Lucky Daye arrives at the mid-century architectural Henry Jacobs Residence in Silver Lake, Los Angeles nearly an hour past call time. It’s 10 am but his eyes are wide as he enters the space which features furniture from the ‘50s and ‘60s by Herman Miller, Adrian Pearsall, and Knoll. After taking in the decor, he introduces himself to everyone on set, before being led to a lone bedroom where his style, management, and grooming team have taken over for a photoshoot days ahead of the release of his second album, Candydrip.
Molly, a member of his team who assists with handling his day-to-day scheduling, shares that the singer will be smoking. This shouldn’t come as a surprise; as the artist behind “Roll Some Mo,” Daye’s smoke break doesn’t ruffle any feathers. If anything, it’s on-brand for him. The bedroom door shuts and shortly after, he emerges on a balcony that overlooks the San Gabriel Mountains, taking puffs of a joint. He spends a few minutes outside smoking; once he’s done, the door opens again.
Throughout the bedroom, there are tell-tale signs of the forthcoming photoshoot: large rollable suitcases and shoes by Amiri, Nike, and more. On the far left corner of the room, Tracy has turned a desk area into a makeshift barbershop booth. The bed, outfitted with a baby blue headboard and vintage yellow couch at the end, has been taken over by heavy garment bags filled with pieces by Acne Studios, JW Anderson, Martin Asbjørn, and Richardson.
As Daye gets a lineup from a groomer, he shares that his entire life changed when he released his debut album Painted nearly two years ago. The album was something Daye thought no one would care about, and that it was his last attempt at breaking as a solo artist before giving up on it.
“I tried every angle, [I] didn’t see it,” he says. “I was homeless and tired of being hungry. It wasn’t like I was getting emotional support from nobody. It was just me.”
Rather than leave Los Angeles before making the record, he created the soulful project with a handful of collaborators: D’Mile, DJ Camper, John Kercy, Dustin “Dab” Bowie, Peter Lee Johnson, and PJ. The emotionally-charged album resonated heavily with R&B fans who were eager for a no-nonsense singer who was unafraid to write honest and modern love ballads. Painted was also a critical success, too. It went on to receive four Grammy Award nominations at the 2020 Grammys, including one for Best R&B Album.
During our on and off again conversation throughout the shoot, it becomes clear Daye is grappling with the idea of releasing a successful follow-up. While 2021’s Table For Two EP served an appetizer of what’s to come, his fans have been yearning for more since the release of his sophomore album’s title track at the end of last year. He says he feels the pressure that comes with caring about whether Candydrip will resonate or not. But there’s an air of confidence that beams from him when he discusses the forthcoming album: an ambitious 17-track release he hopes shows that he’s more than just an R&B act.
The majority of his latest album was recorded at EastWest Studios in Los Angeles over two days when the pandemic hit in 2020. Jam sessions ensued, mixed with ideas and songs; eventually, a genre-blending sound was carved out during a course of fateful moments with D’Mile. When I ask Daye what inspired the sonic shift for the new album — resetting the ‘70s soul vibe he established himself with and bringing it into the future — he says the idea of futurism was a theme that he and his team looked to for the project.
Candydrip (which is out today) is introspective but it also has experimental elements spread throughout, the artist fusing his southern roots and affinity for ‘70s soul music with contemporary sounds. This is evident on “NWA,” the latest single from the album. Featuring Chicago rapper Lil Durk, the track has classic soul inclinations but also has an edginess that goes a bit into pop lane territory. There are other standouts from the album that speak to this experimentation, too. “God Body,” which features Smino, finds Daye blurring the line between soul and rap as he sings about fleeting feelings of love and the fear that comes with a new partnership over a bass-heavy beat with big instrumentation. “Guess” is an uptempo track tinged with lush instrumentals, Daye putting a spin on his signature R&B sound as he sings about wanting to give a wishy-washy lover who’s used to guessing with the men she dates, the best relationship she’s ever had.
While relationships are the centerpiece of Candydrip, the idea of Daye pushing himself to explore new sounds is something he brings up more than once throughout the day. It’s not enough for him to exist in the R&B market; he candidly says that he doesn’t want to box himself into one genre and that he thinks this is something that is done to Black artists to limit them. This sentiment resurfaces again later in the day when Daye tasks me with putting a genre on the following three artists: Whitney Houston, Ray-J, and SZA.
“Pop, R&B, and alt,” I said.
In response, Daye says that he views Houston as “the greatest R&B singer of all time,” and excitedly highlights how SZA has R&B elements that make up her artistry. The point of bringing up these artists, particularly Houston and SZA, becomes apparent: that while these artists’ work is grounded in R&B, they have gone on to infuse that in other genres — something Daye also hopes to do with Candydrip and the rest of his music.
“Imagine this: you go to Disneyland, and you go do different rides because you’re feeling different ways,” he said. “Everybody don’t like every ride but it’s still Disneyland. Candydrip is a place where you do the same thing. You go to different songs when you want to take that ride.”
He’s also unconcerned with there being no definitive male face of R&B, saying that there’s no need for a sole figure — even though, whether he wants to admit it or not, he’s currently being heralded as a face of R&B. Instead, he’s more concerned with pushing boundaries through his music: “I don’t want to fit in, I want to push the mold and see where we can go.”
After wrapping up the shoot and getting food from a Silver Lake Mexican spot (and making a stop at Molly’s apartment nearby), we’re at a warehouse in Vernon near downtown Los Angeles. The space has been turned into a photo and video studio where a shoot for a forthcoming video is taking place. As we enter, “NWA” rings loudly, and Simon Davis — of the director duo rubberband alongside Jason Filmore — greets Daye and company before we each take a rapid COVID-19 test to enter a green room (thankfully, we all test negative). Stylist Parker Harwood sets up a large clothing rack with selects we hadn’t seen during the morning shoot. And then we sit and wait for Daye to be called to set on the other side of the warehouse.
As we sit and wait for Daye to be called, Joshua Bloom — of RCA’s Keep Cool — shares the logistics of what’s about to happen: Daye is shooting the final scene of a video where he’s flipping through a magazine that features himself in a world he’s built inspired by Candydrip. On-set, a robot worth $20,000 was brought to Los Angeles to flip through the pages of the magazine. Joshua explains when viewers watch the visual, it’ll appear as if Lucky is flipping through the magazine.
“[The video is] kind of a look into his world in every way possible,” Bloom said. “Basically, the concept is that Lucky exists in the future. The main takeaway is that this is the world of Candydrip. I think this is the most creative video he’s ever done. It’s absolutely the most ambitious. Every page is a different aspect of his life.”
When Daye is called on set, there are nearly 15 people working to prep the remaining shots needed for the singer’s ambitious video, with Davis and Filmore leading it all. The final shots find the singer alone in a room; one moment he’s laying on the ground, the next he’s dribbling a basketball. In front of the camera, he has a genuine smile that hasn’t left his face all day, a reminder that the singer who once considered giving up on music, is now excitedly about to usher in his next musical evolution.
As our time together comes to an end, I ask Daye one last question: “Do you need people to tell you if Candydrip is good or bad?”
“I don’t need it, but I like it. Some of its validation, and then it’s really people out there that fuck with me. So I take it to heart,” he said. “I don’t plan on letting them down, and if they really fuck with me then they know that takes time.”
Creative Director & Producer: Robyn Mowatt
Photography: Myai Anthony
Stylist: Alexander Julian
Stylist Assistant: Parker Harwood
Groomer: Tracy Love
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