“I’m just doing me and that’s the only thing I know how to do. I know one day that I want to be bigger than the legends that came before me. I want to be the biggest from the city of Memphis, which I will be very soon.”
Photo Credit: Cam Kirk
One of the best things about the feeling of nostalgia, is that it never seems to fade away. A previous time of happiness and joy that you felt in your life will remain in your mind for years and years to come, and whenever you’re reminded of it, you can’t help but smile. This is that exact feeling that I felt when I stumbled across Duke Deuce — the energetic, enthusiastic and entertaining artist out of Memphis Tennessee. Since emerging, Duke came in the game with a demeanor that can’t be duplicated or imitated, and it made it extremely hard not to be a fan of his. Most notably known for his hit single “Crunk Ain’t Dead”, its clear by watching the visual treatment for the record that Duke Deuce is having fun, enjoying what he does, and is here with the sole mission of resurrecting one of the best eras in Hip-Hop history–Crunk Music.
Being someone who was born in the early 90’s and grew up in the 2000’s , it was hard to listen to any radio station or watch any music channel without hearing Lil Jon the & The Eastside Boys, 8 Ball & MJG, and Three 6 Mafia all over the place. These were a few of the legends leading the charge pf the Crunk Music wave that would go on to influence many artists today. Duke Deuce being from Memphis, it was only right that he carries on that torch and reignites that flame of Crunk Music and introduce it to a brand new crown who may not even have heard of it in the first place. It’s always inspiring to see artists who land in the realm of the middle children of rap–those who are young enough to still shine with the younger crowd, yet old enough to remember and pay homage to those before us.
Intrigued by the story that Duke Deuce has created thus far in his career, I was excited to chip it up with him on Zoom about his career thus far, the Memphis music scene, his brand new album DukeNukem, future endeavors and more. Read out conversation below and be sure to check out Duke’s latest project Duke Nukem below!
LL: You’re now a couple of years in the game, and your career has been going up since you came in. How much has your life changed since you first started to make a name for yourself?
DUKE: Man, my life has completely changed, like a whole 360. I didn’t have my own place at first, so I got me a nice house to live in. Got me a Hellcat, actually my second Hellcat at that. I’ve just been overall getting used to actually being a rapper and everything that comes with it.
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LL: One thing that I love about your music, is that it’s a revival on that classic Memphis sound that came out years ago. Who are some of your musical influences and who helped you be the artist that you are today?
DUKE: Me being from Memphis, you know I fuck with Three 6 Mafia of course—all of the legendary artists. I give a lot of credit to my Momma and my Dad, my sisters. Shit—my whole family really. They were the ones that helped me come up with the name Duke Deuce. That classic southern sound was always just my favorite sound and my favorite music coming up as a kid. That was what I heard the most and ended up being what I loved, and that was the music that I wanted to create.
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LL: Memphis is the home of legendary artists such as Three 6 Mafia, 8 Ball & MJG, Project Pat and Yo Gotti–Do you feel any sort of pressure on your career being from a city that developed so many heavy hitters in the game?
DUKE: I don’t feel any pressure really. Not at all. Shit, I’m just doing me and that’s the only thing I know how to do. I know one day that I want to be bigger than the legends that came before me. I want to be the biggest from the city of Memphis, which I will be very soon.
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LL: We’ve been seeing a lot more artists come up out of Memphis recently which is amazing—Do you think there is anything else that the Memphis music scene is missing that could really propel you all to the top of the game?
DUKE: That’s a really good question. I guess you could say Memphis is really missing that infrastructure to really get the music out there and push it out more. But at the same time, that’s what we do on social media right now anyways. Social media can handle a lot of that. We just getting used to using it more for that.
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LL: You’re very invested in giving back to others, especially in your own city of Memphis. What are some of the things you’re involved in the city?
DUKE: I did one of the Back To School drives a couple of years ago. I couldn’t do it last year because of the pandemic and all of that. I did create the Soldiers Steppin’ Challenge and gave back to the kids—they needed a new studio to dance in. I gave them the opportunity to win this cash and they won, and now they’re about to open up a new studio back in the neighborhood I come from which is Black Haven. I didn’t have anything like that coming up in the city when I was a kid. It’s just so much different now. Back then, it really wasn’t too many people getting on from the city outside of the legends, you feel me. Sometimes people didn’t get a long, and some people still don’t get along ‘til this day. But it’s a lot different now—you got all types of people that can help now. It’s better.
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LL: Seeing as a lot of people from the city may have come from the same background, what do you think was stopping people from coming together and putting on for the community?
DUKE: A lot of people have their own reasons for it. Some of the shit be way too deep to touch up on because I’m over here and they’re over there. You can hear one side of the story, but you may not hear the other side. Some people may have some pride shit going on, so I wouldn’t really know to be honest. Hopefully someday, I can take on that role and become an OG for some of the young kids in the city.
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LL: We’re coming up on about a year into the pandemic, and I think that it affects people differently. How has the pandemic affected you?
DUKE: It affected me in some good ways and some bad ways as well. Of course it slowed down the music money or whatever. But then again, it gave me that chance and that opportunity to start looking at things differently and start focusing on my business more. I have a brand now, Duke Deuce Enterprises LLC. We got some major moves on the way, man.
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LL: What are some of the things you’re working on for your brand?
DUKE: I’ve been investing in the cannabis business—I got my own strand coming called “Duke Skywalker”. I also got some fashion things in conversation right now as well. I can’t really say too much about it until some things get settled, but it’s definitely coming.
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LL: On the remix of “Crunk Ain’t Dead” you got features from Lil Jon, Juicy J and Project Pat. Tell me a bit about how that collaboration came about.
DUKE: Pee from QC really played a big part in setting that up for me. I got Project Pat and Juicy J on it myself because I was connected with them already, and he went out and got Lil Jon on it. My first project Memphis Massacre, I had Project Pat on there. I can’t quite remember how I got connected with him, or if it was through somebody or Instagram or some shit.
Duke Deuce recruits southern legends Lil Jon, Juicy J & Project Pat for the “Crunk Ain’t Dead (Remix”.
LL: You sampled “If You Ain’t From My Hood” by Project Pat on this record too. How was that process getting it cleared and approved for you to rap on?
DUKE: Shit, with the team that I have, it was easy—it ain’t take no time at all. I got some more shit in the tuck of some classic shit that I remade. I don’t wanna speak on it right now because then the fans gonna be pressing me and shit.
Project Pat provided Duke Deuce with the blessing to use his beat “If You Ain’t from My Hood”.
LL: Do you preview a lot of snippets on Instagram? If so, do the fans give you a lot of pressure to drop all the time?
DUKE: I used to preview snippets all the time. I learned my lesson from that though. My fans be on my ass about that shit man. They just want it drop as soon as they hear it. They forget about the music that you have out right now whenever you preview some new music and be like “what is this? We need this to drop now!”. My fans can’t ever get enough.
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LL: I think with that, sometimes I think the fans can be a little bit entitled to the music and want it all now but forget that some artists don’t release that way. Are you someone who values quality over quantity?
DUKE: I always want to deliver top quality at all times. If you fall into that trap of that entitlement and you drop whenever they want you to drop and they don’t like it, now it’s time for a completely different conversation. Now you’re starting to slow down and you’re about to fall off. Quality over quantity always.
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LL: You’re fresh off the release of your album Duke Nukem. Tell me a little more about that title and how this album came about?
DUKE: The title itself actually came from my partner Blvck Sun—he’s a producer. He was like “Aye Duke, you need to make a tape called Duke Nukem and put nothing but bangers on there”. I remember him saying that a couple of years ago, so I was like shit, let me go ahead and do that now. It’s time. In the process of doing the album, I was just working hard—I didn’t really feel any pressure about it at all. As we got closer to the release date, I started getting anxious, like I couldn’t wait anymore. I was just like man; it’s been a minute since my last drop—I know they’re waiting on me. I was just anxious and hoping that they eat this project up because I put my heart and soul into this one. Some of my favorite joints on the album are “Back 2 Back”, “Army”, the “GRRR” joint is super hard too.
LL: You put a lot of emphasis into your visuals for your songs, and I can tell you enjoy shooting them as well. What are some songs form the project that you’re excited to shoot visuals for?
DUKE: Defintiely the “GRRR” record. “Toot Toot” with Young Dolph—gotta shoot that one for sure. “Gangsta Party” with Offsett would be hard too.
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LL: You came in the game under the QC label, and that’s home to a lot of today’s superstars in the game. How did that relationship with QC come about and how has it been being signed to Coach Q and Pee?
DUKE: It’s amazing being signed to them. I came in the game under Offset originally, and he brought me into speaking with Q and Pee. We have been going crazy ever since that day. One of the best things I learned from them was just staying on these people’s necks when it comes to this music shit. Nothing was ever sweet when I came on the team either. Nobody was holding my hand or anything like that—I had to get in there and work. My team and I are so used to being independent and doing everything on our own, sometimes we move a little too fast, but QC got me right. I saw a fan say something one time and it was like “Duke you only got on because you’re signed to QC”, and I’m just like man these people really don’t know the half of it. Pee told me straight up like “I don’t want nobody to say that I did it for you, or this person did it for you. I want the people to say Duke did it himself”.
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LL: Your label heads are real entrepreneurs on top of being amazing executives, and I’m sure they’re speaking to you about business outside of music. What are some of the other things you have going on outside of music?
DUKE: I’ve thought about it all. Movies, acting, all of that. For the time being, I’m just taking baby steps and easing my way into everything. I’ve accomplished a lot in these past few months, so the sky is the limit. Whatever comes my way, if it’s working out, then we gonna rock. I’m new in the game but I don’t feel like a rookie right now. I feel like I’m right around that Pro area right now and still working my way up. I recently signed with Motown and those people be working for real. We have a real family type of relationship.
LL: That’s amazing to hear because a lot of artists today are either for labels or against them. What’s been their impact on your career since signing with them?
DUKE: Work. It’s all the right work though. They got me on point though, so it feels good. Like I was saying earlier, my team was so used to being independent and doing our own thing, but now with the label it’s like “nah Duke we got it all taken care of for you”. I feel like I can really focus better now, and that’s what all artists need. They need time to focus on their creativity and keep their mind clear.
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LL: When it’s all said and done, what do you want the world to remember Duke Deuce for?
DUKE: They have to remember me as the guy who brought Crunk Music back. They have to remember me as the fat legendary dancing n*gga [laughs]. I got a lot to be recognized for. Just wait until this new shit drop. The people gonna remember me as the Crunk Star. Just keep that name in your head. My fans are all Crunkstars too. Just wait—the world will see soon.
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