Luke Christopher found his career in a bunk bed. Holed up in his makeshift room studio, the Los Angeles rapper-singer-producer was up until 3am, working on his art. In 2012, Luke released his debut mixtape TMRW, TMRW. Nearly two years later, he’s still pushing with his e-street gang (he calls them TMRW gang) with the release of TMRW TMRW II, which highlights Luke’s creativity and diverse influences from James Blake and Laura Mvula to Frank Ocean.
With the co-sign from Chicago wordsmith Common, Luke’s lyrics are food for thought (see: “Life Jackets”). Fallouts with Def Jam and Atlantic Records also fuel his spitfire rhymes but now, with ByStorm Entertainment/RCA Records as his new home, his pipe dreams are slowly becoming a reality. “You need that to light a fire under you,” he tells VIBE, “so sometimes there will be a down moment but think positive. You have to think positive.” Get familiar with the wise 21-year-old MC below.—Maya S. Jones
VIBE: When did you first get into hip-hop?
Luke Christopher: It was Christmas and I got the Tupac All Eyez On Me album. It was my first introduction to hip-hop. I was like 10 or 11 and like, ‘OK, this shit is crazy.’ Then my cousin showed me A Tribe Called Quest and I started getting into a lot of old school stuff too. So that’s when I first fell in love with it. When I was probably like 13, my cousin and my brother were like making nursery rhymes into raps and recording it on Garage Band. It was incredible so I started messing around with writing rhymes. I would spend all night, hours, like 3am just making music.
Do you remember the first song you wrote?
The first song I wrote was kind of like a constant play of a nostalgic type track. It was talking about my move from California to Las Vegas when I was young.
What were some of the highlights growing up that sort of shaped you into Luke Christopher today?
I was open to all different types of music, and all different types of art, music and movies. I’m still kind of like that. I’m not close-minded in any way. I think it helps growing up in L.A where it’s like you know such a multi-type of culture and as I got older, getting to high school, it started to shrink. I was in areas that were more secluded and like a bubble. I kinda had that mindset so I was kind of like the one kid that you know didn’t fit in with the “normal” so that was cool.
You have aspirations of starting your own record label so who would you sign in the game right now?
I would sign James Blake. When I run my label, I don’t want it to be strictly hip-hop. I want it to be artists that I can produce stuff for. I’d sign Chance The Rapper, Frank Ocean and Lorde.
You also referenced the Atlantic Records and Def Jam fallout. What went down?
When I was 17, we sent my first song to Atlantic Records and the A&R flew us out overnight. They were like, ‘Yo I wanna fly you out to Atlantic Records. We wanna do a deal.’ We were naive and so we flew out there. We had to put on a showcase in this lobby with tracks we didn’t even have and it was kind of a weird vibe. Then in the end it was like I was too young to fully understand what they wanted to do. They were like, ‘You’re too inexperienced.’ That’s basically the feedback we got. Like I said, it was all purpose. Then with Def Jam, the next person was like, ‘Yeah we’re tryna sign a singer.’ Then the next person was saying, ‘Nah we’re trying to sign a rapper,’ and then a lot of stuff just happened with people talking. It just lit a fire and I’m not the type of person to be all sensitive and upset when somebody gives me negative feedback. I’m just like, ‘OK, I’ma show you.’ Like even when somebody tweets, ‘Yo you sound stupid,’ I’m like okay “@ John Jacob, I’ma show you In the next track.’
I wanna touch base on your love life real quick. After listening to “Life Jackets,” you know it seems like you’d rather not put up with women.
The concept itself was basically you’re in a relationship with this one person that is ready to commit but they want that exclusive commitment and then it’s just not what the next person wants. I’m saying I’m not ready to commit in an exclusive way you know. I don’t have to be so exclusive. I work late and stuff then it’s like, OK, I don’t wanna be with you unless I don’t have that safety net on, a life jacket, which is like love, commitment. We wanted to show that in the video with the girl searching for that and just not finding it from me.
Are you single right now?
Nah, I’m seeing somebody. Shoutout to her.
You teamed up with Common. What was that like?
Yeah that was crazy! He’s an idol of mine in hip-hop. Common was parked at the parking lot of the studio and he heard some of the tracks and he walked in on my boy. They were from Chi-town and my man started playing a record. Then he texted me because I was at rehearsal and he was like, ‘Yo Common is in the studio come through.’ I got in the car and drove to the studio. We just kinda started chopping it up for like an hour then he was like, ‘Man, I wanna get on this record,’ so he hopped on. It was crazy how it happened so fast.
Where did you get the idea to sample Laura Mvula’s “I Don’t Know What The Weather Will Be.”
Yeah, I love that album. When I heard that, I just thought it sounded so creative. Her voice is insane but I gotta find a record that I can play with, so when I found that, I started chopping with it. Her whole album is crazy.
You define TMRW Gang as “Everybody who believes in making a better tomorrow for themselves, and for the world based on fashion music and art.” How have you given back to them?
We’re starting an educational foundation now actually. Kids in school don’t really learn about anything besides academics. A lot of kids don’t learn like that. A lot of kids excel in things that aren’t taught too, so we wanna be able to show people there are other forms of intelligence. You don’t have to feel stupid because you don’t excel in math or science, but you might be an excellent singer or painter. Whatever it is, that’s TMRW Gang. It’s about expressing yourself through art, music, fashion and creativity.
Is this a future project in the works?
Probably the end of this year. As we grow the fan base, we’re going to be putting singles and albums out. We will start doing projects in different vicinities and a concert series. Then it will eventually become a label too.
How does your mixtape TMRW, TMRW II differ from what’s on mainstream radio?
People are craving for something more meaningful right now. Even mainstream radio is craving for something more hip-hop, especially in L.A where the radio is so monotonous. You hear the same thing over and over. We wanted to have something that people can listen to by themselves, but at the same time, feels commercial for radio, whether you’re driving with your girls or whatever it is.