Duckwrth talks new album ‘Supergood’


1824/ Universal Music Group

Jared Lee, known as Duckwrth, released his first studio album last week

South-Central L.A artist Jared Lee, known as Duckwrth, has been discreetly gracing his fans’ ears with a funky ‘70s sound through a series of mixtapes and EPs over the past decade. Through tours with Billie Eilish and Anderson .Paak, the rapper and songwriter was able to flex his musical identity as a soulful rapper on the biggest stages for the most contemporary audiences. Duckwrth is now ready to groove further into the mainstream without sacrificing even a verse of stylistic singularity with his debut album, “Supergood.”

Calling Duckwrth’s album “genre-bending” would seem initially accurate, but that completely misses the point. His clear and developed identity oozes through each song on the tracklist, painting the picture of a confidently triumphant creative who knows his music history. “Bending the genre” seems fickle, almost dismissive of the historical relevance and resonance that genres carry with them. 

Like any artist, his work is influenced by the music and art that raised him, from church gospel and Stevie Wonder to Outkast and The Neptunes. What Duckwrth realizes is that his unique life experiences and environments shape his stylistic diversity as much as any previously existing art can. It’s all relative to the final product, as “Supergood” sparkles with sexy flair and bouncy vibrance to create a fleeting, wholesome vibe. 

The album’s soothingly energetic vibe made perfect sense during a Zoom press conference with Duckwrth, where the transparency of his work shined through his answers as he sat on a park bench in the middle of sunlit Arizona. 

“It’s a rhythm project,” Duckwrth explains underneath a clear blue sky. “I want people to dance, bop and groove. It’s an album to play in the car, when you’re taking a shower, making love. I want it to be a lifestyle project. But there’s only so much that an artist can do. It’s up to the listener and how they interpret it.”

While the quote may read like it’s straight out of the 1970s, Duckwrth’s presence reflected this statement genuinely with his sunflower-orange hair, wired earbuds and jewelry that you just know has a fascinating story behind it. It felt like a mix of his life as much as his art, as Duckwrth discussed how he maintains authenticity in an industry plagued with meaningless, and sometimes dangerous trends.

“It’s a personal thing,” Duckwrth explained. “For me, I’m a creative overall. Anything I touch creatively I want to excel in. If I am going to be doing music, I want to be a healthy artist. A lot of artists are egotistical, drug abusers, physically abusive, with this whole rock-star lifestyle inevitably bringing their demise. There’s a way to portray a healthy artist, and that’s by being true to yourself.”

Being compliant with much of hip-hop’s normalized misogyny and immaturity has almost become a byproduct of consuming the genre’s content, as Duckwrth cleverly acknowledges this.

“A lot of music today is fast food, it doesn’t last long” Duckwrth said. “If I’m gonna’ be a rapper, I’m going to be as authentic as I can.”

“Supergood” pulls from funk, ‘90s hip-hop, soul, R&B and more genres, but it never tugs too hard. Everything flows with essence, which is the sign of an artist successfully developing their sound. What’s beneath this sound is a simplistically relatable narrative that provides ample support for the grooves and beats to sway on.

“From ‘An Xtra Uugly Mixtape’ to ‘The Falling Man EP,’ I was playing the character of this king that falls to his demise because he doesn’t know love,” Duckwrth explained. “This one’s about love, what happens when the character falls in love. The yin and yang to the fallen man… a lot of it has to do with me taking a girl out on a date. Different venues, different fantasies of her before we go on the date. It’s like a story you’re watching on Netflix. You may not be living in that story, but it’s a story to take you away from your current situation.”

The 1970s are an unapologetically huge part of Duckwrth’s soon-to-be signature sound. This is something that he respectfully acknowledges in more than just the musical aspect.

“The 1970s, especially for black people, was a time of celebration, as we just came out of civil rights and gained certain freedoms. When people start going back into who they are in their original essence, a bit of magic happens.” Duckwrth said with a smile. “That’s why you see such eclectic style in the ‘70s. We coming with the same energy in 2020.”

Duckwrth attentively admires the ‘70s despite growing up in the 1990s and 2000s, decades that had varying influences on his growth as both an artist and an individual. He makes ten-year spans appear as both artistic and nostalgic time-capsules, which includes the sometimes alluring danger of L.A.’s sunny days.

“In the ‘90s and 2000s, it was beautiful and sunny, the beaches always cracking,” Duckwrth gleefully reflected upon. “It’s like its own little weird utopia, but on the flip-side, there is a lot of trauma and gang activity in the ‘90s. A lot of my youth was spent trying to survive, whether it be ducking bullets or avoiding Bloods at school. By being raised in South Central L.A., it gave me a backdrop. When I deal with corporate America, I don’t take no BS. I learned how to survive ducking bullets and shit. It taught me the methods that I needed to get the things I needed to get as an artist, a man and a businessman.”

The assortment of sounds that decorate Duckwrth’s sonic environment is as integral to his creative output as the friends that are in his camp, with any piece of art being only as strong as its dedicated creators.

“I’m only as strong as the people around me,” Duckwrth stated. “It was a collective creation. A lot times, I wouldn’t be able to arrange a certain phrasing and my homegirl would find a better arrangement and I’ll put some spice on it. Like for production, I don’t produce but I hear something and my producers will know what to translate what I’m talking about.”

“Supergood” and Duckwrth’s electric positivity immediately contrasts today’s climate, with this being as intrinsic to his music as it is to his persona. The rapper had an introspective outlook when asked about racism and politics in 2020.

“Oh god,” Duckwrth chucked. “I feel that 2020 and Donald Trump, everything happens for a reason. If you zoom out of life and just look at earth for its history, I feel like a lot of racism was swept under the rug and was very passive. Sometimes it takes these energies, whether it be light or dark, to dig up the shit and show for face value what America really is. For so long, we treated it like we progressed. But America is just as racist as it was back in the day. Slavery still exists, just in the prison systems and consumerism.”

Just as music can be a very personable medium of entertainment, Duckwrth prefers a more intimate and local approach to politics and government. 

“To tell you the truth, I f–k with politics, but I also don’t because it’s corrupt,” Duckwrth explained. “I like more local politics and legislation. I got to see first-hand the problems in South-Central. If everyone looks at problems as a village, we will be able to uplift it. I’d like to save the world, but first I have to start with my community. I’m hoping that things will get better soon. America understands war and consumerism. So if you f–k with their pockets or fuck with their lives, that’s when you have their attention. Every storm is temporary and we will get through it. I’m happy that all the ugliness that’s been swept under the rug is now in our face so that we can deal with it, straight up.”

“Supergood” is out now and marks Duckwrth’s first studio album under Republic Records.