Duckwrth is here to make sure you’re feeling SuperGood. Aptly titling his latest project this name, the Los Angeles native creates his own unique blend of vibrations equipped with healing power and bops you can dance to. Describing himself as “a creator, a black man, and a dreamer,” real name Jared Lee proves the sky is limitless when it comes to his artistry.
His sound can be defined as soul rhythm, blending the likes of R&B, soul, and electronic dance music into one melting pot. It was in high school where “every kid thinks they’re a rapper,” but in college Duckwrth started rapping with his brother and realized this was his end-be-all. He states, “In college is when I found out I could live off of it, versus it being a fun dream. I could actually do this.”
In addition to consistently feeding his fans with critically-acclaimed projects, from 2015’s Nowhere to 2019’s The Falling Man EP, Duckwrth has been keeping busy in the realms of film, television, brand campaigns, and more. One of his biggest sellings points arrives in his live shows, touring and shutting down stages all across the world.
With his debut album SuperGood officially out, a 16-track project featuring Jean Deaux, EARTHGANG, Kylie Dion, he makes it a point to celebrate black music altogether. “If this album can remind you of a time where you believed in magic, then I’ve done my job,” he explains.
Flaunt caught up with Duckwrth via Zoom to discuss his upbringing in Los Angeles, recording SuperGood before quarantine, studio essentials, touring, and goals!
Being from South LA, how does that play into your life and career?
Here in my neighborhood, I was watching the old school cars drive by playing old school music like Marvin Gaye, The S.O.S. Band, Snoop Dogg, Nate Dogg, Warren G, Mack 10, DJ Quik. Hearing that music outside, the residence of South Central became my backbone of soul and funk. I remember the old school cars like Cadillacs and Impalas.
Debut album SuperGood out now! How you feeling?
I feel very relieved, I’ve been holding onto this since January. We recorded all those 16 songs in January, so the rest of the months have been trying to stay alive. [laughs] We’ve been working on transitions, making sure everything is at its best. Everything was recorded in January except for EARTHGANG, that’s the only one that wasn’t recorded in the studio.
How was it recording before quarantine?
We got to experience that joy of “BC,” before COVID. [laughs] That last month. It was definitely like a portal, a pocket of energy. Everything happened so naturally. Every day, we’re making a new song. I was inviting different homies, different friends, different producers, different writers. It was amazing, I still can’t believe we got it all done in a month. I was fasting, so I wasn’t smoking, drinking, or having sex. Got to really focus on my energy, that helped too.
How did you make it through the fast? Especially during quarantine.
I had a goal, something I really wanted. If I have a goal and the intention, it’s not hard. Maybe after when I’m chillin’, I have to think about all these different things. No smoking, no drinking, no meat, and no sex. The hardest part was the meat and sex, but when you want something so bad, you’re going to do everything to make sure this works out.
I saw your post that said “7 years in the making, but made it in a month.”
Yeah, because I actually made a project called SuperGood in 2013. It was too ahead. I still wanted to make this brave energy I had in this previous album, but shape it more for today’s sound.
What’s the meaning behind the cover art?
The inspiration of the album was a lot of Michael [Jackson], Marvin Gaye, Earth, Wind & Fire, Stevie Wonder, Blue Magic. A lot of those older sounds from the 70’s and 80’s. They all have this certain creative magic to them, or fantasy I guess. It’s this certain tone of black fantasy like when you watch The Wiz with Diana Ross. I was trying to capture that in the cover, plus with Marvin Gaye as the repeated thing with the glare and the sparkles.
“Quick” is such a vibe. Who or what inspired this one?
Me and my friend Danny Shyman were in the studio, he brought his African drums and his guitar. We were jamming. He had me on the drums, which was really tight. We’re playing and recording everything. We found a loop we really liked on drums. He got his guitar out and played this old West African melody [mimics melody]. I said “bro that’s amazing.” We recorded that and sat on it for a couple days. I had my other homies come in, a group called Two Fresh. We played them a couple things we did, they really liked that one. From there, we turned on Missy Elliott and made “Quick.” [laughs] The whole vibe was mixing this West African sound with R&B and hip-hop, making it work.
“Coming Closer” is a sexy record, how was bringing that visual to life?
Everything was inspired from the 70’s and 80’s, or 2000’s funny enough. We’re watching D’Angelo videos. With his video “Untitled,” it’s very close and vulnerable because he’s naked. It’s dark and only lit in the front, so mixing that type of feeling with disco vibes. My friend Amanda Frezar is the main girl, she has this very Apollonia black 70’s glam look. She had to be in this.
What’s one thing you want fans to get from the project?
To feel SuperGood, I put the intention in the title. Especially in this year of craziness, I want people to press play and find a pocket of joy. Something to feel good. Something you can dance around to, shower to, drive to, skate to, make love to.. all that.
3 things you need in the studio?
Visuals for sure. I need keys. I write keyboard progressions, chords. 2 mics. Neumann TLM 103 is really great for higher vocals, I have a higher pitch. The other is this blue mic, Shure SM7, that Michael recorded “Thriller” on. That’s really good for capturing big vocals. Also maybe a Red Bull.
What did you learn from opening for Billie Eilish and Anderson Paak?
I see myself as a colosseum or arena artist, so that came full circle. It was the first taste of what it feels like to perform in an arena. It taught me how to perform in an arena, not just performing for 500 down here but performing for everybody up here [hand gestures up]. The 5000 going this way, and the other 5000 in the nosebleeds. Her shows go 20,000. Being able to perform for bottom, middle, and top level, it’s different. It’s tight.
Are you bummed you can’t perform this album right now?
Very bummed, but it‘s giving me time to figure out what that’s going to look like. This is a very performative album, so I can’t pull the same tricks. I really have to figure out what the setting’s going to be, what the innovation we’ll use as far as settings, props, sound. Who the breaks are going to be, what lighting’s going to be, what the overall sound’s going to be. It’s going to take a lot of different pieces, taking time to find something new. We’re doing a virtual performance we’re selling tickets for, it’s going to be a whole new experience. It’s forcing us to be a bit innovative. I want to take that energy for when we’re able to perform, make that shit insane.
Where do you get your fashion inspo?
Recently, my style inspiration has been Dennis Rodman. Michael [Jodan] and Dennis Rodman have been inspiring my life right now. Dennis Rodman and I share the same birthday, I know that n*gga. That makes a lot of sense.
How does Michael Jordan influence you?
Michael Jackson is the music and performance, Michael Jordan is the drive and fire. Watching him, he’d find a reason to get pissed off. They’d beat the Bulls, go up to Michael and say “good game.” He’d take that and be like “what?!” He’d do whatever he needs to do, whether that’s training or practice, then in the next game whoop them. That’s his way of getting victory in whatever way. You need that drive and motivation, just that fire. I really like that. Overall if you want success, you really have to work for that shit consistently. Even right now, the album’s dropped. Mainly I’ve been thinking about where I’m going to go sound-wise from here.
Goals for yourself at this point of your career?
To make something great. My biggest goal being an artist is making something that’ll make a person feel that “ah” feeling, like “damn this is really crazy.” One of those feelings is when the “This Is America” video came out. That’s a very undeniable moment for rap or music. That energy only comes every so once in a while, when something catches us. I’m always looking for a way to shock people or convey any type of emotion. If I was a visual artist with a gallery show, how can I make a person love this? How can I make a person hate this? How can I have people have a conversation about this? I want to start conversation. Also a Grammy would be nice.
What’s it going to take to get a Grammy?
That’s one of the top ones. Whether I get it or don’t get it, it being a Grammy makes me go hard. That’s my Michael Jordan drive, you have to go hard.
Anything else you’d like to let us know?
SuperGood is out, go get that. Go listen to it, go dance!