The rapper grants the site its 102nd interview to chat about a ton of stuff, including a track by track run through of his debut EP 'Streets, Demons and Fears', a summary of his immediate local hip-hop scene in New Cross, what he feels needs to happen in the UK scene and what he's working on at the moment.
Wassup man. How's it going? Why did you decide on CLG being your artist name and what do the letters stand for?
Whassup, thanks to rapnews.co.uk for this interview. CLG stands for my real initials, so I'm just representing me, without no gimmicks or anything like that. It has a nice ring to it.
Where about from the UK are you based and is there much going on there in terms of a local scene and artists?
I'm from New Cross, South East London. There's a lot going on at the moment in and around the area. There are some high calibre artists here. You've got Manage, who's a good friend of mine. He's got a dope track out right now called 'Rise Up', which has on the b-side a track called 'Mics 4 Life', which features myself as well as Syanyde (Frontline) and Reveal (Poisonous Poets). Plus, there's King Kaiow who's part of The IRS, who are making a lot of noise right now. You've got SE14/8, which my cousin Jack Jones is a part of. They've got a huge local following and they've got a track coming out in support of the Gun Amnesty campaign. There's also Elite Team representing Lewisham, Keelow and Cariz from AMMO who are one of the most under-rated crews in the UK. There's my cousin's label 'Rok Da Blok'. There's some good stuff coming out of our neck of the woods. All of those I mentioned are putting stuff out and it's good cos there's a mutual respect between us and we're pretty much all supporting each other.
Growing up in New Cross, did you ever come across Blade selling his early albums on the street?
I never actually came across him selling his records on the street or anything like that, but I was aware of the moves he was making. I know him through Manage, they go back a long way. Blade is someone that I've got a great deal of respect for because he's put in a lot of work over the years.
Who were the artists which you looked up to as something you wanted to be like?
I've always looked up to artists who have got lyrics that can make me sit and really think, and inspire me to reflect on my own life. Artists like KRS and Jeru Da Damaja have been very influential on me. Nas too…Illmatic was one of the album's that made me wanna pick up a pen and do this thing seriously. I was also really into Mobb Deep's Infamous album. I liked the fact that their lyrics were so visual, the way they depicted the environment they came from. G Rap was dope like that too. Also, Rass Kass' 'Soul on Ice' album…I got into Hip Hop through listening to the likes of NWA, Ice Cube, Snoop and Dre and all that back in the early 90's, but it was those other artists that I mentioned before that really inspired me on another level.
Your discography runs back to 2000 but how long before that had you started getting serious about rapping and wanting to release stuff?
I've been rapping since around 94 but it was only around 96 that I really thought that I could do this. The thing that held me back for ages was my introversion; In my head I could never imagine myself having the confidence to get up on a stage or rap in front of anyone. But in 96 I got serious about the rap. And then I started meeting established artists on the scene. I have to say that Blak Twang really inspired me more than anyone in UK rap back at that time. That 'Real Estate' tune he put out back in 96 was heavy. Back then he used to live about 5 minutes down the road from me, and I met him through one of my brothers. I remember going around his flat, where I met Roots Manuva before he had even really released anything. We had a little cypha and they were both dope, and I must have sounded proper shit in comparison, but I was just a youngster to them and they gave me a few compliments on my style, and that right there, and just talking to them about the moves they were making inspired to believe in this UK Rap thing.
How much of a journey was there from then up to releasing your debut EP 'Streets, Demons and Fears' last year?
It's been a long journey…To be honest I'm glad that I never released any solo stuff before this point. Because right now I've reached a point of maturity in terms of my lyrical skills, content and style that are serious. I used to just rhyme battle stuff and stuff with no concept, I used to freestyle a lot, and all that right there was all good in terms of building the skills, but I'm glad I never put it out on a solo project. But I did spit some of those kind of lyrics on Manage's Early Life Crisis EP a few years back and I'm proud of that right there, but right now I'm on a whole different level to what I was spitting then. I will spit those kind of things again every now and then though, but not on anything that is a CLG solo EP or album unless it's a bonus track.
Could you talk a bit about the release; some of the tracks, any collaborations, the beats etc?
Each track has a concept and a purpose, there are no just spitting tracks, and I don't talk about how great I am as a rapper and how crap everyone else is or try to belittle anyone. The lyrics are about issues that are real to me, things that hopefully other people can relate to. It features some known artists like Manage, Sirplus, Trz and Kelz of the Souljah Clique. Plus I got some up and coming artists like Relly, Griz Bear, my brother Daron Raw AKA D-Raw, plus Mister-E (who's part of my original group The Select Few). It also features Seedpopular, who's based out in Queens, New York. We actually recorded our collabo together when I was on holiday in NYC. Production-wise, I've got beats from Chemo, Trz, REK, Movemakers, Mister-E and myself. I've also got cuts by DJ Quest, who won the UK DMC Championship in 2003, as well as my DJ, DJ Snuff.
Its title is an interesting one and offers something to think about from the starting blocks. Could you talk about that?
'Streets, Demons and Fears' represent the three main obstacles that I've faced in life up to this point. 'Streets' represent the inner city environment I come from and all the negative temptations and influences that are attached to it…a lot of people fail to overcome that obstacle and end up living or dying a certain way. 'Demons' represent all the inner negativity and insecurities which have held me back in certain life situations. The 'Fears' represent the fear of being able to overcome these first two obstacles, but it goes deeper than that to fears of death and religion.
Did the EP come out on a label and if so, how did you link with them? If not, how much of a headache was it for you to do the independent thing?
I put the EP out myself without any label support. I had some label interest but I wanted to do it this way so that I can learn more about this whole process of putting out music. I've made a few mistakes in terms of promotion but you make mistakes to learn from them.
How did you find the reaction that it got from the UK scene?
CLG: The reaction has been good. I've received a lot of good reviews as well as a lot of good feedback from other rappers, ranging from Big P to Aspects. The EP even got mentioned on Channel 4, I ain't got a clue how it got on there! I could have done with a bit more support from the radio but shout to Disorda on Itch and Rodney P and Skitz on 1xtra cos they supported.
Are you looking to drop a follow up any time soon or are you building up to dropping a full length album now?
There's a few things I'm planning right now but I shouldn't say too much about it in case it all heads down shit's creek…I'm finding it difficult to dedicate the time I'd like to my music right now because of my bill-paying career.
What producers and artists out there catch your interest the most at the moment?
I'm feeling all the people who I worked with on my EP; Manage, Sirplus, Trz, etc. Outside of that, I'm also feeling Doc Brown, Reveal, Lowkey, Syanyde, Terrafirma, Swiss, Kwest, AMMO…
Is there anyone that you really want the chance of hooking up with to work on some stuff?
I wouldn't mind collabing with some of those I just mentioned
Are you influenced by, or a fan of any material outside of the hip-hop world?
Definitely…I'm from a Jamaican family so I grew up listening to a lot of reggae, so I'm into all that. Also, a lot of Soul and Rare Groove. I think it's important for Hip Hop artists to have an open ear musically, even if just to find some dope samples.
What occupation are you clocking in at in between doing sessions in the studio?
I work a Human Factors Consultant…I'd like to think I'm a role model for the youngers…I grew up in your typical inner city council estate, in a single parent family. I had the same sort of upbringing as all of these mans running around doing all these madnesses on road. I'd like to see myself as proving that you can make it out of poverty legitimately.
What's going to be the best and worst thing to happen to UK rap in 2005?
That's a very good question…The best thing that can happen is if the infrastructure continues to improve…Things like Channel U and 1xtra are a good thing as they are increasing the amount of exposure artists are getting. There are certain artists that are getting really big off of those two outlets alone…The worst thing that can happen is if these same bits of the infrastructure fail to impose some sort of quality control. But really and truly the quality control must start with the people making the music, especially in the case of rappers…I think artists need to push and challenge themselves a bit more in terms of the depth and meaning of their lyrics. Everyone raps these days, so artists really need to up their game so that there is more of a divide between 'lyricists' and those that just 'rap'. The way I see it, just having a nice flow and good wordplay ain't enough.
Comparing the scene back in the day to the current state it's in, how do you rate it?
It's come to the point where it's difficult to assess the scene, because it's difficult to even say what the 'scene' is. For example, half the tunes that I hear on certain Hip Hop radio shows, I have to ask whether those tunes are Hip Hop or Grime, or whatever. The whole scene has become more clouded in terms of its sound, whereas back in the day it was a bit more clear-cut. I'm not necessarily saying that's a bad thing, but the music has to be good, the standard of quality music has to be maintained. The one good thing about the way things are now is that artists are sounding more authentic, using their own natural accents. The whole American accent thing was pretty big back in the mid-late 90's, but seems to be more played
What do you think is the primary thing which must be corrected or focused upon more, by everyone involved from the performers and labels to media?
I think artists need to educate themselves more on the industry side of things. I know so many artists that are looking to set up their own labels, etc, but they need to get more clued up on the whole business side of things, in terms of really understanding who and where their market is and how to reach them appropriately, how to promote a record properly, etc.
That's the one thing I've learned from putting out my EP independently. The media need to stop their support of certain clowns out there. Labels need to go out there and develop artists who have integrity. I accept that they need to sign artists with commercial crossover appeal, but I'm sure that can be done with integrity if they take their time and look to develop the right
Have you got anyone you want to shout out or anything you want to plug before this wraps up?
Shout to everyone who featured on Streets, Demons and Fears; Manage, Souljah Clique, Sirplus, Relly, Griz, Mister-E, Daron Raw, Seed, Movemakers, Chemo, REK, DJ Quest, DJ Snuff. Shout to my girl Mayte for all the support and the CD / Web design, shout to Uchi Clothing www.uchi.co.uk Sterling Collat, Disorda, Elite Team, The IRS, Kwest, Blue Borough, AMMO, and to everyone supporting me. Look out for the Speaker's Corner night being run by Manage and DJ Snuff…Check out my website CLG Online and to contact me, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks a ton for ya time. Much appreciated. Peace.
Peace, cheers for the interview