It is difficult, especially in the midst of a new standard that makes conformity quite tempting, to find young rappers with a clear and authentic message. Though it is unfortunate, modern artists often avoid lyrical profundity, resorting to subsidiary methods of differentiation. We instead patent these artists based on certain factors—face tattoos, colorful hair, etc.— that are secondary to the framework of their music.
A recent exception has surfaced, though; Lucki, the 22-year-old Chicago rapper, has released Freewave 3, a brief yet fascinating album that is brimming with authentic substance. Although this project is ostensibly amateur (just take a look at the album cover), it showcases depressing sincerity and a cathartic acceptance of reality. Lucki takes us into his world, one afflicted by persistent drug addiction and broken relationships, and his struggles are rendered simply and elegantly.
Lucki has been making music for five years, but his preceding work didn’t emphasize the barebones lyricism that is showcased on Freewave 3. One of his earliest albums, Alternative Trap, was more casual, better fitting the lighthearted mold of SoundCloud rap. But the despondent lyrics on this album are accentuated by monotonous vocals; and the raw energy Lucki gives us awakens a feeling of beautiful hopelessness. Pitchfork insightfully stated that this album “strip[s] away the extraneous,” and that couldn’t be more true.
In 2016, after becoming a father, Lucki entered a moratorium with the intent of mitigating his addiction to narcotics. In this brief recess, it seems that Lucki has identified his problems, but he’s having difficulty helping himself. In a 15-track EP, one that seems to be written in the midst of withdrawal symptoms, Lucki gets everything off his chest. The result is an amalgamation of references to broken relationships and drug addiction, and the way in which his struggles are communicated is candid and comforting.
Lucki recently disclosed, in an interview with Pitchfork, that the first half of the album was written while he was in a relationship; the second half, unsurprisingly, was written after his girlfriend left him. This turn of events translates to prominent elements of lyricism, but the dichotomy of emotion is unexpectedly minimal—unity that speaks to Lucki’s internal hardships. On Of Course You Won’t, a wavy and captivating track produced by CHASETHEMONEY, Lucki reflects upon the problematic nature of his addiction with respect to his relationship: “She want me off them Percs, she said she sick of us / For life, that’s my baby, don’t need my sippy cup.” Although his relationship continues on, his girlfriend “fell in love with a dope fiend,” and Lucki is well aware of the implications.
Interlude, another impressive track produced by CHASETHEMONEY, marks the turning point on the album. The minimal optimism—“I know she ain’t loyal, but she make me better”—in the first half of the album quickly vanishes, and we enter a new realm where Lucki plays with despair and acceptance. Lucki begins to uncover the more disturbing effects of addiction, referencing the impact it has on his physical health and his family relationships.
The most evocative references to relationships are those from Peach Dream and 2012 Summer. Lucki expresses his mother’s concern for his well being: “Got my momma googling lean, keep sendin’ me kidney stuff.” It is uncommon for this level of candor to be expressed in a project, and it surfaces the magnitude of his intent to better himself. Lucki takes it to another level, voicing the coalescence of perturbation from multiple support systems: “My fans worry ‘bout my health so I ain’t sippin’ in public / Momma told me ‘bout myself, so I can’t listen to nothing / I need grandma picture with me, I won’t sip if she near me.”
Despite the consistently heavy subject matter on the back end of Freewave 3, there is one song stands out from the rest. All In, an outlandish track produced by Earl Sweatshirt, has the substance of the entire project crammed into less than two minutes. The alternative beat creates a platform for Lucki’s energy to build, culminating in nonstop bars of brutally honest hardship. Lucki gets into an intoxicating rhythm: “Livin’ that shit, I pop three 30s at night, she left, she was sick of that shit / havin’ fuck with this shit, off three thirties, I’m a demon, I can’t see my Mom off this bitch / hurt all in that shit, I just keep gettin’ high, my stomach hate all of this shit.”
Lucki has made it quite clear that his relationships are his solitary motivator for sobriety; and once these support systems cease to exist, circumventing relapse isn’t easy. That being said, he has also stressed that his efforts to help himself have been significant, and this dynamic characterizes the sheer difficulty of dealing with addiction and the seemingly impossible act of changing.
I believe it is imperative to leave this analysis in a positive light. Despite the cynical nature of this project, Lucki disclosed to the Fader that he’s been feeling better; he’s significantly working on his issues, and the album puts the past behind him. Freewave 3 is a vivid and methodic documentation of addiction, depression, and failure to alleviate unwanted circumstances. The production is excellent; the lyrics are moving; and you’ll certainly enjoy it.