Only a select few rappers can move seamlessly from what is considered rap’s underground into a successful mainstream career. Chicago rapper Lucki’s 2022 project Flawless Like Me reached number 12 on the Billboard 200, while his new highly anticipated album S*ex M*ney Dr*gs, released last week, earned him his highest streaming day of all time on Spotify with 8 million streams. It’s a culmination of a 10-year run of projects that have earned Lucki one of rap’s most loyal fanbases, on par with Playboi Carti’s infamous army of stans. “I ain’t force shit,” Lucki says. “I didn’t plan anything, but I knew it was going to work though. All this happened organic.”
We met a couple of hours before he hit the stage for his show at New York’s Terminal 5 this spring. The green room is filled with a ton of pizza, snacks, and Sprite, of course. Lucki, in his Marni slippers, seems relaxed and willing to talk, especially since the love in New York is so strong that concertgoers were already in line in the pouring rain. He posted an Instagram story driving past the line to show his fans the love is mutual. As fellow Chicago natives, we open up our conversation about the preference between Harold’s Chicken or Uncle Remus Chicken, and we both agree on Harold’s.
Lucki started making music during Chief Keef’s 2012 rise and the birth of what we know of now as drill music. While the drill movement received global attention, other local artists like Chance The Rapper and his Savemoney crew all emerged, showing the range in artistry coming out of the midwest city. Then there was Lucki, a true wordsmith with a style that didn’t yet fit into any of the lanes coming out of Chicago, so he created his own.
In 2013, Lucki released his first project Alternative Trap, a title fitting, summing up Lucki’s style then and going forward in his career. Due to Lucki’s distinct cadence and wordplay, he began to gain recognition from media and blogs like Chicago’s own Fake Shore Drive and VICE’s Noisey. A 2014 collaboration with FKA Twigs on “Ouch Ouch,” along with a collaboration with Chance The Rapper on “Stevie Wonder ” was pivotal in Lucki expanding his fan base going into 2015.
Starting with Freewave, the evolution of Lucki’s flow caught up with his ear for selective-experimental trap beats, especially on Freewave 2, which included tracks like “Out My Way” and “More Than Ever,” which sits at 8.7 million views on YouTube. As Lucki’s career progressed, maturity played a role in his development almost simultaneously. By 2019, Lucki had built an audience that eagerly awaited any drop. He would feed those fans by dropping four projects from 2019 to 2022, including 2019’s Freewave 3 and Days B4 III, followed by 2020’s Almost There, and then the release of Wake Up Lucki, the highly anticipated collaboration project with producer F1lthy, in 2021.
While Wake Up Lucki wouldn’t truly be valued by general listeners until almost two years after its release, Lucki’s 2022 project Flawless Like Me was an instant success and is his highest charting project to date. The 24-track album only includes features from Future and Babyface Ray, with tracks like “13” that include punchlines that were all over social media like “Drop a 50 on that bitch like old Harden,” or “I’m in Houston, I feel like Aubrey, I just spoiled a ho in ghost,” a line Drake even posted himself on Instagram. FLM also included vulnerable and honest tracks like “Notice Ya” or “DNA,” a song that talks about Lucki’s struggles with substance abuse, something he has always discussed in his music but this time drawing the parallel to the drug usage in his family. “Everybody where I’m from love that song,” says Lucki.
As we are wrapping up our conversation before his performance, Lucki and his manager hint at a possible deluxe version of FLM coming soon after they finish the tour. This would go on to be his new album S*ex M*ney Dr*gs. During our time, we talked about the making of FLM, the “Lucki flow,” what he learned from Playboi Carti and Drake, and more.
It’s obvious that your career has been constantly elevating, and Flawless Like Me has had so much success. What did it take for you to reach this point in your career?
Whole lot of growing up. Especially when you’ve been rapping since you were a kid. Then like really just maturing, bro.
Who were the first artists that shaped your love for music?
Like Lil Wayne and Young Thug. Young Thug when I turned 16 but Lil Wayne when I was a kid. Sosa (Chief Keef) and Future. People like that.
Speaking of Sosa, I know that he is a huge inspiration to you, but can you share what that whole movement when Sosa came out means to you?
Shit was Crazy. The Chief Keef thing is so crazy because I’m 26, and he 27. So when we were younger, and I used to idolize him and shit, he’s only a year older than me. That should let you know how crazy it was. It’s people older than me that look at Sosa the same way, so that was crazy. Chicago is crazy, but I’m really happy that I got to see that. From the weird side to the street side. Chance and Sosa. I am lucky I got to see that. It was like a gold rush for young Chicago talent in the early 2010s.
Coming out of Chicago, you are one of the few artists that everybody respects from both sides of music there. From G Herbo to Savemoney. Can you speak on how you are able to balance both sides?
It’s just me. I was always the person growing up too hood for the weirdos and too weird for the street niggas.
Online, fans are commenting that other people are trying the “Lucki flow”
I don’t pay attention to that. Usually, when I hear the Lucki flow… I hate it. So I be like, ‘I hope I don’t sound like this.’ So I really don’t pay attention to it. I like how the young kids use autotune and spice it up. I like that shit. I just don’t like when people do the Luck flow. I don’t really notice until somebody tells me. Then I had to learn because… I’m bigger now, but back when I was a younger artist, people used to steal a lot, and you would look crazy saying somebody stole something. So I just had to learn how to deal with it.
I saw in previous interviews that you said Drake and Playboi Carti are two rappers who taught you how to dumb it down, but can you elaborate more on the context of that?
Carti was more over the beats. Like being in the studio young with Carti, I use to take a long time to write and shit. Seeing how he just be in his pocket taught me how to dumb it down and get on over trap beats. Without having to yell or all that other shit. With Drake, it was lyrics. The way Drake taught me how to dumb it down was like, you don’t have to have metaphors and similes in every line. You can just make shit relatable to people.
Wake Up Lucki was a crazy moment that seemed ahead of its time to me. Did it feel that way to you?
Yeah, they didn’t appreciate it at first, and that shit irritated me. I was tripping. I was like this is some of the best music I ever made. But that’s how life is, though. It got appreciated over time, but it just insulted me because it was like, why would yall think I am going to put out bad music, you know what I’m saying? People really think I put music out for the fans and stuff, but I put out for me.
In your recording process for Flawless Like Me, were these songs stashed or a lot that was made towards the end of wrapping it up?
I was making it over the whole summer. I was just living life and making it.
You and Future’s first track together, “Kapitol Denim,” made it on FLM. How did that come together?
The universe. Not going to lie, though. OG Double D, who passed, was one of Futute’s older homies. OG Double D’s son is like one of my close friends. So they introduced me to him and brought me to Future crib, and that’s how that happened. That’s one of my best friends.
You and Babyface Ray seem to have chemistry together, along with Veeze, who is the only feature on S*ex M*ney Dr*gs. Can you speak on the tracks you have together with those Detroit rappers?
We got those on the regular. Every time we see each other, we gon’ cook one up. Me and Veeze just made some crazy shit. We be sparring for real, for real. Them the only niggas I like doing that with. I don’t like being around people and just making music just because we both rap.
The production on Flawless Like Me stands out but especially seeing that Tay Keith credit on “Been a Minute.”
That Tay Keith one came towards the end. I did that the week that shit dropped. I fuck with Tay Keith he crazy. I knew I had to make that song. I appreciate him for that.
Even “Goodfellas,” produced by Cash Cobain, sounds like more of his older beats than the new style of beats we have been hearing lately.
When I hit him up to do a song, I really wanted one of his newer beats. But he sent me that one, and I was like fuck it.
You have always been known for your wordplay, but on “13” you come out the gate swinging.
“13” was a song I had recorded two or three months before the project dropped. I posted a small snippet of it, but I couldn’t wait for that song to be out. I really love that song. It’s one of my favorite songs.
What have you been listening to lately?
I actually took a break from listening to music for two months. I remember Wayne saying he only listened to himself in an interview, and I see how it can get like that.