Private Playlist: DUCKWRTH brews a perfect blend of classic and contemporary

DUCKWRTH. Photo courtesy of DUCKWRTH

Private Playlist is a listening session with Southern California’s most notable musical figures in their private creative environments. 

DUCKWRTH grew up in South LA, where his formative musical experiences included singing in a Pentecostal church choir and absorbing the classic funk and R&B of his neighborhood. Decamping to San Francisco to study graphic arts, he soon developed a distinctive musical and visual style which matched the expansiveness of his new surroundings. His early mixtapes garnered steam in advance of his proper debut album, 2016’s “I’M UGLY.” He subsequently ventured into fashion design and visual arts before releasing another mixtape in 2016 and, most recently, a new album, “SuperGood,” in August. The release was commemorated by a live streamed performance in a local roller skating rink, where he used music, visuals, and theatrical techniques to represent the album.

For this edition of Private Playlist, DUCKWRTH draws on a mix of classic and contemporary songs that have been keeping him inspired.

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I was lucky enough to finish my album right before the shutdown, and I was one of the lucky ones, because after that, it's just been finding new and innovative ways to push it. Recently, we did a livestream from a roller skating rink. The scenario of the album is, me and this girl go on our first date. So the first half of the album is these different projections that I have of that night. And then we end up going to the rink. The performance was half-Broadway, half-performance, trying to bring the album to life. There was this girl who gained my interest throughout the show. We were at the roller skating rink, and she was in the arcade. So I'd ask my fans, "Hey, should I talk to her?" And as I'd go over to her, we'd play the next song, "Kiss You Right Now." So I'm singing in this Broadway form, but people were at home interacting and helping the story along. I don't think we would've pushed for such innovation if it wasn't for COVID.

BOOTSY COLLINS

"Munchies For Your Love" is a ten-minute song. It's hella long, you have to be there for the ride, but it's really beautiful. It's a play on words for weed, but it's using that to say, "You make me feel so high." And that's why I think it's such a beautiful, long song, because they want you to really feel that feeling of love. It's not just something that happens overnight, you know? It's long and drawn-out, but it gets deeper and deeper, and as the song goes on, it gets more and more intense.

HEATWAVE

I was raised in South Central Los Angeles. So a lot of the soundscapes that we heard growing up, if it wasn't West Coast G-funk, it was Marvin Gaye, Ohio Players, The Gap Band, Parliament-Funkadelic, Bootsy Collins, Chaka Khan, all these different sounds. And there was this one pocket of funk, like Zapp & Roger, that you'd hear coming out of any Chevy or Cadillac. So I heard it just being in the neighborhood, with people driving in their cars, or the uncles and aunties having barbecues outside. And in that same vein of the old-school, I'm going to go with Heatwave. They're known for "Boogie Nights" and "Always and Forever," but "All You Do Is Dial" is so good. It's a slower pace, but the harmonies in it are so good. It's a magical song.

JOCKSTRAP

Jockstrap are a female and male duo. I don't even know how to really describe them. It's soulful, it's electronic, and it's slightly distorted, but she has this really sweet vocal tone. I've been playing "Acid" a whole lot.

MACHINEDRUM

Machinedrum is an amazing producer. He recently dropped the album "A View of U," and he did this song called "Wait 4 U" featuring [vocalist] Jesse Boykins. Boykins has been doing house music for a long time, which is how I first knew of him, so it was tight to hear him back on that type of vibe. 

GWEN BUNN

Gwen Bunn is left-of-center when it comes to R&B. First of all, her vocal tone is slightly high-pitched, but still smooth. As a writer, she's insane, and she gives me a classic R&B feel, but more like neo-soul. It feels very fresh.

MICHAEL JACKSON

It's problematic to say now, because of the recent documentary, but when I feel sad or hurt by other humans, or just the times, I'll play "Human Nature" by Michael Jackson. Of course, it's his vocals; of course, it's the subject matter. "Don't take it too deep," you know what I'm saying? "This is just how humans are." The melodies, the chord choices, the production. Everything about that song is exceptional.

Check out KCRW’s other Private Playlists:

Pete Tong is comfortable with musical melancholy
La Santa Cecilia's La Marisoul finds hope for the future in music
Bob Mould seeks artful inspiration from Janelle Monáe, Elliott Smith, and the Byrds
San Cha believes we can create, no matter our circumstances
M. Ward is listening to music by his influences’ influencers
Alice Bag is doing the live music withdrawal dance
Madame Gandhi on Fela, feminism, and the bravery of Brian Eno and Jon Hassell
Aimee Mann looks past the snark to appreciate Steely Dan’s craft
Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammad on finding solace in Gil Scott-Heron
Madame Gandhi on Fela, feminism, and the bravery of Brian Eno and Jon Hassell
TOKiMONSTA is rediscovering her love for the guitar
Jeff Parker is busy studying music in hibernation mode
Dorian Wood is walking a tightrope and trying not to look down
Thundercat on the importance of albums as a journey
Neon Indian shares music for your inner monologue
Mia Doi Todd recommends space-age sounds and Brazilian tunes
Hand Habits’ Meg Duffy offers an earthy soundtrack for the homebound
Chris Cohen shares Algerian synth funk, avant jazz, and more far-out sounds
Inara George shares tips for raising music-literate kids during quarantine
Go Betty Go’s Nicolette Vilar shares her love of Mazzy Star, Dusty Springfield, and more
Mary Lattimore is communing with musical kindred spirits
Ndidi O selects music for a melancholy autumn
Julianna Barwick recommends music with emotion and experimentation
Private Playlist: A playlist featuring seven of our favorite segments

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