// Photography courtesy of @reemlovette
At the core of any great artist exists the innate ability to reinvent oneself. Adjacent to reinvention exists adaptability, and setting the basis for both exists the concept of identity. Whether it be musically or individually, this solid foundation is what leads us to support the artists we know and love.
Chicago-bred talent, Lucki, has been developing his creative identity since the 2013 release of his debut mixtape, Alternative Trap, at age 16. Defined by a backbone of atmospheric production and otherworldly, slow-burning instrumentals, his legacy remains embedded in the air of Chicago’s prosperous rap scene, taking shape as a perpetual smoke that never seems to fully air out.
The fact of the matter is that Lucki challenges the course of direction that a rapper is meant to move toward. His career has seen creative highs of reinvention and sonic innovation just as well as mental lows, management changes, personal challenges, drug problems, and every other obstacle that you can think of. Lucki is a fighter at heart, and while he’s still able to see the light of day even through all of the crossfire, it should come as no surprise that the Chicago representative has seen and expressed the wounds of a veteran. He’s young in age but old and insurmountably wise in the mind, speaking on life in ways that wrinkle the lines between imagination and reality. Lucki escapes and returns his own world in a free-form, but the constant that can never be taken away is his ever-present, unwavering sense of soul, regardless of what the damage may be.
The magic of this kind of artist is the way that he creates art devoid of any set expectations. Lucki’s catalog is able-bodied in a sense that encourages experimentation and never strays too far from home, noting an ingrained concept of self that weathers through the storm and never totally diminishes. Lucki withstands the tests of time and struggle, passing both assessments with a deepened grasp of reality and escape — two unique feelings which, in the case of his captivating storytelling and intelligible perspective, can sometimes occur, two at once.
Accordingly, the purpose of this article is to reflect on each body of work that we have received from Lucki so far. He’s the light that refuses to burn out and the face that, even when he needs a break, always returns to turned heads and an attentive audience. The world resonates with Lucki’s cracked smile and admittedly imperfect frame, crafting a flawed hero who doesn’t demand your attention, but grabs it with a sense of effortlessness that denotes the mark of a master storyteller. It is with this, that Lucki is eternal.
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Alternative Trap was Lucki’s wide-eyed introduction to the world. Over a backdrop of ethereal instrumentals and boundary-pushing, futuristic sonic direction, he described a rapidly-moving planet in ways that seemingly stopped time. Lucki’s style was doused in a profound wisdom that ran far beyond his years, and in full, he created a world of alternative perspectives and painfully vivid storytelling that listeners couldn’t compare to anyone else.
For greater context, around the time of Lucki’s debut, the country was watching Chicago birth the foundation of its unstoppable, fearless wave of drill music, and while his peers scared suburban moms and entranced listeners, Lucki took his artistry in a different direction and decided to create an adaptation of rap that it’s hard to say anyone saw coming. He was and always will be, a natural storyteller with the crowd on the edge of their seats, and even more than this, he’s just a kid from a tough city looking to survive. Alternative Trap was impulsive yet mature, getting by at all costs necessary. It questioned the ability of a flower to bloom from the concrete, simultaneously providing an answer that refuses to stray from anything other than pure honesty. Lucki never seemed to long for fame or riches, but instead for inner peace. Looking back, this tape marked the beginning developments of a misunderstood star — a refreshing, beautiful sight to watch.
If anyone thought Alternative Trap was a stroke of luck, then Body High arrived to disprove the theory. Lucki presented yet another culmination of mesmerizing soundscapes and heavenly instrumentals, using thinly-strung lines of thought to transport listeners deep into the Chicago upbringing that Lucki grew through. At a young age, he had seen more than many people will see in their entire lives, and he wasn’t afraid to express this compromised innocence. Rather than following the trends of the industry and showing off the money and luxury that the trap life can yield, Lucki decided to look into the weathered face, fragile hands, and deepened eyes of a junkie, relentlessly illustrating the moral conflicts that come with the life of a drug dealer. On songs such as “197 Trap Talk” he proclaims the thesis of his rhymes, squeezing out the powerful words:
“God, no rap no lie, ’cause I been ruining some lives
And sellin’ it for the low, and they been buying it for highs
Oh well, I know it’s selfish but my pockets need they help.”
Lucki was fighting for survival with the attention of the world on his back, choosing to depict the grime of his labor over the fruits that it bore. He healed himself in moments of darkness and brought an entirely new dimension of perspective to trap, creating a body of work that will forever go down as a turning point in his own extension of trap music. X was proof that his inimitable way with words were going to be around for a while.
X was the tape that provided cement proof as to how smart Lucki is. Openly and freely, he admitted to being the in-and-out-of-reality “low life” that some painted him as, but he was also sure to note that he was a character whose soul ran far below the surface. Lucki was a high that refused to come down, suspending internal struggles in a celestial light as he threatened their blows with the numbing effects of drug-dominated vices. X is energetic, but it finds a dangered solace on the microphone in ways that only a year prior, Lucki might not have been able to articulate so skillfully.
He was growing into a transformative phase of both sonic and lyrical direction, and right in front of the world, he exhibited an attitude fearless of consequences yet needing of a hiding spot, away from the stresses of the world. Little did Lucki know, while he spoke on saving himself, he ended up saving a generation of hopelessness along the way. Lucki was, and still is, essential and important, even while removed from reality and floating in a sky-full of Xanax clouds. Nevertheless, X doesn’t sugarcoat these obstacles by any means, making it one of the most honest moments we’ve heard in Lucki’s career to date.
At its core, Freewave represents a creative high for Lucki, seemingly free of outside pressures. His lyricism was growing inimitably vivid as he crooned over hard-nosed instrumentals, and it reminded listeners of his author-like way with words that painted such foreign concepts in a familiar light, ready for anyone to listen even while it wasn’t commercially packaged quite so. One freestyle after another, this tape told us of a rebellious newcomer in the rap world, who did things on his own terms without any hint of conformity that could touch his soul. Lucki was one step ahead of his peers like a track star who didn’t break a sweat during his runs, and if not anything else, fans could rest assured with this one that Lucki would be Lucki, regardless of the expectations or outside influence.
Freewave trudges through the neck-high muddy water and comes out alive. It’s exuberant without trying and charismatic in the most natural of ways. It doesn’t fit the mold of a rapper that people might expect, but instead bends the boundaries and finds comfort in an obscure place. It’s as true-to-self as it gets.
The way that I always saw Son of Sam was an exploration of Lucki’s supernatural side. It’s spaced-out, increasingly abstract, and ominous in sound, chasing a darkness of space that wanders in the exact opposite direction of whatever popular rap trends you can think of. Lucki, in this period of time, was a character who spoke for himself and consequently, was able to resonate with a generation of people, taking fans behind the curtains and showing them the full, brutally honest extent of his life as an artist and a human. As heartbreakingly beautiful, mistrusting, and lonely as it gets, Son of Sam follows a path of drug-induced creativity, soundtracking addiction and sprawling highs.
It’s hard to listen to at times, but by expressing his loss of control in a situation where many people struggle to find their voice in the first place, you can’t help but appreciate the way that Lucki is able to see the error in his ways and at the very least, find an outlet. This is the kind of tape that moves forth as reckless and hopelessly as possible, but it’s also the kind of tape that some people need to hear in the hardest of times. Son of Sam defines artistry by detaching from reality, and it does so in an unforgettable way that truly embodies longevity. Many people criticize rap for glorifying drug use, but here, Lucki is doing the exact opposite, taking listeners on every part of the rollercoaster of addiction, highs, and lows along the way. Son of Sam is doomed by its own nature.
“Cause it get cold in the summer when you just alone
And xans, and percs, won’t answer your phone.
You just by yourself… you just by yourself
You just in your room, waiting for that ruin
Waiting for that doom, you just in your room
Can’t find yourself, can’t find the room
Where is home now, where is home now”
Where the first Freewave left off, Freewave II picked right back up. The tape is featureless, watching Lucki go full throttle on 10 different instrumentals, all of which are unique and addictive in their own ways. It’s imperfectly perfect, using Lucki’s metaphorical ways and unrivaled storytelling to illustrate innate flaws and the pursuit of finding oneself. Most notably, the artwork for this project is a lean-induced adaptation of Nirvana’s Nevermind cover, which honestly holds to be quite authentic, as it paints pictures of life in ways that are stylistically different from that of the legendary band, but similar in the way they aim to impact a given listener.
Freewave II is as unapologetically and simply great as it gets, and while Lucki’s career has nearly been derailed by a number of obstacles, this project brought things to Earth and told everyone that the Chicago native was one of the best upcoming artists alive and that would never change, despite any harsh circumstances. It’s to-the-point but artful, devoid of any pointless fluff and dead set on making a splash. Lucki confronts his demons face to face here, looking deeper into his vices with an eye on the methods behind the madness, all the while shedding light on the way his life was being lived in the moment.
Watch My Back marked a crowning moment for Lucki in terms of artistry. Through years of struggle and attempting to null his deepest problems, the free-spoken artist projects quite possibly his most comprehensive “in too deep” moment on this project. It’s paranoid, it cries for help, and it’s emotionally unavailable at times, most definable by lines such as the all-telling “lean give me hope, not lazy” showcased on “No Wok”. In this way, Lucki seemed to be at his strongest when in his most vulnerable state, finding any bit of hope possible within hazy instrumentation and strikingly graphic lyricism.
Painting this image, the vocals on Watch My Back drown into pools of blurred reality and murky, drug-induced worlds, and for good reason. It heightens the stakes in which we hear Lucki speak of lightless times, with the saving force being his wise stature, having been in the game as an established artist ever since 2013’s release of Alternative Trap. If there’s any way to pinpoint the moment in which we come closest to feeling Lucki’s pain, it has to be on this project. Within each and every line, listeners feel the weight of which his overlying challenges provide, utilizing hypnotic sonic direction to draw out a day in Lucki’s shoes — or better yet, a day in Lucki’s head. He’s an artist at heart and a master of communication, with Watch My Back as ample confirmation.
The most recent project we have received from Lucki was his Days Before II EP. While it carries out similar themes to those heard on past offerings, this project highlights a common string of talent that crowns Lucki as a grand performer of reinvention: the ability to move forward sonically. As noted in past interviews, every new tape from Lucki follows a different direction of sound, consequently reaching a different market of listeners. With Days Before II, this is on full display, using a preferred style of rapidly-moving flows and a clever, “look fast or you’ll miss it” lyricism.
That said, Lucki sounds to be in the clearest state of mind he’s been in over the past few years on this tape. Fittingly so, Days Before II proclaims that “better days are on the way”, and while this theme has become an incredibly refreshing sentiment to hear in the music of an artist who has seen so much struggle in the past, it actually applies both literally and figuratively, as Lucki’s soon-coming project of the same name is becoming one of the most highly-anticipated full-lengths to come out in the (hopefully) near future. Days Before II may be a predecessor for bigger things coming soon, but even so, it’s one of 2018’s most impressive declarations of hope to hit the spotlight recently. Lucki is better than he’s ever been, and by all means, he’s only going to get better. At just 22 years old, the Chicago native holds the prowess of veteran with the potential room for growth of a rookie.
Through all these years, Lucki has been searching for hope, and it looks like he’s starting to gain ground and find it. We’re going to be talking about his pain-ridden music and eccentric sound for many years to come. Here’s to the growth of a legend and the development of one of today’s most captivating talents to watch.
Lucki is the underground star and flawed hero that we never knew we needed.
In order to honor this ever-evolving artist, I asked Lucki a few questions about touring, legacy, and how he views fame. Attached is our conversation. Enjoy.
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This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
Hey Lucki, how has life been lately?
Lately, life been good — I been getting more money lately which is a good thing. I’m just finishing my latest body of work, so that’s solid. Other than that, life been great — just gettin’ to it.
You just completed a nationwide tour in support of your latest project, Days Before II. How was that? How does it feel to see the way that fans react to you and your music from city to city?
It’s kind of crazy because I used to go on tours and the shows used to be dead. When you come from shit like that, you appreciate tours like this when everything goes right. Every city, you just appreciate the fact that people are coming out for you.
What is your favorite part about touring?
Just meeting people that genuinely love you. I don’t really like touring like that — I don’t like being forced to go to different cities every day, but when you meet these people that really love you and your music, it’s all worth it.
With the release of Freewave 3 coming up, I wanted to ask — what does the Freewave series mean to you? Why have you continued the series all the way up to a third volume so far?
When I first started making music, I was only making slower music, but when I finally started on Freewave, everything I was making felt free. I started freestyling over more uptempo beats. On the first Freewave, I even started rapping over old Three 6 Mafia beats. Then, when Freewave 2 came around, it was me rapping over the same, uptempo kind of style, but one step further. So that’s what Freewave really is — it’s to Lucki what Beast Mode is to Future. It just allows me to be free in what I say and rap over.
The Freewave tapes tend to have lots of freestyles and creative highs. What can fans expect for Freewave 3?
Pretty much the same idea as the older Freewave tapes. I’m just doing my own thing and creating freely. Only this time, it will definitely be a more mature body of work.
Do you ever listen to your old music?
I mean now that they put all those old projects on DSPs, I listen to them sometimes, but I’m not really listening to the old stuff too heavy. I was just a teenager, so my voice was hitting puberty at the time. A lot of those songs are annoying to me because of that.
Looking back at your catalog, it almost seems as though each tape represents a period of your life. Would you say this is true?
Nah, not really. I just write about what I’m going through at the time. I don’t even really notice that I’m at a new phase of my life or anything until it’s over and I have a body of work done, you know? People always say that my projects represent different times of life and honestly, it just goes like that. When I’m not making music, I’m probably just not going through something. I don’t try to make anything on purpose, it’s just natural for me to start writing.
You’ve sort of paved a lane that strays from the trend-following that rap often gets criticized for. How do you usually find inspiration for a new project?
In general, I do my own thing. Sometimes, though, I might hear a song that someone made and it will be something that I’ve never heard before. Hearing new sounds motivates me, because it tells me that there’s a sound out there that I don’t know how to make and I can’t do. I use outside work as motivation in that way.
One main appeal of your music is how unapologetically it communicates pain and struggle. How does this play into the creative process — do you only write when you’re really feeling something?
It’s all just a natural process for me — making music isn’t forced. It’s not about coping or anything, I just start writing because that’s what I know. I don’t write all the time to make music for no reason — when I want to hear something or I feel something, I start to create without thinking about it.
How does it feel when a fan can reach out and say that you helped them through a tough time? Is that the goal?
At first, when people started reaching out like that, I kind of questioned it and was confused why they reacted in that kind of way. Now, I’ve just grown to understand it more. It’s a natural thing that comes with the music. That’s not the main goal that I have when I write or anything, though.
What do you think of when you hear the word “fame”? What’s your perspective on being a notable rapper?
I’m not even trying to sound corny but I don’t be letting the whole “rapper” thing get to me. Of course, I like it when I get compliments for my music, but I never let it get to me. I just do my own thing, always.
You’re only 22 and you already have a catalog full of tapes, many of which people would classify as timeless in their own ways. Do you feel old at all? How do you look at your age, considering that you’ve been in the spotlight for about 5 years now and you’re still growing?
In a way, I don’t really feel old because there are people out here doing things that are much older than me. I definitely feel all the experience, though — I feel like there ain’t nothing that anyone can tell me, feel me? There’s nothing that the people who haven’t been through what I’ve been through can tell me. I really feel like a seasoned veteran sometimes, in that way.
For you, what is ”timeless music”?
Songs like “Poker Face” and a lot of the stuff on Freewave 3. It has something to do with the sound, not just the words — it’s timeless when the sounds come together in the right way where people can really go back and listen to that stuff again and again, no matter when it is.
When it’s all said and done, what do you want your legacy to be? When someone sees the name Lucki or hears one of your songs, what do you want them to think?
I want to be the kind of artist that will always have fans, you know? I tell people that I want to start making documentaries when I’m like 30. I want people to look back and be like “oh, that’s Lucki — the dude who be making documentaries?” It’s not only about rap, I want to be an underground legend — not too underground, but not too famous.
I want people to know that I’m good at making music forever so I can create forever. I want people to always respect what I’m doing.
I just want to be timeless.