Lunice’s most viewed YouTube performance isn’t actually of his music at all. Instead, it’s a video of him doing a solo pop-lock dance performance to Lazer Sword’s hyperactive “Gucci Sweatshirt” in his living room. The footage, as well as other clips, captures Lunice’s giddy enthusiasm, the way he seems genuinely excited to be lost in the music, whether it’s his own or that of the megastar rappers he admires. “I’ve been really into bigger-than-life entertainment,” he says. Like those artists, Lunice (whose real name is Lunice Fermin Pierre II) is as enthusiastic about the music he’s playing as the crowd is, if not more so. “My showmanship just comes literally from breakdancing,” he says, though he also credits his brazenness to “a few drinks.”
While Lunice is primarily an instrumental artist who gets excited about the nuances of production—his beats combine disparate of-the-moment sounds and influences into a glitchy, tactile pastiche—he shouldn’t be mistaken for a studio rat. Instrumental artists aren’t known for their electrifying stage shows, but Lunice is indebted to his. His contagious energy sets him apart from a tradition of bland mouse-clicking performances of the past. Using an MPD pad, he triggers his samples and effects live. “When I play out, I play tunes together and different parts together in the way a producer would where he chops samples in a studio, but I do it live,” he says.
Lunice’s atypical production career began in a more typical way. Like many beatmakers of the 2000s, he was inspired to make music when he first heard that it-producer 9th Wonder had constructed beats on the free computer program Fruity Loops. “Only later did I realize that it was something that people sort of looked down on,” he says. He uses the program to this day, although his style has changed considerably. Lunice now incorporates elements of juke, left-field electronic music and hip-hop, utilizing plenty of vocal samples and stuttering rhythms. It’s a style born out of hip-hop, but motivated by unconventional approaches. “If it’s something very interesting, something I’ve never heard—like, Oh I never thought of using the snares in the role of the kick—stuff like that, it really gets me excited,” he says.
Lunice is a still-budding talent, incorporating the weirder elements of electronic music into a hip-hop framework. It’s his love of studio minutiae, paired with his magnetic performances that has made him such a bright face in the crowded revitalization of instrumental hip-hop that’s been happening over the past two years. Combined with his stage show, it’s evident that he’s not just working with a palette of retro materials, but thinking about the bigger picture. “I was on stage playing and [dancing] just came out naturally, in a way where I’d be grooving to the beat a lot, connecting with the people…it came, really, from being happy and loving the moment and loving the people and the whole positive vibe, just having fun.”
Stream: Lunice, One Hunned EP