As I park my car on 49th Street on the south side of Chicago and enter the heat of the Windy City’s summer, I see buzzing 18-year-old rapper Lucki Eck$ leaning out of a third-floor window, shirtless and shouting.
“Hey man! Up here!”
He buzzes me in and as I climb the stairs, I realize this is my third attempt at speaking with the drug-induced teenager. The first attempt was back in September outside of his first concert, where he opened for Mannie Fresh alongside ZMoney, a fellow Chicago rapper who has also grown significantly in the last year. While I was able to take a few pictures and speak to Lucki’s close friends at the show, Lucki was distant, nervous, and quiet. The story ran, but he remained quoteless.
The second attempt was for Viper Magazine, in a cigarette-stained hotel room full of loud music and weed. Again, I took a great amount of pictures and covered his personality and character while he chatted with his friends, but no documented questions were asked. It was cold, we were high.
Lucki Eck$ was quickly turning into my Russell Hammond of Almost Famous. Third time’s a charm, I thought as I climbed those stairs. Right?
When I enter the apartment, half a dozen teenage kids are smoking blunts, listening to Migos and Chief Keep on an iPhone while everyone mumbls the words they know so well. Nice, large KRK speakers rest on the table and go unused. Lucki’s partner-in-rhyme, producer Plu2o Nash, relaxes by the window and exhales large amounts of smoke. Fellow 197 Out$ider member Mic Vic smokes heavily; he mumbles of going to Taylor University in the fall. Other than the group of guys, one woman is able to get lifted with the young men.
Everyone is talking at once, about one thing or another. The heat, the violence, the music. The drugs.
“Today’s one of them days,” someone says. “Dude got a bullet wound to the face.”
“Two muthafuckas got popped at 12,” another adds. Lucki doesn’t chime in on any of this, instead looking deep into his phone, transported to some void of the Internet music sector miles of spectrum away from his hometown.
Hours before meeting with the 18 year old, Lucki released the video for “Xan Cage,” the third single for Body High, his follow-up to last year’s critically acclaimed Alternative Trap. So far, the public has only heard “Reflections” and seen visuals for “Xan Cage” and Boomin’.” I try to move the conversation in that direction. Currently scheduled for a July 17 release, Vela Seff may or may not have four beats on Body High, Plu2o Nash may or may not have four beats on Body High and Skywlkr is expected to make an appearance. Fellow Chicago rapper/producer Saba is also supposedly helping Lucki with the bigger picture and flow of the record.
“You have to put ‘Trap Talk’ on there, G,” one of Lucki’s friends says. “That’s the shit that people like. It’s the outro.”
Lucki disagrees. “But my voice is so different.” He shakes his head and checks his cracked phone with an Erykah Badu wallpaper. He doesn’t like the track, despite the praise all around him. While they continue to tell him to use that song, he raises his voice until he’s screaming.
“I could release a whole mixtape right now! Full of shit I did before ’14. And I can merch that. Before 2014, I made a whole mixtape. I was on some whole shit, people thought that was raw. That shit raw but that shit bullshit. All that shit bullshit. It’s been done. If I release that mixtape, I’m lazy.”
The words in the room move around and talk about a song called “Crime Pays.” Lucki finally nods approval and emphasizes that it’s “raw as fuck.”
Lucki isn’t a typical rapper. While he listens constantly to the drill music coming out of Chicago, his music sounds nothing like it. He had a remix to a King Krule song (alongside Ratking member Wiki) debut on BBC. He has hinted a possible collaboration with FKA Twigs on Twitter. He’s sent out messages like, “the music business isn’t for me, I just wanna make beautiful music.” Despite the violence around him, he’s more of a floral pattern and less of a gun magazine.
I remind Lucki that when I last spoke with him in the winter, he told me he was almost done with his project. At the time, it was titled Eck$ism. I ask him to describe the process and the new title.
“Why I changed it? Because, man, it’s a new feel of music, man. G, I’m just evolving. I just restarted it. I just wanna fuck with the new shit. I just feel like I had to progress. I couldn’t keep making the same music, you feel me? Like if you come out with some new shit and mothafuckas ain’t never heard it, somebody else is always gonna try and steal it. I always be on popular shit. I always study music. Try new sounds and shit. But they don’t even really be new sounds, they could be old sounds, like songs you hear from fuckin’ melodies. Like you’ll write a song with a melody from a song you used to hear when you was a shorty. Like you could write a melody from a dusty, old ass track and bring it to life.”
I ask him if he would still describe his music as alternative trap.
“Nah. I get mad as hell. I thought that was gonna be a movement, but I don’t even want that shit no more.”
“If not alternative trap,” I ask, “how would you describe your new music?”
“I don’t even know. I’ll wait until somebody else describes it. I ain’t really got time to be doin’ that shit now. I just be makin’ the music. I just know when I like the sound. I don’t do with no names.”
I ask Lucki about touring throughout the Midwest with Danny Brown and the Bruiser Brigade this past spring. Plu2o Nash was Lucki’s DJ and it was their first time performing outside of the Windy City.
“That shit was fun, but you miss home like a motherfucker. I don’t want people to get it wrong, ’cause I do care about performing for people, but I care about performing in front of my crowd. I knew it was gonna be at least like 20 people in the crowd. 20 to at least like 40 people in the crowd that came to see me. At Danny’s 700/800 person shows. And that’s great to have because that’s gonna get everybody else into it. But I just wanna do my own shows. In Chicago. With my people. You feel me?”
In regards to the tour atmosphere and relationships he built while on the road, Lucki says, “They cool and all but they not my niggas. I mean, they are my niggas, but they’re not my friends, you know? I missed my friends. No homo. It’s too easy to live that life. [Danny] was cool as hell. That nigga ZelooperZ is cool too. Danny was just, you knew he was doin’ something. Danny be listenin’ to a lot of music and shit but ZelooperZ was cool as hell. He’d get drunk as fuck and read us our minds. I swear to God. We’d be getting’ creeped out. He be tellin’ the truth and shit. And Skywlkr, he was teachin’ us shit. Like, you know when niggas are not ahead of you, but older than you? They don’t wanna be givin’ you no tips. Like he was givin’ us tips. He was showin’ us Pro Tools. He was showin’ us what to do and shit and make music. He was tellin’ us how to make different melodies, how to find melodies. He was cool as hell. He be still textin’ me now. That’s why I had to go crazy on the beat he gave me.”
“So is Body High almost done?” I ask.
“Alternative Trap was done in two months,” he says. “Dead ass serious. Alternative Trap was done and released a week, maybe two weeks later. I work real late. I be getting that shit done. I like having a due date.”
As we close the interview and I prepare to return to the Chicago heat, I ask him if he has any final words or shout-outs.
“I ain’t got no watchacallits, I just want motherfuckers to know that Alternative Trap is dead. It’s over with. It’s not happenin’ no more. It’s over.”
While Body High‘s release date approaches and a “Release Therapy” concert is planned in Chicago on July 10, Lucki’s nights will inevitably be getting later and later, as he creatively burns the candle at both ends until the project is exactly how he wants it to sound: unique, influential, and high.
At some point in the interview, I ask Lucki what he has been listening to.”
“I listen to Chief Keef. I listen to this one R. Kelly song. I could tell you every song I listen to every day,” he says, taking out his phone. “Better write it down.”
Lucki Eck$’s Playlist:
Lil’ Wayne – “Me & My Drank”
Lil’ Wanye – “Pussy, Money, Weed”
Chief Keef – “Getcha”
Chief Keef – “Shifu”
Drake – “Days in the East”
Capo – “My Own Way”
Chief Keef – “Love No Thotties”
Lil’ Wayne – “Nigga Wit Money”
Capo – “Wid Us”
Chief Keef – “No Reason”
Chief Keef – “Nigga Wat”
Chief Keef – “How It Go”
Young Thug – “Chickens”
Chief Keef – “No Cashier
Chief Keef – “Shooters”
“And a whole lot of Capo. And I been listenin’ to The Cool Kids the past two weeks.”