For Memphis rapper Duke Deuce, the COVID-19 pandemic couldn’t have come at a worse time.
At the end of 2019, Deuce was enjoying the success of the first singles like “Yeh” and “Crunk is not dead” newly signed at Quality control label and ready to burst when the pandemic all but paralyzed the world – including the music industry.
Although Deuce eventually released new music in 2020 and 2021, his initial momentum seemed somewhat lost.
“I’m going to be 100 with you,” Deuce says. “I was very, very frustrated at that time. I was upset, I was angry. My energy was thrown off, it was a lot of things.
Two years later, however, Deuce is back with new music and gearing up for the second act of his career. “Now I’m in a good frame of mind and I’m ready to go back.”
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This week, Deuce returns with a long-awaited album, “Crunkstar”, and he will be the headliner TONE Memphis June 19 Family Reunion event on Sunday.
“Crunkstar” is a record that expands its sound with a mix of rock guitars and experimental beats. “I wanted to show versatility instead of just giving my fans the same stuff they already know,” Deuce said. “This album had to mark a point; to show the world that I am more than crunk or trap music. I’m an artist. At the same time, I’m a rock star – a crunkstar.
Since leaving Whitehaven four years ago, Deuce, 30 (born Patavious Isom), has worked with genre titans like Lil Jon, Juicy J and Project Pat, and consciously connected with hip history. -hop from Bluff City to claim his position as king of the last days of Crunk.
Second-generation hip-hop, Deuce grew up in the studio with his father, producer Duke Nitty, whose credits include projects by Gangsta Blac, Nasty Nardo, Dem Thugs and Mobb Lyfe.
Appearing in the hothouse atmosphere of late 1990s and early 2000s Memphis rap – a scene dominated by bands like Three 6 Mafia, 8Ball and MJG among others – Duke spent several years shaping his style . Drawing on both a base of classic crunk sounds and dark and sinister Memphis, it would add its own post-millennium energy to the mix. Released in 2018, Deuce’s single “Whole Lotta” would come to define his retro approach to M-Town and launch his career.
A year later, Deuce would join Atlanta-based independent label Quality Control Music, continuing their success. After a pair of widely acclaimed “Memphis Massacre” mixtape projects, Deuce released his debut studio album, “Duke Nukem,” in early 2021.
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But his new LP, “Crunkstar” represents Deuce’s most focused and serious effort in the studio. “I’ve been working on this album for about two years,” he says. “I played with different sounds, with different producers. It was just trying to find the right combination of [tracks] it worked.”
Although the album features contributions from producer HitKidd and guest appearances from Rico Nasty, among others, much of the material finds Deuce exploring different sounds and styles himself. “I have my producers or whatever,” he says, “but I’m often in the studio to come up with ideas and implement them.
“Something like ‘Running Out of Love’ – it was a HitKidd beat. But I decided to put some guitars on it and ended up calling my man [guitarist] He and Dante Smith played his guitar and threw it back at me, and we kept going back and forth until we got it right.
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Much of the recording was done at Deuce’s home studio. “I feel like when I’m at home recording it’s different than when I’m on the road to someone’s studio or [Quality Control],” he says. “Because when I’m home, I can get as weird as I want and experiment with my music – can you feel me?”
“Crunkstar” represents another step forward for Deuce, who, along with fellow Bluff City contemporaries – including Moneybagg Yo, NLE Choppa and Pooh Shiesty – is part of a wave of new hip-hop talent that has ushered in a new age. gold for Memphis rap.
“I think it’s just a matter of timing, and the internet and social media and whatever has helped us,” Deuce says of City’s recent successes. “It seems like back in the OG days, artists in Memphis didn’t really have certain opportunities that other cities like Atlanta had. So it was harder to get the music out there. But social media changed all that. There’s so much talent in the city that it’s hard to pass up once it’s in front of you.
For his part, Deuce is thrilled to be back with a new project and can’t wait to see where the album can reach commercially (last year “Duke Nukem” reached No. 3 on the Billboard heatseekers chart). “The team works hard, they understand how important it is and they’ve been really supportive of me,” he says of his label, Quality Control.
“My main focus is consistency,” adds Deuce. “Now that I feel like I have a chance to continue releasing music, that’s what I want to do. I still feel like I’m coming back from the pandemic that has slowed down so much. So, I want to smash the gas to them, and I plan to stay pretty much ahead of them.
Duke Deuce in Memphis
Appearing at TONE’s Juneteenth Family Reunion Weekend
Sunday at Orange Mound Tower, 2205 Lamar Ave.
Doors open at 3 p.m. The event is free.