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The life, death and rebirth of hip-hop artist/filmmaker Jeff Lucky

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"I didn't create for years after my sister was killed. I couldn't even write an Irish limerick," he says. "And it's because you feel like all these people are invading your life [and] they don't deserve anything. ... And at the time, I was so angry and bitter toward the people, I didn't wanna give them anything at all. And that was destroying me — because then I couldn't get the stuff out. And I was just becoming a worse and worse and worse person."

He lives again

Two girls, one boy, a mama. In 2005, two weeks after Lucky received the top award at the Asheville Film Festival for his documentary Donor, he lost his father, Jeff Moonie Sr. — the subject of the film — to Graft-Versus-Host disease.

Lucky says his father's death helped him collect himself and figure out how to move forward. "As opposed to my sister, where I kinda dove into a hole, and I ran into a wall and I couldn't create," he says, "I was like, 'Now people gone think I got shot out of a cannon — 'cause I gotta do both these things: film and music. And I'm gonna work harder, more ardently and more passionately than anyone.'"

Three years later, Lucky, a graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill in media studies and production, moved to California to make movies. The music kept calling him, though. Many of the tracks on Soul Motivation began writing themselves during his time there. "When I first moved to Los Angeles, I just had a suitcase. I didn't even have a car. I didn't have anything," he says. "I would walk around Hollywood all the time, and 'Don't Worry,' the lyrics to that [song] is what I would say in my head to motivate myself."

Lucky landed a job writing music for the CBS police drama, Cold Case. His song "Read Between the Lines" propelled the 2009 episode of the same name to one of the highest-rated of the season. Lucky says it also marked the first time in the history of the series that producers allowed someone to write a song that a show was centered around.

"I moved to L.A. to make movies only — or at least I thought," he says. "People told me that you gotta do either one or the other; you gotta choose if you don't wanna suffer. And I realized that for me to be me and express myself properly, that two things [music and film] always have to go together. [Soul Motivation] is me coming to that understanding — that I need these two things to function properly."

Lucky says the majority of the 14-track album was recorded in two days, but adding the finishing touches — the transitions, live instruments and "character" — took almost a year. Produced by Brice Lampkin, the album includes fun numbers like "Needles" and "Soul Glo" (That song's video, by the way, earned a 100-percent "funny" rating on the comedy website Funnyordie.com.) and more contemplative ones like the title track "Soul Motivation" and "Custom Gators," a song about Lucky's experience losing a baby. And though Lucky says he won't rest "until anyone who can be moved by this album is exposed to it," he is already looking to his next projects.

His record label, SummerSoul Records (named for his sister Cherica), is a joint enterprise with his younger sister Janalyn Walton and manager Will Hill. "We're representing the stuff [my sister] would be doing right now, her true legacy," he says. "We want to separate her from just the way she ended. She was so much bigger and so much more important than that." Two films are also in the works, including one set in L.A. (for which he is creating the theme song and film score) and one set in Charlotte (the Nicholl Fellowship quarterfinalist). In all his work, Lucky says he wants to continue to be open and honest. To "do the work necessary, to continue to inspire someone."

"Guaranteed, there will be times when you doubt yourself," he says. "There will be times when you have fear, when you do not know your direction, when you have obstacles. You might just have a setback or maybe a full-blown tragedy.


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