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For the impending end of 2017, some of our writers are going back and talking about beloved songs from this year, especially from artists not covered on our upcoming podcast.
I don’t write a lot on this website, but when I do I usually preface it by saying that I’m nostalgic for the music of my younger days. This year, though, I really tried to expand my horizons and engage with music culture like I used to. It probably says more about these times than my own intellectual curiosity that I replaced podcasts on my commute with new artists and tried to read the news less and music writing more. The bad news for me was that this was the year that trap music captured the zeitgeist. Particularly, Soundcloud and emo-influenced mumble rap has ruled the day in a way that’s about oppressive as possible in the streaming age. I’m not saying this music is bad; there is a compelling argument to be made that Young Thug and Future are the true rock stars of our time and kids churning out formulaic, minimalist jams on their laptop is more punk than anything white kids who can afford a whole bands-worth of instruments can make in 2017. These old ears aren’t feeling it, though. Pretty girls might like it, but I don’t think it’s for me.
Given this scenario, discovering an artist like DUCKWRTH is a breath of fresh air. Instead of Cash Money Records and Three Six Mafia, his sound imagines N.E.R.D. and Outkast as having the biggest influence on hip-hop in the last two decades. DUCKWRTH cares about melody and rhymes as much as flow and swagger. He even sings and dances!
The song that turned me onto DUCKWRTH was “MICHUUL,” an ode in equal measure to both a hypothetical girlfriend and Michael Jackson. Kicking off with the sample of a child saying they want to be MJ when they grow up straight into a variation of a Pharrell four-count, “MICHUUL” clearly states its intentions from the jump. This is a party record like he used to get down to in his youth. A Neptunes-inspired beat is propelled by Triton-esque synth stabs and simple guitar riffs with some chill-sounding piano in the breakdown. Thematically, his subject matter isn’t that different from his contemporaries, but DUCKWRTH rhymes about desiring and enjoying the trappings of success as opposed to merely having them. He’s having fun and he wants you to have too. In 2017, that makes all the difference in the world.
(This clip courtesy of The Rundown With Robin Thede, which didn’t make our best of TV list but would have if Sabrina and I were voting).