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.

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The Future of Pop (Pt. 1)

(Written by Ashley Flamenco and Miguel Anderson)

Pop has been a dominating genre in the music industry for decades from the rise of stars like Madonna in the 80s to Dua Lipa now. The pop world is constantly and rapidly expanding with artists who are willing to go outside of the box and are unafraid to experiment, taking on new unique styles of the genre. It’s because of artists like Rina Sawayama that pop music is possibly better than it’s been in a long time. Charli XCX recently created a playlist on Spotify known as “The motherfucking future,” the inspiration for this article. Her playlist highlights artists from 16-year-old prodigy, Billie Eilish, to Indie star, Clairo, who she believes are all the future of pop music — and we definitely agree with her. We not only want to recognize some of the artists from her list but in addition discuss some that we feel are missing — here are the artists who we believe are revolutionizing pop music:

 

Charli-XCX

Charli XCX

Today’s pop music is defined by innovation and fueled by breakups and partying. Charli XCX, one of the best musicians representing pop in this age, comes to embrace all three things. Over the span of her career, she has always been keen to adapting her style to the ever-changing taste of audiences worldwide. She’s come to understand what people like through songwriting for herself and others starlets such as Icona Pop, Camila Cabello, Blondie, and Selena Gomez. Now, from her experience, she is making her own pop. Her style has developed effortlessly since she came into the game, between synth-pop, rock, and now a mixture where electronic crosses with experimental, she continues to develop her sound that is full of pop sensibility and risks. These risks and experimentations, will further pop’s sound and make it more accessible to the general public. By opening the genre up to more sounds, she ultimately brings a bigger palette to pop music. – Miguel Anderson

 

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Rina Sawayama

Japanese-British musician, Rina Sawayama, brings an early 2000s nostalgia, maybe taking you back to the early days of Mariah Carey’s and Britney Spears’ careers, meanwhile transporting you to the future through her musical glitz. Her early 2000’s pop and R&B influenced music often touches on topics like (online) relationships, how the internet has changed our society, and the consequences that come with technology and social media in this age. “Cyber Stockholm Syndrome” off of Sawayama’s debut EP, RINA, particularly displays her fascination with these subjects, discussing how the line between falsehood and reality is often blurred due to apps like Instagram where people can easily paint untrue images of themselves (“Fiction/fact boundaries collide”). What’s so unique about Sawayama’s music is that not only does she implement styles that she loves from the past but she takes on a futuristic approach through both her electronic-pop sound and her insightful words about technology and its relation to social interaction in the modern world. – Ashley Flamenco

 

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88RISING

As the general interest in Hallyu and hip-hop rises, 88Rising, who has connections in both scenes, couldn’t have come into the spotlight at a better time. The group is simply taking advantage of all the fanfare. The group prides itself on being bold and eccentric, while keeping a style and sound that is consistently theirs. Their members include rap posterboy, Rich Brian; YouTube personality turned rapper and singer, Joji; colorful hip-hop quartet, Higher Brothers; sultry R&B singer-songwriter, NIKI; conscious and introspective rhymer, August08; and more who come together to make a loud statement with their music. 88Rising is the future of pop because they are already carving their own lane, boasting an inclusive community that not only welcomes Asians but all ethnicities and races as well. They’re always outspoken and willing to show their audiences something surprisingly new. Whether it be from conscious man August08 spitting thought-heavy rhymes or to the club party bangers of Higher Brothers or even to the fun and youthful Rich Brian, 88Rising is always something to look at. – Miguel Anderson

 

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Sky Ferreira

Sky Ferreira began gaining much attention in the music industry with the release of her EP, Ghost, in 2012, that includes her biggest hit to date, the drowsy, dream-like “Everything Is Embarrassing.” The following year, she released her debut, a 12-song pop-Rock gem titled Night Time, My Time. It’s been a lengthy five years since she’s last come out with original music however, with her small discography and fresh new sound, she still feels fairly new to the realm of pop and music in general. Ferreira has worked alongside producers like Dev Hynes AKA Blood Orange and Justin Raisen (who has worked with Charli XCX and Ariel Pink) to create her dreamy and almost grungy tracks. Electric guitar is the basis for most of her sound and it mainly provides the dark undertones in her music that result in her Rock style, something we don’t often hear being blended with pop. Early last month, Ferreira announced on Instagram that she will be dropping new singles soon and we are eager to see how her musical style has developed. – Ashley Flamenco

 

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SOPHIE

You can spot SOPHIE’s hyperpop industrial fingerprints everywhere in music. You’re bound to see her “hard-hitting” animated pop technique mimicked on every new pop, R&B, alternative, and electronic release. If you don’t see her style mimicked there, you’ll see her in the production credits of artists like Madonna, Vince Staples, Charli XCX, and Lets Eat Grandma. Her style of Pop is “high energy,” equipped with high-pitched vocals and punchy synths. Almost all of her songs sound like they came straight from a factory, giving them a very artificial and industrial feel. They play along the lines of enjoyable and utterly chaotic. One can argue that SOPHIE sounds like every other experimental pop artist today, however as SOPHIE does work closely with artists from A.G. Cook’s label, PC Music, SOPHIE doesn’t copy, she takes things up a notch instead, using thunderous bizarre sounds. She moves the style in an innovative way, fitting unconventionality to pop melodies and production that otherwise wouldn’t be there. As a result, her music is more lively and entertaining. Even hearing a single synth from her will send chills down your spine. – Miguel Anderson

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.

 

7 Albums To Kick Off Your Summer

(Photo by Louis Cano)

School has let out, responsibility has lessened, and it’s getting a lot hotter outside — summer is finally here!! To prepare you for the relaxation, love, euphoria and adventure that this season has to offer, we are sharing some albums to kick off your summer. For everything from barbecues to star gazing at night, we’ve got you covered. We hope you’re as excited for summer as we are!

 

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Mac DeMarco – 2

Mac DeMarco’s 2 will forever be an indie classic and especially an amazing one to listen to during the summer. Honestly, what Mac DeMarco album isn’t perfect for the summer though?? As most of his music, 2 has a way of making you feel nostalgic about those warm nights spent outside, those sunny days at the beach, all those concerts and music festivals you went to, and your summer crush, strangely even if you didn’t actually experience any of those things. The feel-good album is famous for its ode to Mac’s favorite cigarette brand, its sappy acoustic love songs like “Still Together,” and dreamy california-esque guitar riffs in “Freaking Out the Neighbourhood.” – Ashley Flamenco

 

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Wonder Girls – Why So Lonely

The Wonder Girls’ ability to channel summer so cast fully on Why So Lonely is an amazing feat itself, capturing the summer vibe with spot on friendly tunes. They draw from 60’s & 70’s psychedelic rock influences as well as reggae to deliver a fun colorful EP that boasts with charm as well as persona and presence. They leave us with their catchiest melodies to date that shine brightly on a perfect summer day. – Miguel Anderson

 

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Tame Impala – Lonerism

Lonerism takes you on a colorful psychedelic trip that you don’t want to end. Powerful drums, lush keyboard, and John Lennon-esque vocals drained out just enough by the sound are used in conjunction to transport you to a much brighter and happier world filled with imagination. With Kevin Parker’s outstanding production and through classic rock influences, each song is like a warm pop of color. Ideally you’re laying in the warm grass, watching the clouds while listening to this. – Ashley Flamenco

 

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The Avalanches – Since I Left You

No album is as transportive to summertime as Since I Left You. The infamous Avalanches record could take you to any summer scenario, just picture it. Envision the beach, the shady tree you were laying under, the family barbecue, the street party, and the hangouts with friends; just utter nostalgia. The warm sentiment is emphasized throughout the use of sophisticated samples layered upon each other. You get an obtuse mix of songs that match each other so wonderfully. You can get a simple 808 loop, a violin number, some synths, tropical beats, and magic voice samples that all fit together like the puzzle pieces to beautiful summer memories. The elaborate scheme is what makes Since I Left You the perfect record to play when you’re craving summer.

 

BANE

Bane’s World – Drowsy

Now, this isn’t your typical upbeat summer album; like the title suggests, it’s Drowsy — slow, nice and, mellow. It’s the type of album you listen to when you’re finally feeling at ease or you can’t get that special someone out of your head. Drowsy has this great way of depicting the freedom and liberation that summer brings through taking the relaxed route. The basis for most of the record is lo-fi guitar riffs combined with vocals that sound as if they were recorded underwater. And the infatuation filled lyrics only add to the melodiousness of Drowsy. This is definitely something you want to play at late night picnics at the park with your friends or with a date. – Ashley Flamenco

 

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The Growlers – Chinese Fountain

It should not be a surprise that the kings of Beach Goth made it onto this list. Any album by The Growlers will easily remind you of sunny days spent at the beach but Chinese Fountain does this best. The surf rock magic behind this album is great at portraying the dreamy and never-ending summer atmosphere that is often associated with California. If you’re ever driving down Sunset Blvd. on a hot day, this is the album you’ll want to play. – Ashley Flamenco

 

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Kanye West – Graduation

What kicks off summer better than a graduation ceremony? Kanye West’s Graduation replicates summer matched by the feelings at a graduation. While listening to the album, the listener is able to feel like they’re walking across the stage again. The feelings of accomplishment, empowerment, and achievement come back to the listener as they are pushed a tenfold by dreamy and colorful production. Anthems like “Stronger,” “Good Life,” and Champion” exude this energy, showcasing a simple story of rags to riches that anyone can reconcile with. – Miguel Anderson

 

Crush

(Photo from Atlantic Records)

(Written by Ashley Flamenco)

Crush is the R&B romance-filled work of soulful singer Ravyn Lenae and executive producer Steve Lacy. The record was released right on time, just a few days before Valentine’s Day.  It’s the perfect music to listen to, not only on the Day of Love but, if you’re in an amorous mood or in your “feels.” The collection of love ballads include Ravyn’s wide-ranged vocals and Steve’s groovy instrumentals, running through all the different types of love and relationships one can have and the passionate emotions felt in each of them.

The EP begins with its first and only single, “Sticky,” a song centering around one being glued to and unable to step away from a partner who treats them badly. This is otherwise known as a toxic relationship, which Ravyn describes as “sticky-icky.” The track is introduced by a hooking glide of a keyboard that is eventually accompanied by lo-fi guitar riffs that are obviously the work of Steve Lacy. Containing a disco-esque vibe and high-pitched vocals, “Sticky” is the most upbeat song on the record.

“Closer (Ode 2 U)” describes the feelings of infatuation that often come before a relationship and displays what it’s like to crush hard on someone and may be referring to the innocent puppy love that is typically felt among adolescents. The track is joined by sensual sounding guitar and contains a lot of passionate “woooos” and “whys” where Ravyn questions why she feels this burning “love.”

“Computer Luv,” one of two songs on the EP that feature Steve’s vocals, is about an intimate online long-distance relationship; both partners long to see and be with each other but at the same time question whether their feelings are true since the two have yet to meet in person. The two sing “when will I meet you/ I’m down to see you/ I wanna see you right now” in unison — their yearning and desire for each other are felt deeply through the Ravyn and Steve’s soft and passionate singing. Ending off  “Computer Luv” is a heartfelt voicemail from Ravyn’s online lover.

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Contrary to other tracks on the record that discuss relationships between two people, “The Night Song,” is a wonderful ode to the most important relationship: the relationship with yourself. It explores the fact that one’s happiness shouldn’t be relied upon someone else, as it explores being single and being content with oneself: “I wanna be no one but me/ And all I really need is my own company,” making “The Night Song” a sweet serenade to oneself.

The EP ends with “4 Leaf Clover,” where Ravyn and Steve sing back and forth to each other. The two converse, opening up about feelings of jealousy, fears of commitment and possibly ruining their close friendship. One partner trusts that a romantic relationship is meant to be between the them meanwhile, the other believes that it can only go wrong.

Whether you’re deeply infatuated with someone else or simply yourself, Crush, an affectionate work of art infused with passionate singing and funky yet amorous instrumentals, is a great record to listen to. And with both artists seemingly having similar visions with their sounds, Crush, although only consisting of 5 songs, has proven Ravyn Lenae and Steve Lacy to be a perfect duo.