We move each through the world with a unique, irreplaceable set of coordinates. We can never again inhabit where we have been or predict with certainty where we are going. And no two people can ever walk the same path.
This belief inspires East Oakland’s Brookfield Duece to track his own route, at his own pace, wherever he is. It’s also a metaphor for the rapper’s latest album, Coordinates,
“I’m inspired by the present,” Duece said. “My coordinates are currently different from my coordinates tomorrow or yesterday. [This album] is like a roadmap that explains the long way I took to reach this space.
Featuring 13 songs and saucy features from LaRussell, YMTK, Kevin Allen, Password, and Mani Draper, the well-rounded LP reinforces Duece’s presence as an artist, while documenting the curvy track that leads him to this moment.
Duece is not a newcomer to the rap game. Since becoming Front Page Music’s A&R in 2016 – a rapper started by his cousin, NBA player and Oakland native Damian Lillard – Duece has released four of his own studio projects, as well as helping develop Front Page’s platform and outreach. . Before that, he was a teenager who recorded music and wrote lyrics for others. But he has rarely been in the spotlight.
In a creative field that has many curves and offers no guarantee of success for an independent artist – especially in a region with a stratospheric cost of living that requires constant hustling and repositioning – the road may be tight. The “long road” for Duece involved leaving music to start a family, suddenly losing focus and almost giving up his artistic vision. And yet, despite not reaching a commercial mainstream audience, Duece knows he’s exactly where he needs to be.
At the end of a seven-year hiatus doing “something I shouldn’t have to do,” Duece was nearly murdered in 2019. It was a detour that changed his life course and inspired a renewed sense of optimism. That theme is central to his latest work, which is narrated by Lillard, who talks about his own problems as an emerging NBA player on interludes by Coordinates,
“I could easily make music that glorifies destruction and ignorance,” Duece said. “Even if it affects mine [musical] popularity, I want to resist that heavy programming. We need to influence others to mark mental independence and be themselves. ”
His evolving outlook on resistance, empowerment, and community is unmistakable throughout the project, especially in “Brown Skin,” a poem that explores poetic stereotypes regarding dark skin.
“You from the hills, you never knew, I come from the flat, where they all shoot / they speak freedom, it’s not for you,” Duece rapeseed. The opening bar briefly confirms the views of Oakland residents about racial segregation, street violence, and the lack of opportunity that separates someone like himself from the Brookfield Village neighborhood in East Oakland, from those who may be only a few miles away. living away in the Oakland Hills. In doing so, Duece sets a tone of sharp intellect and rhythmic pun that carries through each verse, as topics shift from larger social issues such as housing and poverty to more personal topics about family and friends.
One of the things that make Coordinates such a valuable listen is how Duece maps his complex, vulnerable, life journey in a way that only a skilled lyricist could. Sometimes it feels like a GPS map of memories and experiences that indicate the highs, lows and in between, even as far as sharing current addresses like “310 Lenox Ave”, a song about his pilgrimage to Harlem.
As the album progresses, tracks like “Scenic Route,” “Rear View Thoughts,” and “The Pinnacles” begin to resemble footprints and vantage points along the rapper’s trek to clarity – all deciphering from trouble to pay the bills to the bravado of the rap industry to find inner peace. Through it all, Duece makes it clear that he is not doing this work alone.
“This project was about learning and openness,” he said. “I thought I had it before. I tried to do it all myself. On this album, I listen to everyone around me. “
Coincidentally, the people around him are members of one of the Bay Area’s most interesting and talented art groups, Grand Nationxl.
Founded in 2020 after artists in the region organically came together for Kevin Allen’s recording sessions, the extensive “wolf pack” of creative people – including photographers, rappers, singers, designers, podcasters, and more – has released 10 music projects, 15 music videos, and a line of clothing.
Recently, members of her crew visited Amsterdam to collaborate with Dutch artists, The New Originals, and added to Duece’s global coordinates in a way that reinforces how he understands what is possible for himself and his grandfather in 2022 and beyond.
“A lot of artists all over the world just want to be heard,” he said. “The point is to set up for others. That’s the A&R in me. I always put people before me.”
The love that Duece gives to others is shown throughout his album. Whether it means an unsigned artist like Cam Archer giving the longest feature on the entire project or inviting rappers from the internet to submit a verse to record, he is always tapped into a larger collective outside of himself. And that camaraderie often comes back.
When I met Duece in the Oakland Tribune Tower to discuss his work, he was not alone. Mani Draper, a founder of Grand Nationxl who helped to incorporate, facilitate and support his creative partner, also slipped past. It’s a community that highlights the basic spirit and artistic integrity that Bay Bay artists have long defined, especially among the rappers of this region – who often have to start their own labels, create their own brands and do it. ” get out of the suitcase “by independent means.
Their kindness was on full display over the recent Juneteenth weekend, when Grand Nationxl hosted the Fake Ass Festival, a summer party and concert on June 18th. try to bring people together in a “for us, by us” fashion. The tongue-in-cheek aspect (“Fake Ass”) came from the sense of exclusion that happens when larger, massively funded festivals have taken place in the area.
“This is not Outside Lands,” Duece said. “There’s no great financial support. This is for us, for our own legacy artists. This is for the people we see in our area, who we listen to when we are in traffic. That is the Bay way, to create a platform and invite others to the table. ”
Far from being fake, the festival symbolizes the real work that Grand Nationxl – and leading members like Brookfield Duece – have done for themselves and those around them.
With another album to the group’s credit, this is the beginning of a new track for Duece. It is one he will take with every step, and will not look back until he has reached his next great coordinate. Whether it takes a year or a decade to figure it all out, Duece is not afraid to take the scenic route.