Songwriter Profile: Duckwrth

Duckwrth: The Value of Purpose

At 33, Duckwrth—born Jared Lee—has been developing his art for nearly 20 years. His debut major-label album, Supergood, and followup EP, SG8, both via Republic Records, marked a turning point in his artistic evolution, offering an eclectic, introspective style that has brought him more than 350 million catalog streams and a dedicated international following. In addition to his headline tours, the L.A.-born rapper and songwriter has opened for Anderson .Paak, Rich Chigga, Louis the Child and N*E*R*D, and his self-titled “funk wave” sound has been showcased in festivals around the world, including the Montreaux Jazz Festival, Lollapalooza, Groovin the Moo (Australia), and Valkhof (Holland). He has kicked off a European tour this month, with stops in Ireland, Scotland, England, Belgium, France and Germany, ahead of a tour with Billie Eilish in March.

Growing up in South Central Los Angeles in a strict Christian home and raised predominantly by strong women, Duckwrth is a deep thinker who began writing poetry as a teenager. He discovered hip-hop at school, immersing himself in freestyle and taking part in rap battles. “Mom didn’t let us listen to hip hop, so it was a rebellion of sorts,” he says. “I just liked the way the music made me feel. Going into writing, I feel like I can just narrate my own life and story a bit.” When a high school love broke up with him on his birthday, he performed a reimagined version of Common’s “I Used To Love H.E.R.” for his classmates. Their rave reviews inspired him to continue performing. 

After moving to San Francisco to study graphic design, Duckwrth found new inspiration in a rap group he formed with two friends. “It was tight—like super, super sick—and it just felt right,” he says, revealing that, “with a rap loop, you out kind of find ways to come together and blend, but I needed something that was my own sound, my own message. Ducktape [a self-released digital download from 2012]—if you want to talk about the true spark that rocketed off into space— that was it.” Having released his songs online as Duckwrth, he wanted to develop his own solo sound, and joined the TeamBackpack cypher series on YouTube after a friend suggested he contact TeamBackpack cofounder Armani Cooper. 

Republic Records artist manager Xtina Prince discovered Duckwrth on YouTube, and mentored him for two years before his move to New York in 2014. As his manager, Prince delivered marketing and tour budgets, along with licensing and sync options. The artist’s 2017 label deal brought An XTRA UGLY Mixtape and The Falling Man, Tayla Parx and Louis The Child collaborations; Spider-man: Into The Spiderverse and Space Jam: A New Legacy placements; and work with Riot Games. South by Southwest in 2018 brought an introduction to Billie Eilish. The synergy between Duckwrth and Eilish was immediate, resulting in the forthcoming tour. 

Duckwrth’s writing has a unique flavor, which he attributes to having listened to a wide range of music from a young age, including classical, gospel, jazz, punk, and metal. His first public performances were in his church choir. He started out, he says, “just feeling like I had something different that I could bring,” and feels that artists should, “be a whole lot of themselves. It's the key ingredient to [being] a good artist.” In a process that now involves artists, producers, and many others in collaboration, Duckwrth feels that, to make something special, it has to be organic and present in the moment—created from scratch. His recommendation? Create a bridge of sounds and genres to something new that people aren't yet doing, and to challenge yourself. 

     It would seem that South Central gave him his backbone, New York built his strength, and San Francisco added color, vibration and texture to his style and sound. He’s always looking to push himself to try new things and create on the next level. “I just want people to be blown away by the music,” he concludes, “by the performance, by the energy. That’s a big goal of mine.” 

Contact Maggie Faircloth, faircloth@sunshinesachs.com,
Experience Duckwrth at duckwrth.com