In the world of music – or, really, any artistic field – the biggest challenge and yet most significant thing for any participant to do is to find their voice. This task can be harder and harder today with the amount of sheer noise (and access to it) in the ether at large. Yet, people somehow persevere. One such artist who is blessed with and confident in his own voice is the Atlanta-based rapper, YFN Lucci.
The lyricist rhymes uniquely, both verbally and sonically. Utilizing his voice in subtle, experimental ways, Lucci has taken what some may have at first criticized him for and turned into millions of record streams, spins and dollars earned. Lucci’s forthcoming release, the 21-track LP, Wish Me Well 3, exemplifies the lyricist’s signature style. The album, out Friday, is a blend of mellow music, rapid percussion and sing-spoken harmonies.
“I guess that’s what it is,” Lucci says. “I don’t call it singing. When I was a kid, my voice was high-pitched. When I talk, I don’t have a super-deep voice. This is just how it comes out.”
But when it comes to Lucci, forget the expectation of bass tones. Instead, think about the manifestations of ripple effects. For the rapper, it all began at nine-years-old when he used to record himself on a hand-held cassette player in his bedroom. Lucci would hold it up to his mouth and freestyle. Sometimes, he’d rap into the cassette player with a close friend over beats played on the nearby stereo. When Lucci was twelve-years-old, his older brother, YFN Kay, who was earning a name for himself around Atlanta, encouraged Lucci to rhyme and to follow his passion. Later, around 2010, at eighteen-years-old, Lucci met the Atlanta-based artist, Johnny Cinco, who would come to Lucci’s house to rap and record.
“He said he fucked with my music,” Lucci says. “Then Cinco got access to a studio and he brought me there. It was my first time going to a real studio and I took it most seriously. That shit was dope as fuck.”
Lucci says, looking back on those early days, he remembers shedding a tear as he heard himself on those initial studio-produced tracks. Even then, he says, he was thinking about standing out. To do so, Lucci would hum and harmonize in low registers underneath his verses, providing an extra sonic appeal. The musical beds didn’t stand out if you weren’t trying to pick up on it. But it was that extra touch that helped get listeners hooked. Furthermore, it was his personal style.
“Gives me chills thinking about it,” Lucci says.
On his journey, Lucci dove into the music of past greats, including Tupac, Drake, Lil Wayne and others. Some of those artists he’s since gone onto collaborate with, including Jeezy and Rick Ross on the new album. These artists once inspired Lucci from afar. Now, they’re motivating him on his own music, sharing tracks. But feeling the influence of other musicians has long been a part of Lucci’s story. Ever since he was a kid, for instance, he’s been hearing the island-themed music of his Jamaican father, who would play songs at home with professional DJ equipment.
“Sometimes I like rapping on island-type beats,” Lucci says. “Not reggae tunes, but island-inspired. My dad used to play reggae all the time, he had this whole DJ setup with a microphone – he always got down to play. He still does to this day.”
In 2017, Lucci released his debut EP and it hit number-27 on the Billboard 200 chart. In 2018, his follow-up, Ray Ray From Summerhill, peaked at number-14. For Lucci, these successes confirmed that he should continue with his life’s work, that digging into his own sound was worth it and would truly pay off.
“It makes you believe,” he says. “It makes you dream bigger, believe bigger. It makes you try different shit. It means you’re established.”
But perhaps the biggest statement will come on Friday when Lucci releases his forthcoming whopper of an album. Twenty-one songs with handfuls of features (Boosie Badazz, Mulatto and others), round out the effort. For the album, Lucci worked with more placid beats that, simultaneously, boasted quick snares and high-hats. In a way, the sound is of the Atlanta hip-hop oeuvre. But in another way, it’s an evolution of it. For Lucci, who signed with a label and released his debut mixtape over six years ago, a lot of musical water has passed under the proverbial bridge.
“This is one of my most anticipated albums,” Lucci says. “There are some real bangers on here, man. Fans are going to appreciate it. I came out in 2014 and there wasn’t a lot of people harmonizing and accepting I was going to sing on this motherfucker. I show people how to get it. I motivate the streets.”
Today, as he prepares for the release, Lucci says, in some ways, he feels pressure to succeed. Yet, he also feels at ease in music because it’s what he believes he’s intended to do for the rest of his life. Continuing to work both inspires people around him and continues to fuel is own feelings of personal success in a world where that’s not always easy or a given.
“I love how music calms me down,” Lucci says. “It’s kept me out of trouble. I’ve always liked making it and listening to it since I was young. As long as I keep doing it, people will see my story. And I don’t see that stopping.”
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