Phenomenal singers can be found in all corners of the world, but New Orleans-born, LA-based singer Lucky Daye got his musical roots from an unlikely place: a religious cult. Banned from all manner of secular music, Lucky was forced to tap out melodies and turn children’s books into songs of his own making.
“It was this thing my mom was in, this little cult-church thing,” Lucky tells me over the phone “It was just all music that we made up. I would just clap rhythms and sing whatever I saw. Any words that I could find. ”
Leaving the cult at eight years of age, Lucky Daye—now signed to RCA and KEEP COOL—was overwhelmed by the amount of music he somehow managed to live without. “Once we got out, I realized I was kinda behind,” he says of his musical tastes. “So I started listening to everything. And because I thought I was behind, I went backward instead of forward.” Favorites for Lucky included Prince, Rick James, Lauryn Hill, and Stevie Wonder. As Lucky went on to define his personal style, his vintage style and bounce could be traced back to this post-cult deep dive into the R&B essentials.
With the release of I, part one of a three-part effort to slowly drip his debut LP to the masses, Lucky Daye is taking all of the convoluted emotions of his childhood and early adulthood, and leaving them all on wax. “Everything I was told about life and God, it blew my mind to be trapped in that,” he explains. “Once I realized I was trapped, it was like… Alright, let me just right my mind. I didn’t have nothing. No money, no resources, nobody’s around me. I got high as shit—I don’t know if I can swear—I got real baked and just started over with my perspective. That’s how the album started, and that’s how ‘Roll Some Mo’ started.”
“Roll Some Mo,” along with the additional four tracks in the first album installment, have a warm and well-traveled feel. Lucky plays in a familiar soundstage, colorful and inviting, but his vocals have a “rap-talk” cadence that elevates him beyond the basic moniker of R&B singer. And, yes, he does sound like Frank Ocean. In fact, both being New Orleans boys, Lucky hopes the two can work together in the future. One can only hope.
DJBooth’s full interview with Lucky Daye, lightly edited for content and clarity, follows below.
DJBooth: What’s the first song you fell in love with?
Lucky Daye: It was probably songs that I made up from nursery rhyme books, like Green Eggs & Ham. It’s weird, because we weren’t able to sing anything outside of what… It was this thing my mom was in, this little cult-church thing. It was just all music that we made up. I would just clap rhythms and sing whatever I saw. Any words that I could find.
So you’ve been making music your whole life?
You could say that, yup! I dedicated my life to this, man.
So, a cult?
[Laughs] Alright, so, I was kinda born into it. My mom, she was part of this place, this community I would later find out was a cult, and I got out of there at around eight years old. The whole time, everything’s forbidden: TV, music, drums. The only thing they let us play was piano, sometimes. When I would go visit my dad as a kid, he would play bass and stuff. Once we got out, I realized I was kinda behind. So I started listening to everything. And because I thought I was behind, I went backward instead of forward.
Where did you get your early music tastes from?
My taste came from stuff that inspired me the most. The Gap Band, Stevie Wonder, Blackstreet, Lauryn Hill, D’Angelo… Of course, Prince and Michael Jackson, and I love Rick James [laughs] a lot.
What was the process of you defining your personal style?
I kinda rap-talk with a bop. Sometimes I sing. So, let’s see what we can do to make it… Let’s put it on some instruments. D’Mile is a very good producer, so he brought the real instrument element and told me to stay doin’ what I’m doin’ and keep it me. He built colors around it. The emotion came from what I’ve been through between moving from Atlanta to LA, failure, being homeless, and all kinds of stuff that made me angry. You know those things that board you up? I was so mad in Atlanta, that I drove to LA. Thirty-six hours straight. I did the same thing I was trying to do in Atlanta in LA.
So music got you out of your anger?
It got me out of my anger and it got me out of my trap. Because my whole life, knowing what I knew at a young age and understanding this is the way people live, and I can’t make people change their minds. Everything I was told about life and God, it blew my mind to be trapped in that. Once I realized I was trapped, it was like… Alright, let me just right my mind. I didn’t have nothing. No money, no resources, nobody’s around me. I got high as shit—I don’t know if I can swear—I got real baked and just started over with my perspective. That’s how the album started, and that’s how “Roll Some Mo” started.
What was that new perspective?
It was about me. It was about honing in on my own energy. My whole life, if I see somebody that needs something, I would give them my all. I try to always think about everybody else first. That’s kinda how I was raised. I live my life by I Corinthians 13, because that’s the only thing that I remember from the cult that made sense that stuck with me after I looked at life differently. That actually got me to where I am, trying to be there. But I can’t be there for everybody if nobody is gonna be there for me. I need to put some of that energy into myself, and then it started blossoming on its own. My team is the ones that’s responsible. We make good music, we poured our heart out, and we did it out of love.
With that, how long have you been working on your debut EP, I?
We worked on those five [songs]… I have to say how we worked on them as a whole because the first few weren’t necessarily the first ones we did. For the whole album, it probably took nine months of me catching a bus from San Pedro to Downtown LA. It was a lot of time and anticipation put into the album. When I finally got into the studio, it was like, “Oh, my god! I’ve been waiting.” It’s just a weight off my shoulders, man!
Why lead with an EP and not the full-length?
We got something coming. This is part one, then it’ll be part two, then it’ll be part three with the full album. You’ll see how each song goes into the next with the emotion.
Love songs are my favorite genre of song. What draws you to them?
It comes from containing my craziness and my pain. At some point, it used to get uncontrollable. It was a problem of me channeling it and knowing who to love and how to love. After that, it was like, okay… I was excited to just stop and relax. Just look around and look at the sky, just appreciate the twinkles in the stars. Then it became clear to me: let me go back to the basics.
How are you going to deal with the imminent Frank Ocean comparisons?
I’ve been getting that a lot. I mean, I love Frank. He’s from New Orleans, and anybody from New Orleans, that’s family. Period. Off top. I put my city on, any day. I hope to work with everybody someday. This album coming December 7, hopefully, he gets to hear it and then we’ll work together.
With all the emotion behind it, did you have any fears putting the project out?
I started getting a little anxiety in the last week. For me, it wasn't about, "Let’s put it out and let the world hear it." It was about a desperate call to God, like, “Please let me have one chance to do an album.” In my mind, I was moving back to New Orleans, because LA was so hard to find writers and producers to work with. It became, "I got nothing left."
Which song on this EP was most difficult to write, and how’d you get through that?
In full, probably “Concentrate.” It has a deeper meaning, and someday I will explain that, but on another note… The track for “Concentrate,” we couldn’t couldn’t get it cleared so we had to go back and redo the whole thing. Rewriting a track that you already love is…
How did you keep from getting discouraged?
Oh, I just rolled some mo’.
Good for you!
Every time I feel bad, I just roll up! It really clears my mind. It puts me back in a position of, “Remember where you were when you began and it was just you and the quiet skies outside, cold.”
The spoken-word segment on the album was bold. What drove you to break up the music like that?
I went down this Beach Boys, Beatles type of moment. I like the way the Beach Boys said forget the rules. Sometimes they would have a bridge in the beginning, and then a hook. They just took the formats and said, “Fuck ‘em.” It was more of, I’m tired of people telling me how to write songs. I would subject myself to people’s opinions, and at that moment, I ran out of fucks. I didn’t care what people think no more. It’s about the music. It’s always gonna be about the music—no rules, gloves off.
What’s the most important lesson you learned about yourself making these songs?
I learned that I’m softer than what I thought I was [laughs]. I’m a lovey-dovey, big-kid, teddy-bear type. On the outside, I appear rugged and rough or whatever. I learned that I’m really a hard outer shell, and very soft once you can break me.
That’s a good thing, though. It’s good to be vulnerable, yeah?
Yeah, it’s just… It’s scary.
How do you get over that fear?
Just listening to my own thoughts instead of everybody else’s thoughts about me. I take people’s opinions to heart, usually. I take what people say and I’m thinking about it over and over. To be able to control my mind and know they don’t matter. You know what else is crazy? I’m a Libra. I’m learning how to choose. We supposedly are indecisive as crap, so learning how to choose was a big thing for me. I chose me, and I chose the music. I gotta give myself a little bit of love, you know?
Last question, what makes someone ready for love?
To be ready for love is to do just do it. I don’t know it’s about preparing. It’s kinda like moving to another city. Trying to prepare is pointless, you just do it. When you get there, you figure it out. I admire that kinda stuff, but I’ve never seen a successful relationship or heard stories. I don’t have that experience. So, I could be wrong, but for me, I feel like it’s just choosing. I choose you; you choose me.
Editor's Note: In a previous version of this article, Lucky Daye was quoted as saying his full-length debut would be released on December 7. RCA Records has notified us that the official release date, at present, is subject to change.
For more sponsored hip-hop video content like this, subscribe to the ADM YouTube channel here.