Luke Christopher Talks Debut Album, Common’s Advice & Kanye West’s Influence [EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW]
Luke Christopher is a musical renaissance man. From writing the lyrics that he sings to rapping on the mic to getting behind the boards to produce, he does it all and does it well.
While on the come-up, the Los Angeles native did what all burgeoning artists do to promote themselves these days -- he began posting all his music online. This lead to a bond with his fans via social media, leading him to a stellar following and creating a digital movement known as #TMRWGANG. Since inking a record deal with ByStorm Entertainment/RCA Records 2013, the 21-year-old has dropped two mixtapes -- 'The Wonder Years Pt. 1' and more recently, 'TMWR TMWR' -- and is gearing up to release his debut album at the top of 2015.
He recently stopped by The Boombox office to share some of the tracks from that yet-to-be titled project. Dressed casually in weathered jeans, a white T-shirt, a red flannel and a grey bandana around his head, he rolled in with a sizeable entourage, which would automatically make one think that his rising status has already gone to his head. However, after he introduced his team and his little cousin, presenting a rather gracious demeanor, it's clear that he's not just another young artist in it for the fame.
With an old school boombox set in front of him, Luke Christopher played songs that he penned and produced. "These are the first [five] singles lined up," he tells The Boombox. "But the [album], we're working on that, hopefully by the top of the year it's out. We got singles and videos dropping."
Each of the songs sound melodically and rhythmically different yet could easily be stringed together to complete a cohesive album. One listen and it's clear Christopher has a lot to talk -- and rap -- about. But being the young, good-looking guy that he is, he couldn't ignore the ladies and also played a few additional mid-tempo tracks like 'Miss Holy Water' and 'American Love,' which centers on them. He even goes for a bit of a throwback '80s dance vibe with 'Need That Love,' an ode to a new crush.
However, his music isn't all about romance. The singer-rapper looks at the bigger picture on 'Don't Look Me Over,' an anthemic song he wrote during President Barack Obama's initial presidential campaign; and 'The Weather,' an inspiring tune that encourages people to stop wallowing in their issues and focus on the positive.
Aside from sharing some new material, we got a chance to get know the man behind the music and delved into his inspirations, aspirations and essentially what makes Luke Christopher tick.
So let's take it back to the beginning. What's your first musical memory?
Well, I didn't even own [the song]. My cousin did, but do you remember the U2 iPods, the red-and-black ones? My cousin brought the U2 iPod to Christmas one year, and he had this one song that he was playing the whole time. My dad had all this stuff playing that, but I remember him getting all into and rapping. So I asked him about it, and it was A Tribe Called Quest's 'Bonita Applebaum.' And I was like, "Yo, this dude is so smooth." And I thought I had to get an iPod and start making my own music.
Your music is really positive. It's safe to say that many 21-year-olds face some obstacles that are quite the opposite. Where does all this positivity come from?
I think you have to make an effort to be positive. It's like everyone deals with their things in life, but I think, especially in music, it's the perfect thing to really bring out positivity and the best in people. Personally, I listen to records, and it just changes your day. When you listen to the right record when you wake up, it's a good day. But [I've made] records that aren't necessarily on the bright side, you know. But I think part of what I do is to rap from the perspective of people in all different circumstances.
Since you just mentioned the "right record,'" what songs are putting you in a good mood right now?
Actually the record that's putting me in a good mood right now is the new Elle Varner record, 'Don't Wanna Dance.' I listen to that, and I was listening to that running around Central Park, and I was like, "Damn, this is the vibe right here." So that's my jam right now.
Can you talk a little bit about your single, 'Life Jackets'?
'Life Jackets' is the debut single. It's kind of like a prequel to the debut, but it's dope because it showcases the singing and the rapping. It's conceptual and artistic because I didn't want to come onto the scene with some formulaic whatever. It's picking up right now. So it's dope.
Watch Luke Christopher's 'Life Jackets'
Even though you want to take charge of the whole album and are working with a small team, you've also worked with Common in the past. So is there anyone you're collaborating with for this album?
I definitely want to do some features, but I want them to be unique. So I don't want to go to the one who everyone's getting all the verses from for verses sake. I would do a feature with James Blake. I want him on the album. I would get Andre 3000 on it. I might get Chance the Rapper on it. You know, just do the left-field features that are not the cookie-cutter, obvious features, and just really have them really kill and bring something totally unique to the record.
Who is on your dream collaborators list?
Definitely want to work with Kanye. His early stuff is what inspired me to go into production, and it inspired a lot of how I produce. I definitely think that the fact that he was really talking about his life, and I thought it was dope. Mos Def, I think he's the dopest.
How did you get put on to him?
Actually it was 'Mathematics' that turned me onto him. I'm not sure who even showed me that song. But when I heard that, I was like, "Yo, what's going on here?" Everybody was just talking about Mos Def, and that record was just crazy from a rap perspective.
Have you met any big stars who have shelled out some good advice to you so far?
Common definitely gave me good advice. When you're an artist and you're starting to hit, people will start telling you about how you should sound. There are a lot of voices in your head. And Common was basically like, "Yo, just do you. Don't even listen to anything telling you where to go artistically. Take people's advice, but just understand that it's not gonna be real if it's not going to be you." He told me that. J. Cole told me that same thing. So just people like that, who I look up to, it's like all right I get it. Because they were trying to conform early into their careers and then now they realize that, "Hey, I just gotta do me."
How did you meet J. Cole?
He's signed under the same imprint, ByStorm. So he was doing a show in Las Vegas, and we showed up and got to talking.
What are some of your favorite albums of all time?
'All on Me' by Tupac for sure. But the Common 'Be' album was really dope to me. 'Black on Both Sides' by Mos Def was dope to me. Kanye's 'The College Dropout' obviously, and I like 'My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.' I like that a lot. 'Speakerboxxx/The Love Below.' Mario's 'Turning Point' was a good album with 'Let Me Love You.' I listen to a lot of Stevie Wonder and a lot of R. Kelly.
And lastly, what album changed your life?
'The College Dropout' definitely was the point when I realized this is something I could do. It was cool because he was talking about his life. So when he was talking about all this crazy stuff and his family like 'Family Business,' I started thinking I could be a rapper.