Lucki Credit: Vin M Romero

Come November, the music press will start churning out “decade in review” pieces. Though I can’t predict their contents (and frankly don’t want to), I anticipate there’ll be several listicles ranking Chicago rappers—and any such roundup would be incomplete without Lucki Camel Jr. He dropped his debut mixtape, Alternative Trap, in 2013, and though he was just 17 at the time, he already showed a tremendous gift for drawing in listeners with his storytelling. Sought-after music supervisor Scott Vener, known for his work on HBO’s Entourage and How to Make It in America, soon became his manager, and a year later Lucki dropped “Stevie Wonder,” a track featuring Chance the Rapper and coproduced by drill architect Young Chop. By the middle of the decade he’d faded from the limelight as he struggled with drug addiction, but through the ups and downs he found focus in music, even steering it in a new direction: retaining his sharp observational lyrics and the drowsy delivery that makes him sound like he could get lost between the beats, he grew more succinct and developed a lived-in hardness in his tone. Lucki’s lackadaisical flow and predilection for confronting the dark, intimate details of drug addiction and broken romance set a template for Soundcloud rappers to come, but he’s always seemed a world apart from that scene (and any other). As Soundcloud rap blew up in 2017, he dropped Watch My Back, a mixtape filled with nervy, powerful songs that are sometimes so brief that their sudden ends seem to cut Lucki off just as he gets going. He’s all of 23 years old now, and in February, he self-released Freewave 3, whose forceful, anxious songs show that he’s on track to make fascinating, inspiring music for a long time to come.   v