the song, Amber makes it clear that she has been hurt, cooing, “I have cried many miles worth of tears / Damn well tried, I gave up all these years.” Then, the house beat kicks in, letting her newfound bravery unfold. Amber sings, “Now that I, I put in all the work / Down in all the dirt / You want to try, to say that you and I / Should get back to how we were.”

Here, Amber is simply reminding him of all the work she has done to uphold the relationship, and now that the relationship is in danger, he wants her back, to which Amber replies, “I’ve moved on.” The punchy percussion aids her story and grants her to lay down her unpleasant experience in the relationship with authority and force. The beat adds emotion to the words where you can feel the intensity of her displeasure. She channels victory with these words, her realization, puts her on the opposite side where she is no longer being mistreated, instead now she is empowered by her words. This feeling of empowerment is the best aspect of the song, as it allows the listener to let go of all the bad that has happened and enjoy what they have achieved on their own. Amber does it too, In the final phase of the song, she lets the hammer fall down singing, “All of a sudden, I’m all you need.” This being the outro to Conexão, represents how things have changed since the start of her unhealthy one-sided relationship. She speaks with unforgiving confidence from now on, no longer miserable. Letting go of him, she allows herself and the listener to partake in her success and endurance.

 

Listen to Conexão here.

 

love4eva

(Written by Miguel Anderson)

As LOONA (stylized as LOOΠΔ) continues to solidify themselves as K-Pop’s most talented acts who have the presence and ability to compete in the fast-paced and saturated industry, they continue to distinguish themselves amid the competition.

It’s known that K-Pop is a fast-paced business. Companies spew out a catchy song along with a heavily choreographed dance to a group each month, so little time is taken out towards creating a quality song. However recently, LOONA has been breaking this routine, or at least moving past the ever so basic pop song. You can date this to the start of LOONA’s debut process, where each girl of the 12-member group has released an amazing song that veers past a catchy melody every month. Each song, true to the identity and character of each girl, shows its powerful abilities in singing and rapping. The songs come fully equipped with top notch vocals, amazing productions, and aesthetic visuals that go beyond what the K-Pop industry has been accepting for the past decade.

“love4eva” by their sub-unit LOONA yyxy is no different from this. The unit, consisting of Yves, Olivia Hye, Chuu, GoWon has made a joyful splash into the K-Pop world with the help of experimental pop artist Grimes. It’s fitting that Grimes and LOONA have collaborated together. Both artists have created their own distinctive musical worlds that elevate each of their sound and style and they seem to fit perfectly with each other through this collaboration. Grimes helps introduce the girls into their “sweet” feelings and set the tone for the bubbly track as they analyze love’s emotions with confusion and ambition. “Love4eva” explodes with colorful synths and carries an energetic bouncy beat which is finally aided by an EDM dance break definitely inspired by Grimes’ experimental style. Having E-Tribe hands in production, the duo has churned out a cute tune for the girls that sounds both lively and classic, completing the debut process for each of the girls and introducing LOONA yyxy to the world.

 

My Dear Melancholy,

(Written by Miguel Anderson)

My Dear Melancholy, gives us a piece of what The Weekend once was, almost going back to the mystery man synonymous with Abel Tesfaye. This album uncovers the pop-facade that Abel has been hiding under and along the way, reveals secrets.

Since The Weeknd landed a spot as one of the biggest pop stars in recent history, his evolution from explicit R&B singer to pop star has been somewhat disastrous; dead ends and false hopes have pervaded his growth at almost every turn. This route started when he first popped up onto the scene with his three mixtapes that presented a bruised world surrounding themes of drug use, lustful experiences, and self-hate. Soon after this, false hopes start to appear on his debut, Kiss Land. It was a lackluster performance, considering that the Weeknd pursued a topic typical for a debut, as most of it revolved around the idea that fame changed things. Although his breakout produced some of his best work released as The Weeknd, like “Tell Your Friends,” it also produced his most pop-formulaic songs, such as “Can’t Feel My Face” and “In The Night.” Lastly, On Starboy, his persona fully transformed and so did his sound; it was now fully studded with an electro-R&B flair and this is where it suffered the most, a major pitfall for conforming to pop’s electronic infatuation.

Despite the disappointing change he made on StarboyMy Dear Melancholy, marks a move towards darker sounds and opens the door for a more vulnerable narrative, and in The Weeknd’s case, it marks a change for the better, a change that still manages to keep The Weeknd at his most interesting. The truth is that, The Weeknd didn’t soar to extraordinary heights on Starboy where he went full fledged into his newly refined R&B-electronic image. My Dear Melancholy, lets us know that the extraordinary heights that he put in place on Beauty Behind the Madness and in the Trilogy series are still in reach and the reaches towards those heights sound amazing on this album.

The Weeknd picks up where he left off on Beauty Behind The Madness, continuing to deliver his dark bruised world. However, what makes My Dear Melancholy, different is the fact that so much emotion and vulnerability is poured onto this breakup album. It sounds perfect for post-breakup sulk and relief, given that the album comes flooding with dark brooding synths and many pleas as he sulks in regret and realization. “Call Out My Name,” sets the scene for the album: The Weeknd is in a battle with himself, finding himself having to either indulge in past pleasures or move onto better things. He fights with his regrets, as he delivers several emotion packed punches and belts of notes, stating “You gave me comfort / But falling for you was my mistake,” over a sample of “Earned It,” that gathers intensity until he reaches his breaking point eventually pouring out: “So call out my name / Call Out my name when I kiss you so gently / I want you to stay.” “Try Me” sees Abel begging for acceptance after the two have parted ways; it may sound like a call to a fight, but it’s a call to home instead. He pleads with his ex to leave her current partner to “try him” one more time. Abel then moves past the relationship and accepts his regrets, sorrows, and states his goodbyes throughout the songs “Wasted Times,” “I Was Never There,” and “Privilege.” These three stand out as the most emotional in The Weeknd’s career and reintroduce his cloudy dark sound along with his vulnerable narrative. They embrace his past of substance abuse and his ominous production and you see Abel confront his feelings for the first time. “Wasted Times” sees The Weeknd starting to accept his regrets. Abel sings about substance abuse on “I Was Never There,” even acknowledging the use of it to ease the pain, stating “So, I posion myself again, again / ‘Til I feel nothing.” Finally, on “Privilege,” Abel states his goodbye by addressing the relationship first hand and how he is going to forget about it — he gives his action plan: “and I’ma fuck the pain away, and I know I’ll be okay,” coming to the conclusion that maybe love isn’t for him afterall.

Although My Dear Melancholy, is not a complete 180 turn around, nor so innovative as the Trilogy series, it does serve it’s justice putting him back right before his electro-studded Starboy, on the route where The Weeknd is at his most interesting. The outcome of it all is a cloudy emotional album that concludes that The Weeknd sounds best when he has experienced the worst.

Utopia

(Written by Miguel Anderson)

Björk is back with her “tinder” record that is a wound in the process of recovering. She is full of hope and newfound love, a departure from Vulnicura, the breakup record which marked the end of the inspiring (and die-hard) Vespertine era and her relationship with Matthew Barney. She starts anew on Utopia, inspired, optimistic, and hopeful for the future.

In 2001, Björk released Vespertine, an album that was a showcase of her strong-willed love for her then-new marriage with Matthew Barney. Vespertine captured the intimacies of love (“Pagan Poetry” & “Cocoon”) and covered the emotions felt being in love (“It’s Not Up To You” & “Hidden Place”) in lush expression and lyrical value. She sang with passionate raw emotion, sometimes describing explicitly what physicalities and emotions drew this special feeling. One could say that this is the Björk that was passionately in love. Now fast forward to 2015, to the breakup album Vulnicura. We see Björk take on themes of melancholy, sorrow, and sentiment as she recalls this breakup. She describes in prolific detail about it, taking note of every event and feeling covered that leads to the eventual split, including wanting to salvage the relationship once lost & questioning (“Stonemilker” & “Lionsong”), the final moments of intimacy (“History of Touches”), the dismantle of the family & rage felt (“Black Lake” & “Family”), and the confront of the sorrow and split altogether (“Notget”). She even added production play where the listener could hear the breakdown of the relationship with glitch-pop and swift changes in instrumentation, as tempos pick up and slow down again to display the intense emotions felt. This album single-handedly ended the Vespertine era, which was about love and lust, and was now overthrown by Vulnicura, an emotional plague of depression that opened a bittersweet wound full of gloom.

2017_Bjork_Press_241117-920x584.jpg

Now, Björk is facing utopia. Her open-chested wound has started to heal and transform into optimism, assurance, and hope. She is inspired, in love, an admirer and no longer in distraught. The first tracks of the album showcase an ode, one to display how far the wound has healed, giving off splendor, warmth, and love. Harps, light flute melodies, colorful grandeur synths, and vibrant animal noises cover every corner of Utopia to back up the song with vibrant colors and soaring sounds. Explosive splendor synths, chiseled cymbal paradiddles, and a mystical harp arrangement set the stage on “Arisen My Senses,” and for the rest of Utopia. “Just that kiss…” Björk sings in melody, “Was all there is.” she sings with a breathe, a song about the realization of love to all her senses. “The Gate”, “Utopia”, and “Body Memory” shows Björk for all what Utopia is at this moment, her wound healed. They find her at her best, assured and able to love again. “Features Creatures” calls Björk regaining her ability to love again once lost, bringing her sexuality and attraction to the front.

As the wound is continuing to recover, Björk still hurts. Darkness and the same breaks of glitch-pop and swift changes in instrumentation arise on Utopia. “Courtship” leads the listener up to this darkness, acting as a grand transition from the light & airy to the dark & suffered. It’s a fast tempo track with only a little air time to ventilate recalling her time with Barney once again as she did on Vulnicura. Themes of darkness then build out further on “Losss” and “Sue Me” as the past relationship with her ex still haunts her. Lyrics on these tracks take on themes of sentiment, assertiveness, and universal truth. “We all are struggling, just doing our best / We’ve gone through the grinder, suffered loss.” Björk sings on “Losss,” directly talking about the past detrimental Vulnicura. However, as Vulnicura and Barney hurt her so, she asserts herself in “Sue Me” finally regaining ground as she is no longer hurt. She demands Matthew, through a custody battle for their daughter Isadora, integrity and maturity; to step up to the plate to a fight she does not wish to take part in. She is found at her most vulnerable, the most powerful.

1440P7DL_1500x1500x.jpg

In the last final tracks of Utopia, Björk’s wounds have healed. She finds her utopia and shares her final hope for the future. Her utopia is revealed through her intricate relationship with music and nature; essential callings Björk has made clear album to album. Then, on “Future Forever,” a delicate ending, Björk shares a utopia where we can all take part in and does this using glimmery synths and organ-like chords to back her up, a future with endless possibilities. “Imagine a future and be in it.” she wisps calmly, forming her dream. A future that we can look forward to if we believe in it so, it can come true she forms. This pushes us to be optimistic and forward-thinking; Björk’s true wish.

Bane’s World: “Drowsy” Yet Alluring

(Written by Miguel Anderson)

Shane Blanchard, who refers to himself as “Bane’s World,” a nickname given to him by friends in High School, is an artist from Long Beach, California. Bane’s World has come into the indie music scene at no better time; with the scene not even reaching its peak yet, he has already secured his presence as an outstanding artist among his peers: Cosmo Pyke, Cuco, and Temporex, who all share similarities in style and sound.

Shane has been putting out music for about 2 years now but has already garnered attention from artists like Temporex, who he’s collaborated with, and Tyler, The Creator, who recently attended one of his shows and shouted him out on social media. He’s a small artist who has one full project out named Drowsy, a title that is fitting for an artist like him whose sound gives off a drowsy feel, an effect that is delivered through synth-heavy tunes and guitar strums. His music almost sounds as if it were recorded underwater, giving it a wavy-dreamlike vibe. Shane’s style consists of a blend of slacker rock, lo-fi beats, and blues. A comparison of sound would be HOMESHAKE, who isn’t really confined to the slacker rock or lo-fi style, just as Shane, but whose music blends both of these genres to create a style unique to him. Funny enough, in an interview with Lucid Dreams Magazine, Shane even lists Mac Demarco and HOMESHAKE as a dream collaboration — which is appropriate considering that they both have similar sounds. If you’re into the combination of mellow tunes, slacker rock, and lo-fi, there’s no doubt that you’ll love Banes World. “Drowsy,” his first musical project, is filled with sad sounding love songs that are best listened to on a summer night. You can find him on SoundCloud, where most of his work lives, Spotify, BandCamp, Apple Music, and most streaming sites.