BY EMILY LAUTCH
We’re being forced to let go of the shore and sent scrambling into the present moment because our perceived promise of the future has been taken out of the equation. That can be frightening and it’s also an opportunity. The future has never been promised.
The ability to transubstantiate joys and sorrows into creative acts in crisis is what makes humans brilliant. I see people turning to artists, musicians in particular. Holed up in their studios or at home, whether continuing to create and release music or performing on live streams, musicians are carrying us through uncertain times, as they have throughout history.
One of the last artists in the Tiny Shed studio before our temporary closure, rapper Rucku$ was a breath of fresh air. Why music? Simple: “Being a part of something bigger than me. I wanted to do something different. Always knew deep down it was music,” he professes, with a warm, brown-eyed smile. His words ring true and vital. Whether being a part of a community of artists working together to produce music or continuing to make art in a time of strife, Rucku$ has certainly upheld his mission.
I was delighted to hear his musical beginnings were in poetry, turned freestyling and eventually music, specifically Hip-Hop and R&B. “Poetry sharpened my word play, taught me how to tell a story and set a mood.” I asked him what a good story feels like in his ears. He pondered for a moment before quipping back, “It’s a good song as long as it sets a vibe. Gotta pass the vibe check.”
I’m always curious as to where an artist begins their creative process. For me, starting has always been the hardest part. Getting to a state of flow in any artistic practice has to be learned—and motivation and inspiration come from action, as I’m learning, not the other way around. Rucku$ tells me he first hears the beat—a flow gets going in his head as he reflects on his thoughts and feelings in order to process any emotional situation he may be going through. “I like to be methodical and calculated about it. I write pretty much everything down. Smooth, melodic production—but with hard-hitting drums. I like to create a nice groove, funk pattern.”
He explains that his lyrics and songwriting have evolved over time, and I can see this in the juxtaposition of some of his earlier works on streaming platforms and what he shared with us in the shed. “It’s not me against the world anymore,” he shrugs, “that chip on my shoulder mentality has changed.”
Quick, witty, and incredibly well-spoken as most musical wordsmiths are, I ask him what the key is to his confidence at such a young age. “I was a shy and introverted kid in high school. I was a loner, I was gonna ‘do it all on my own.’ Lone wolf mentality,” he confesses. I can relate. It is a sorry fact that many artists feel so alienated that they would be better off going at it alone. “The pursuit of wanting to be understood is a long and daunting task. I think it’s pretty much impossible. People are always going to see differently, have different values.
I went from wanting to be the popular kid and wanting to fit in to looking in the mirror and embracing who I was.”
Rucku$ smiles. He’s changed. “Over time I met so many incredible and talented people and being able to work with those people has really benefited me. We formed Villain Beach Collective; a coalition of videographers, rappers, producers, bookers, and engineers...we built a community; we built comradery.” This brings me joy. It was a lesson I learned the hard way, and though never too late, I wish I had learned it sooner. Rucku$ nods and says with conviction, “I learned how far you can advance with a team. If you’re alone you’re gonna wear yourself out, no matter how good you are.”
If you want to go far, go together. “All of us, artists out here in LA, we’re all fish in a very big ocean. We’re all trying to figure it out. Everybody plays a role, has their own aspirations. If you can find people who are good at things you might not be good at...that’ll be a mutually beneficial relationship.” I can see in his eyes someone who is hungry to improve, to share and grow. “I’m so young, there’s so much to learn. A wise man is wise because he knows he doesn’t know everything.” Having a relationship with the limitations of our own knowledge and understanding is where we grow from. It’s what makes an artist great. It’s what makes Rucku$ great.
I ask who his musical greats are. Kendrick. “He’s a musical genius. All the mixtapes he put out that didn’t get much recognition...you can see the stepping stones to what will be a legendary career of a legendary artist. Kendrick showed me what I could rap about. That I could do anything.” It’s important to pay homage to the artists who inspire us and Rucku$ does so with such delicate admiration. His eyes light up: “We gotta give people roses while they’re still here.”
As we embrace that nothing is promised, may we take a cue from Rucku$ by lifting up our communities, settling gently into all that we do not know, and bestowing those roses today—