It is often said that an artist can change the game, but all too often it doesn’t happen. In the case of Champagne Duane, people should at least start paying attention. Humble and ambitious, he is the definition of hard work and has brought his solid work ethic to the booth. Creative, witty, crafty, smooth and perceptive all begin to describe his approach to the game, but one word you should use is, complete. From the up tempo tracks like ‘Friday’ and ‘Killin’ Em’ to the introspective ballads ‘Hip Hop Resurrection’ and ‘Same Old Song’, Champagne Duane brings versatility, depth, and a confidence that says, “I have arrived.” And that confidence is well placed in someone who, a product of ’82, has experienced and achieved more than most do in a lifetime. A solid student of the game, his early influences include Nas, Jay-Z, Slick Rick, and Talib Kweli.
His music making began in high school when he produced songs for his church and ghost writing for other artists, but decided to put recording on the back burner to focus on his chosen career, footwear design. Guyana-born, Florida-raised, Duane Lawrence has always harbored an artistic side. An alumni of Design and Architecture Senior High in Miami, he often found reinforcement in his ability to communicate his ideas visually, drawing from an imaginative personality. That imagination led the former Miami Heat Ballboy to the College for Creative Studies in Detroit where his passion for design, art and music grew. In 2004, Duane’s footwear career began at Converse, near Boston, where he would become the lead designer for NBA superstar Dwyane Wade. Now residing on the West coast, his designs have also been worn by athletes like Dwight Howard, Chauncey Billups, Kirk Hinrich, Elton Brand, Udonis Haslem and Tim Duncan to name a few.
After over a decade in the shoe game, ‘The Champ’ has returned to the booth. Call it a reverse-Kanye, Duane is ready to also have an impact in the rap game. In June of 2015, he released his first full-length project, “A Toast”, a tribute to the Hip-Hop music that influenced him growing up. Stand out tracks include the Jonny Cool-produced singles “I Got You” and crowd favorite “NEED”. Described as sounding like “LL over a Premo beat”, it’s an authentic introduction to the artist and pure addition to the genre. The span of his talent is apparent on the Trox-produced “Triple OG.” Featuring an idol in Talib Kweli, “Triple OG” is an intelligent song in which they articulate the legacy of Black men. Rounding out the project with some vibes from the 90s are the celebration-ready tracks “A Toast (feat. Saeeda Wright)”, “Darling Girl (feat. Jarrod Lawson)” and “Champagne Flow,” where his clever word play is on display with lines like “I’m more Diddy than Fiddy/ I’d rather “no” (know) biggie/ than to have holes in me.”
“The album is refreshing- solid production and delivery. Seriously impressed by the fact that it sounded different from the trending sound, and the content had substance.” – DJ OG ONE [Portland Trailblazers DJ, XRAY.FM Radio host]
Adding to the discography, Duane also collaborated with fellow artist Elin Skei to release Unhappy Valentines in February 2015. The 5-track EP is the love story we’d all like to forget. Champ gets personal on tracks like “She Loves Me Not” and “Want Me Back,” and the two look and sound like a natural fit in the music video for “The Worst.” Consistently working, he also released a third video in a three month span entitled “Pink Champagne”. The year 2015 also saw the development of Champagne Duane as a true performer as he made his way through Portland venues. His refined presentation in tandem with 6-piece band Free Thought Takeover creates a live experience that delivers fine-tailored Hip-Hop over a killer horn section.
Relocating to Oakland, California, a city know for it’s history of activism, gave his music a whole new focus. Duane’s latest release, The Campaign, is the soundtrack to America’s political and social climate, from the concerns of injustice to the hope of equality. Produced entirely by Cee Goods, the 2017 President’s Day release was a timely project that captured the sentiments of a society that deals with racism, violence, and political turmoil. Two stand out tracks are “One Day” and “Gun Control.” The former is a soulful, uplifting track inspired by the messages of MLK while the latter is a response to police violence that echoes the views of Black Nationalist leader Malcolm X. Woven throughout the rest of the album are themes surrounding women’s rights, the corrupt industry of incarceration, gentrification and culture appropriation, environmental justice and economic inequality.
He looks to package the maturity of his new found voice with even more meaningful music. Whether the idea is to celebrate your accomplishments or it inspires you to envision a better circumstance for yourself and the world around you, his message is clear: No matter where we are in life, we have an opportunity to remove the ceilings and improve our situation. Raise your glass.