“Although slavery has long been a part of human history, American chattel slavery represents a case of human trauma incomparable in scope, duration and consequence to any other incidence of human enslavement.” These words were written by Dr. Joy DeGruy in her seminal 2005 text Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome: America’s Legacy of Enduring Injury and Healing. The words in these pages have moved many, including seasoned Buffalo emcee/producer Lucky Seven. In fact, he has taken the premise of the book and put his own creative spin on it for his newest album, Post Traumatic Slave Disorder (PTSD), which dropped today (7/3/19).
Lucky Seven closed 2018 out strong with two albums. In October, he released 53CREE: BAD LUCK, which included heavyweight features from Griselda Records associates Benny The Butcher and Conway The Machine. On Christmas Eve, he dropped Merry Christmas Retro Gamer, a project which saw a cameo from rising star Flee Lord. He also produced “Shook”, a track for ELCAMINO, Benny and Meyhem Lauren. Another highlight was having his track “Temple,” featuring Conway, placed in the Eminem-produced indie film, Bodied.
Like with last year’s releases, Luck Seven will wear the hats of both rapper and producer for PTSD, his third project in eight months. Again, Flee Lord will lend his skills, along with underground vets Skyzoo, Lyric Jones, D. King and Black Inc. among others on the 11-track playlist. Though the Howhood University prodigy never takes his craft lightly, the tone of the new album is very serious, with words of prosperity, encouragement and upliftment for the downtrodden descendants of African slaves throughout the world. Additionally, allies who want a deeper understanding would benefit from a listen. The substantive bars and melodic beats are accentuated by sound clips of prominent Black leaders waxing poetic about overcoming the current system. The PTSD theme also plays into Luck Seven’s running advocacy for mental health, as he’s dealt with bouts of depression and anxiety presently and in the past. This isn’t emo rap, though. Luck Seven is cut from a different cloth. The lamentations are more in the vein of Tupac, DMX and Scarface who display(ed) pain fearlessly on wax. Luck Seven’s musical prowess and scholarly experience make him the perfect candidate to convey such a message. The delivery is not preachy, but more like a conscious friend giving his spiel on the state of things in the local barbershop. He has compiled a set of truly coherent, flowing sonic arrangements that are pleasing to the ear and mind for hip-hop fans of all backgrounds.
The album can be streamed below. After that, you can also find our exclusive interview with Lucky Seven where we got his perspective on the new album, the rap game, his aspirations, his history and more.
Don Diva: What was life like coming up in Buffalo for you?
Lucky Seven: Life was easy. Life was cool. I remember moving around a lot when we were younger. We moved to all parts of Buffalo. When I was about 10 or so, we moved to East Amherst, which is outside of Buffalo. You know, it was quiet out there. We just moved around a lot. After that, we moved back into the city again and I went to a lot of different schools. So, what I remember about my youth is that I knew a lot of people. Like, I always knew somebody. Like, I’d go somewhere in Buffalo and just see somebody. That was just how it was. I just knew a lot of people because I’d been in so many schools and lived so many places. I just know a lot of people in Buffalo.
DD: What are the some of the pros and cons of knowing a lot of people in Buffalo?
L7: The pros? I’d say a lot of stuff is easygoing. Like, because a lot of people know you, situations might happen a lot faster. Like, shit, I might pull up to the club and I know I know all the bouncers in the town. So, I don’t wait in line. I go up to the door, give a dap, no pat, no nothing and I’m in. Shit like that. That’s a pro, I guess. You know a lot of people, so things are easy for you. I’d say a con is that you can’t escape anybody. You know you gon’ see somebody. Every time you go out, you know you gon’ see somebody and that can be a con sometimes. You not tryna see people you know all the time.
DD: I know that you’re a high IQ kid. What’s your IQ?
L7: I believe it’s like 143, 145. Something like that.
DD: That’s considered superior. How has that affected your life?
L7: Honestly, my mother always used to say, “You have a high IQ so you can do X, Y & Z.” How I see it is if something is put in front of you that you aren’t familiar with, you can take to it fast. Like, get an understanding of it fast. That all I see it as. As I’ve gotten older, I do see that in a lot of things that I have nothing to it, but just a little bit of looking at it and understanding the basics and I can do it to some good ability. Shit, like a year or two years ago was the first time I ever golfed before. Like, I’d never been golfing before. I went with my pops, my uncle, my cousins were out there. It was just a family golfing. But before I went, early in the morning, me and my pops went to meet this older Black dude who was a real good golf pro. I forget his name. We were out there early like 6 AM and he was just teaching me a stroke. That’s it. I ain’t never picked up a golf club. NOTHING. He just gave me the basics. He’s like, “Do this. Hold it like this. Swing like that. Yada, yada, yada.” Just the basics. Just my basic understanding of seeing maybe Tiger Woods’ swing or something like that, I just started hitting these joints far as Hell. Like, connecting with every joint. He was like, “Whoa! Are you sure this is your first time golfing?” I was like, “I’ve never picked up a stick before.” So, that day, we go out to the course. Like, the whole nine holes or however many it was. I ended up winning. Like, winning. Out of everybody, I had the best score. I was knocking those shits out the park. From the tee, I could get the ball in the hole sometimes off like, two or three joints. People were, like, genuinely concerned like, “Yo! You’ve never played golf before?! You’re out here spanking everybody!” I remember after that day, I felt it right there, what it might mean to have a higher IQ in a sense. You kinda get shit faster. That’s all I see it as.
DD: Do you think your IQ has played a part in you learning how to produce and engineer and all that?
L7: 100%. For instance, as far as engineering, right? I always worked with an engineer like Matt Cody or my man Brad or my man Little Man here in Buffalo. I’ve always had a bunch of different engineers and when they engineer, I’m not sitting off in the corner. I’m not writing lyrics. My seat is right next to theirs, just looking at the screen, looking at their hands, looking at what they’re doing. I’ve been doing that since Matt was recording us in Drew Hall (Howard University’s freshman male dorm). I’d be right up under his shoulder looking at him press the buttons and stuff like that. Never really asked too many technical questions. Just looking. So, what happened was, I put together some money and got myself a studio and made it the stu. Mind you, I’ve never recorded ever. Like, ever. I had just assembled the studio and like a week in, I still ain’t never got around to trying to record. My cousin hit me like, “Conway’s tryna record over at your stu.” I was like, “Oh shit! OK, bring him through.” That day, I learned how to record. Like, that day. It was just off of what I remember seeing everybody do throughout my course of just watching engineers. I didn’t know exactly what to do, but I was like, “Well, I know Matt slides the beat in here, adds the track and then presses record. I know Brad slides this here,” and that’s all I did. I recorded the nigga and from that day forward, I was his engineer. Then I really started recording myself.
DD: OK, you said a few things we’ll come back to, but first, who are your musical influences?
L7: Honestly, it’s a lot. It really is a lot. I can’t pinpoint all of em at this point. I grew up and I loved Busta Rhymes. I loved Nas. I loved JAY-Z. I loved Ghostface. You know what I’m saying, that New York influence. I loved DMX. Anybody with bars growing up, that was my influence. You know, the Golden Era greats.
DD: You sample a lot of old school music, too. Has that influenced you?
L7: No, it does not. To keep it a bean with you, I do have a good knowledge of old school music like everyone else, but I’m not a searcher. I’m not digging for the artist that I heard about. That’s just not how I do it. Honestly, when I sample, I sample things that you would never sample. I’m not looking for a loop or something like that to be honest with you. I’m just looking for like a sound and then I might just dub the sound a lot. Something like that. I don’t sample traditionally like everyone does. On PTSD, that’s the first time I did those kind of straight loop samples. Like, a continuous joint. I usually don’t do it like that. I chop it up.
DD: How did you get started in music?
L7: I was always into music. Always had music on at the house, because of my parents. I remember when I was little, the TV was always glued to MTV. I was tryna be like the new Michael Jackson or MC Hammer video. I, of course, played the piano. I played the drums. Music was just always around. That’s how I got into music. With rapping, it was definitely just the influence of those around me. My cousins were always good rappers. You know GS (currently a consultant for Griselda Records), he was always really good. My older cousin, Pedro, he was really good. My cousin, Mark, he was really good. He’s from New York. My cousin Kenroy who was way older than us would put me onto music. You know how people back in the day had towers of CD’s? You come into his apartment and his whole wall is full of towers, so you come in there and get lost looking at CD’s and you get into it. It’s passed down, you know what I’m saying?
DD: When did you actually first pick up a mic and start recording?
L7: I’d say I was around 14,15 years old. My mans, we did it real grimy. He had the mic with the stocking over the hanger, you know what I’m saying? We were recording off of…I forgot the program. It was, like, Cool Edit or something like that. You know, we were just going to town. He’d put on the beat and I’d rap. Honestly, the thing about tha, when I took to rap, people were instantly like, “Yo! You good! Your voice!” Like, instantly. That’s what pushed me. I never thought I’d be a rapper. It was just that when I would say shit, people would say, “Yo! You’re good!” That reinforcement just made me like, “Shit, lemme write something else. Lemme make another song.”
DD: I know that you got your start at Howard University. How did Howhood University come to be?
L7: Howhood University is the label, the group that formed there at Howard. It’s just a play on words. People in our class used to called Howard, “Howhood University.” We just ran with that and named the label Howhood University. We were just some guys. Guys from across the map who linked up at Howard and we started to make music. A lot of it. That’s honestly where I crafted a lot of who I am. I didn’t even have the name Lucky Seven before that. My rap name was “The Champion Charlie Brown.”
DD: What does the name Lucky Seven actually mean to you?
L7: My name was “The Champion Charlie Brown,” then it changed to “730.” Then, when I came to Howard, it was “L.” Like Lucky Seven, but I just made it “L7.” Growing up, people called me “Lucky.” That was a nickname of mine. So, instead of making it “L7,” I just made it the whole thing, Lucky Seven. It had a ring to it because of lucky sevens in Vegas. So, I dropped the “30,” pretty much. It’s still on my Instagram handle, @luckyseven30.
DD: Speak more on how you started the studio. Why was it so vital for you to build your own studio and how has it benefited you?
L7: This goes for everything, but say you make clothes. You have to mentally say, “You know what? All this money I’m using for X, Y and Z, it needs to be directed into this.” You know, one thing. Then you start realizing you’re buying your fabric from this place and you’re buying your zippers from that place or whatever. That shit gets expensive to keep putting out money. The first thing that anybody who tries to get into whatever business they’re in is gonna think is, “How do I cut costs? How do I get to the goal, but not spend as much?” Then, instead of getting your shirts pressed up by some guy, you go out and get the screen printer to do them yourself. So, yeah, the screen printer might cost a rack or some change, but it’ll help you out because you’re not spending $600 every time you’re tryna make some shirts, you know what I’m saying? That’s why I did it. Because it became burdensome to always shell out so much money to be in the studio and you gotta plan out your hours because it costs this and that. Nah. This is what I do. I need to have this studio so I’m doing it all times for free.
DD: Your studio has become a real verified spot that established people are coming to. What’s the name of the studio and how has having a popping studio affected your career in a networking sense?
L7: Everyone calls it “The Church.” That’s how I build a lot of my relationships. Like, Evidence from Dilated Peoples. That’s the homie. He came here, but that’s through Conway. Conway is on, you know what I’m saying? Just Conway being around, if somebody comes into town like Raekwon or someone like that, they’re hitting up Conway and Conway is like, “Yo, come to the stu.” So, Raekwon is in the stu. It happens through Conway. He’s the link.
DD: What is the music scene like in Buffalo? What does it take to make it from Buffalo?
L7: To make it out of Buffalo, you gotta do some traveling. It’s not about Buffalo blowing you up. You gotta blow up. It’s not gonna happen in The Town. That’s no shade to The Town. It’s just it’s not gonna happen, you know what I’m saying? You can be a local celebrity. It’s not gon’ get you that bag, though. For instance, Benny is a rap legend in Buffalo. He’s been making tapes after tapes after tapes out here. Everybody knows Benny in The Town, but look at where he is now because of the platform that he has, which is outside of Buffalo. He been the man, but now he’s outside of the Buffalo bubble and look at his success. It’s the same thing with all of em. You gotta travel. You gotta be places to meet people and let them see what you do. There’s a lot of good rappers. Like, incredible, just like Westside, Conway and Benny. There’s a bunch of niggas just as hot, but you’re not gonna hear about them if they don’t get outta Buffalo. Nobody’s coming to Buffalo to find niggas. However they do it, they just gotta take their brand out of Buffalo into other places.
DD: What’s your approach to making music and who do you make music for, exactly?
L7: I make music for myself and I have come to realize that recently. The music I make is strictly for myself. I don’t care about who doesn’t get it. I don’t care about who doesn’t like it. I do care if you like it. I do appreciate that, but I’m not concerned about what people don’t get with my music. I make it for myself. The process of it is honestly very sporadic. It’s very weird. I was thinking about it recently, too. It doesn’t really make too much sense how I make the music. I do things in steps. I leave stuff sometimes and come back to it later to finish it. The process is a mess. That’s because I do rap, make beats and record myself. It’s very hard to do all three within the same timeframe. I don’t know how to explain it, but it messes with your brain. You’re doing three different things that you have to switch your brain to do and it’s just really hard. Like, to make a beat, then switch your mind to writing creative shit to it, then switch your mind to recording yourself over the beat. All three completely different steps. It just takes some time to do.
DD: OK, the new album is PTSD, Post Traumatic Slave Disorder. That’s a heavy title and I’ve listened to it and it’s pretty heavy topic-wise. What was that the thought process that went into making this album and what do you want people to walk away from it with?
L7: There was a lot of…you know. You’re Black. You’ve seen what’s been happening in the past few years. It’s a lot of crazy shit getting caught on camera and being exposed. I was making an album that had nothing to do with PTSD and the songs are nothing like this. Some of them are happy and jovial. The project I was gearing up to make has nothing to do with this shit. I was working on The Time Machine 2, the sequel to a project I did with my Howhood partner Drew Pose. One day, I’d just stumbled across this woman named Dr. Joy DeGruy. What grabbed me was the title of her book was Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome. I was like, “Huh?” That’s what brought me to the video of her talking about it. After that, I was like, “Oh, I gotta get the book,” so I read her book. At Howard, I was a political science, Afro-American studies minor. So, a lot of my classes were Afro-American studies and Pan-Africanism, Black politics, stuff like that. You get a heavy dose of just Black history, period, when you’re in that lane. So, I know about a lot of shit that would make niggas mad if they studied or cared to know about it. But, the way she went about it was just mind-blowing to me. Basically she was saying that people suffer from post traumatic stress disorder and people who suffer from that get counseling; they get therapy. We identify those people as having a problem. Something happened in their life where it’s traumatizing and we understand that. However, with Black folk, we are not understanding that the effects of slavery are traumatic. What happened during that long period of time was extremely traumatic and trauma has been proven to be passed down through generations. It’s just basic now. That’s understood. If your mother was abusive and yelled and beat you, you’ll probably do the same to your kids. That’s not a 100% guarantee, it’s real about trauma. It’s passed along. So, the trauma that Black folk experienced during slavery and post slavery up until today is a trauma we need to talk about. It’s a trauma that needs to be addressed. Period. We can’t just pull ourselves up by our bootstraps as they say. That’s not what it’s about. We need to heal from the trauma that we’re dealing with and that boils down to everything we do. Everything that we are. If you listen to the album, that’s what it is. I’m talking about predicaments that we’re in. Selling drugs. We’re being killed for being Black, scary niggas. In songs like “Bigger Picture,” it’s like y’all are paying attention now to the wrong things because all of these are effects of slavery. All of it. As detached as we are, people will try to act like it was years ago or get over it. No. Those effects are long-lasting and that’s what we have to understand. After that, I was motivated. Like, two months it took before it was done, beats and lyrics.
DD: What can people look forward to from you in the future?
L7: More music in the next few months. Let’s just say that. I’m not gon’ give up to much, but more music in the next few months. It’s coming. Like, a storm of Luck Seven is on the way.
DD: You’ve had a few hot features on your recent albums. You’ve had Griselda, Flee Lord, Skyzoo and others contribute bars. Who is on your wishlist to work with that you haven’t yet?
L7: Shit, honestly, I just wanna make music with real bar-spitters. If you’re known for spitting bars, I wanna get in there and tailor that. I wanna get in there and help with that in some way. So, the real spitters like the Earl Sweatshirts and boys like that, I wanna collab on some ideas with those boys. I also wanna take some rappers that have a style and try to put them with another style. Like, make em rap over a different type of beat. That’s what I wanna do. Like, maybe take a trap rapper and make him go over some real New York feel type shit and change up his lyrics a little bit. That’s what I wanna do.
DD: If there’s one thing you want people to know about Lucky Seven and your music, what would it be?
L7: I guess you could say that I’m realizing that I’m probably not gon’ give you shit that isn’t real. Like, I’m starting to understand that the shit I’m gonna start making isn’t necessarily gonna be dark, but it’s gonna be content that’s gonna make people go, “OK, Lucky’s dropping a project? We gotta sit back and listen to this one.” That’s what it’s gon’ be. That’s the lane I’m going in right now. There’s no more time to make music for what you think it should be. Like, “Oh man, I need to make a club song because it’ll be hot in the club,” or, “I need to make the shorty song so I can get on the radio.” It’s about making real shit that’ll make people be like, “Oooooh shit.”
DD: With this rap shit, what is your ultimate goal? What is the “Promised Land” for you? What are you hoping to do with all this?
L7: I want people to hear it man. I want it to be everywhere. Period. I wanna show people what they can do, what they can be and how to do it. To get into this rap shit and to be successful, you gotta really trust your instincts and understand that you gotta grind. It sounds so cliche, but you have to grind. You have to treat this shit like it’s life or death. When you treat it like life or death, then that’s when you’re gonna get to success. That’s what I want people to understand. You gotta really grind. You can’t take no days off and you gotta make it work yourself. Don’t put it in anyone else’s hands. Go with your gut.