Tattoo artist-turned-rapper Tuki Carter released his debut studio album Flowers and Planes April 28, 2017. Repping Atlanta by way of California, Tuki crafts a taste of the sun-drenched melodies from the West amidst the bass-riddled rhythms of the South in a charismatic showcase of his formerly visual canvas made auditory.
Across 11 tracks, Tuki exudes a confidence bred in part by his work with body art. Following a spate of apprenticeships Tuki, along with friend and business partner Miya Bailey, opened City of Ink, a tattoo parlor in Atlanta catering to both the local and national market. His artisanal approach to his client’s visions accompanies a work ethic that is directly expressed on his debut album. Tuki displays his penchant for high-octane, tactical raps on production that directly enhances his strengths without sounding overly dissimilar to some of L.A.’s and Atlanta’s contemporary sounds.
The intro track, “To the Max” is akin to Tuki discussing a client’s desired art before putting ink to skin; he limbers up, checks his tools and outlines the eventually finished product. His style is immediately apparent: fast paced bars interspersed with slower, vocally layered hooks that pop against the ear. Features by Go Dreamer and Atlanta’s Rome Fortune are exemplary of the cohesion necessary for Tuki to remain the star of the first track on his album, as Go Dreamer’s filling vocals on the hook play well with Tuki’s “Im about to kill it,” adlibs, while Rome’s signature drawl throughout his verse contrasts but never steals the shine from Tuki’s offerings.
Such is the formula for Flowers and Planes, which includes features from Taylor Gang Entertainment label founder Wiz Khalifa, as well as Juicy J, Ted Park and Chevy Woods. Tuki and Wiz team up on the title track that oozes the summery, refreshing LA rap/funk themes with percussive jingles, waves of synths and gradient bass. Despite Tuki’s generally staccato flow, he aptly adheres to the beat’s relaxed construction, drawing out syllables with a familiar g-funk bounce.
Later, collaborating with Juicy J on “Jerry Maguire” (one of Juicy J’s two features) is an exercise in the turn-up tunes so synonymous with Juicy J’s solo career. His staple “Yeah Ho!” vocals would be appropriately nestled between the track’s bars as Tuki swerves by haters, on a verse that sees him getting lost in weed, alcohol and general debauchery on a nocturnal and pounding beat.
“Changes” stands out as one of Tuki’s more experimental cuts, as he delivers verses and the hooks with unusually swaying vocals. “No pain no gain, no pain no gain, you can win a million dollars, that don’t mean that your life gon’ change,” marks the hook, which defines the album’s overarching themes. Tuki is looking for success in the rap game, following a fruitful career in art. He never claims to be a member of the drug-pushing, gun-toting archetype that is so common among rappers with roots in the West and the South, instead focusing on providing for his daughter and preaching avoidance of the enemy, as on “Brewster’s Millions.”
Tuki rounds out Flowers and Planes with the veteran savvy expected of someone who underwent a career change. His uniquely paced cadence never strives to be explicitly mainstream, though the album could play equally well in a club or before a basketball game, just as his steady confidence supports listeners trying to find their own artistry, regardless of medium.