A few months ago Duckwrth dropped his song “Find A Way,” which became an anthem for people trying to push through amidst the pandemic and a resurgence in the fight for social justice. He followed that up with his new video “Coming Closer,” eventually leading up to the release of his album SuperGood later this month.
The record is a long time coming. “That’s a project that I’ve had in my mind since 2013, but I never was able to act on it. So I’m stoked for that,” says Duckwrth on today’s episode of Vibe Check. We also discuss the unique energy of the modern Black Lives Matter movement, and why it’s important for high-profile allies like Billie Eilish to support the cause and influence the next generation of artists and creators. For more Duckwrth, check out his NTS radio show SuperGood Nights Presented By Duckwrth from 8pm-9pm PST until August 21. Tune in on NTS.live.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
Jian DeLeon: You recently put out the song “Find a Way,” which has become more relevant in recent times for many reasons. You sort of talk about this on Twitter, with your recuring moments of truth.
Duckwrth: Oh yeah, my moments of truth. I’m finding a way towards expressing myself again. Watching everything on a constant repeating pattern became numbing, especially as a Black man. It’s just a constant reminder that you are not safe, simply for the reason of being Black, of my skin color. That doesn’t make sense…So that — plus seeing George Floyd murdered — it got to a point where I just became numb. You witness all of it and then you get ramped up, and you’re enraged and you’re angry — or it becomes too much that you become numb.
JD: You’re from LA. Were you around for the LA riots when that happened in ’92? Does the current energy feel different to you?
Duckwrth: Yes. I feel the difference…because we have so many more allies. Not just white allies, but different ethnicities who are on the front line. I feel like that’s super reflective of the times because it became so diverse, especially with the internet, because you can see the world in a clip. I went to a school with no one but Black people and Mexicans, so I wasn’t really exposed to any cultures outside of that on a daily basis.
Now because of the internet, I can talk to somebody in Brazil; I talked to somebody in Japan. I can set up a FaceTime even, and eventually get out there and meet them. So it’s definitely reflective of this generation. But I feel like it’s nice to be able to see so many different ethnicities and colors fighting for the equal rights of Black people.
JD: I think that’s one of the main differences between even Ferguson in 2014. You’re seeing people in Japan protest, you’re seeing people in England. John Boyega gave that amazing speech at Hyde Park. It feels global in a way that I certainly hadn’t seen five years ago.
Duckwrth: Oh, it’s definitely a different type of energy. It’s greater. But that’s the thing. It’s gotten to that point where it’s like we’re still fighting the same fight. I think it’s just like: “Come on. We’re still here?” I think that’s where the world’s turned up. Seeing a man get killed for nine minutes. Watching his life, his soul, his energy, leave his body. I think that was just enough to just wake people the fuck up and be like: “Enough is enough. If I got to be involved in it now in order to get this shit through, then let’s get it through,” because I feel like us as a human race, there’s greater things that we need to be fighting for. We have to leave this world for our kids and their kids.
Global warming and just climate change and all that other shit is just still a crucial thing. Plus, all these new viruses that are here now. There’s so much stuff that we have to do for this world. But a thing that we can’t get past is racism. I think people are just like: “Come on. Can we get past this?” And not get past it in the sense of turn a blind eye to it, but be like: “Can we work to be more progressive? Can police stop killing Black people?”
Jian: Speaking of allies, I saw this photo of you and Billie Eilish, I think in Bonnaroo a couple years ago. Her statements about Black Lives Matter have certainly been making the rounds, as a lot of white people have been processing their own place in a racist society. Many people are realizing how fucked up shit’s been. How do you think she exemplifies even allies who may or may not know what to say?
Duckwrth: Well quite frankly, I had a conversation with her this week. I was just saying, “Hey, thank you for staying activated during all this. Your presence, it’s noticed and it’s appreciated.” She was like: “Don’t thank me at all. None of this should have to be done. This shouldn’t have to be a fight right now. It doesn’t make sense.” I don’t remember her exact words, but that was pretty much the notion of it: “Don’t thank me, bro. This shouldn’t be happening.”
I appreciate her presence, because she does have that influence. But the thing is, she has an influence on the younger generation of kids, especially younger white girls. And these younger white girls will turn into older white women. So to be able to influence them at such a impressionable age is amazing. It’d be nice to see more artists express themselves. But just thinking about the kids who are going to be older, and who are going to be the new engineers, be the new entertainers, the new government officials, the new teachers, and stuff like that. They’re going to be running this world when we get old and decrepit.
So they matter so fucking much. But yeah, as far as white allies and even just white artists speaking about their own privilege, I think that’s the biggest thing. Me and my homies were talking, and it’s just like: “This is a time for us to be a cannonball for us.” This is a time for Black people to be accountable for Black people. For white people to be accountable for white people, and white people just educating each other on privilege, but also the systems that we all invest in that oppress people of color. It’s just a lot of awareness that’s going on. Certain things got swept under the rug. We all felt like we were progressive in a way, but then as this comes out, we see how progressive we’re not.
Stay tuned for new episodes of Vibe Check every Tuesday and Thursday.