Luck One has just released the video for his latest single, "Get Your Money." The summertime anthem is the first single to be released from his album in production, Critical Mass. The Skanner News spoke to Luck One during the last week of Ramadan in Director's Park in downtown Portland.
Last time we spoke you were struggling to make it financially with your music. What's happened since then?
What's harder than being a rapper in this city? I want to do music but I don't know if I have the wherewithall. Right now I'm working as a barber. But I can't stop writing. People are always sending me beats – some guy from Finland called Nugs just sent me a beat. And I can't resist making music. Music moves me so much that if I hear a beat that speaks to me, I can't not write it. That's my passion – writing.
Are you still planning to travel?
I was going to go to Mexico and Panama. But what I want to do is to go to Liberia and get my citizenship. Why? Everyone has a backup plan, but if you're African American you're here holding up the block. What gives you more perspective as a person than to be able to see, touch and live someone else's culture?
How's Ramadan going for you?
This has been the toughest one in 20 years. During Ramadan your supposed to put down your vices. I just went through a divorce and that's been very tough. Nothing moves me more than my faith, but I'm not a very good Muslim. And now I have a job, the whole discipline thing of fasting and praying, that's been tough. We have a word in Islam that describes this: Fitna. My job is tough. My breakup with my wife is tough. There's been a lot of fitna this year.
I recently heard a mix-tape produced by the Morpheus Youth Project that features some great local artists as well as tracks by some of the incarcerated youth. I was blown away by those tracks on Between the Bars and I loved your contribution.
I was glad to be part of that. Those guys are so talented. I was in McLaren you know and I was a bit of a trouble maker. I staged a few hunger strikes. I've been out four years last month. I'd like to think that had I not had that experience I'd still have done the album. People don't realize how much impact little things can have on you when you are locked up. Just writing a letter or sending one picture of a sunset can change your whole week.
So I wanted to do the mix tape for my brothers inside prison. Because they've seen me in an orange jumpsuit, and for them to see me out here doing what I love, that gives them hope.
This is something close to your heart. Tell us why?
My big brother is doing 24 years for doing the same thing I did. People are given to stupidity. It's just part of the human experience. It's a very unforgiving system that we have here. I understand the need to prevent crime. But our corrections system is broken.
Did you know that we have 2 million people in prison? We have more people incarcerated in Oregon state alone than in several industrialized countries? We essentially live in a police state. They built six prisons when I was locked up. They didn't build six schools.
How hard was it to move forward with a felony conviction?
I was fortunate to have a good family. My family is not poor. I'm working as a barber now and that's going well. But a lot of these guys, they get out and they have nothing. Then they put them in these places downtown where they are surrounded by drugs and alcohol.
Tell us about your new video.
It's called "Get Your Money" and it's a summer anthem. I've said a lot about my social beliefs, but right now I just want to have fun. So me and my friend Dekk are working on Critical Mass: that's an album with 13 songs and we're going to put it out this fall. It's a big departure from what I usually do. It's almost pop, but I like that because I just wanted to have fun with it. And my audience has stuck with me. Now I know I can take a risk and not lose my groove.
Who else do you work with?
I'm doing a couple of days with Macklemore and a big music fest in Atlanta, called "All Three Coasts." I record with Dizz at his home, but I like to send my music to be mixed at one of the big houses. This one Dizz mixed himself and we're getting it mastered by Jason Mater in Seattle.
Which Portland based rappers are you listening to?
I'm always about listening to what's new. That's where inspiration comes from. I love listening to the new stuff—especially the young kids. Those young rappers are not worrying about contracts and the business – they are expressing themselves and having a great time. Vinnie Dewayne is a natural gifted storyteller. That's inspiring. And Cassow: I tell him all the time "Go hard. Don't give up. Show everything."
Honestly I'm a fan first. I still go crazy when I hear a dope rhyme. I jump up and down and stop the tape. I'm still about that.