Clever is an American rapper, singer and songwriter. Signed to Lil Bibby's Grade A Productions, Republic Records, the up-and-coming rap star is currently the first and only signed artist under Post Malone's record company, Posty Co. The on-the-rise rapper has worked with big industry names such as Lil Baby and Juice WRLD. Clever is ascending into his own musical career, creating fresh new music that show us who Clever really is. FLAUNT had the opportunity to chat with Clever about poetry, quarantine, and all things music industry.
How have you been during quarantine? Has this time allowed you to be productive?
I’ve been doing well. I’ve been able to get a great deal of work done during quarantine. I spend an ample amount of my time in the studio regardless but since we’ve been limited on travel and touring, I’ve definitely been dedicating more time to writing and recording… which for me, is therapy.
You hail from Alabama – how did that affect your musical influences/upbringing? Talk about the first CD you ever purchased or first live show.
Alabama is a beautiful place and the surroundings can be very inspirational in terms of writing. There’s lots of rain, tons of beautiful trees, waterfalls, and mountain sides, etc. but honestly, Alabama wasn’t the easiest place to get noticed as far as music goes. In comparison to other States, it’s relatively small in population. I actually come from a city that only has around 35,000 people in total so you could be the biggest artist in town and still not really make a dent in trying to get noticed on a global level. Alabama challenged me to go out and travel the country to make a name for myself. As far as the first CD, I believe it was a Korn album. However, I’m not sure Alabama had any type of role or influence over that choice. My first live show had to be a Warped Tour show in Atlanta in my younger days.
You started out writing poetry. It seems like writing lyrics would come easily to you. How did you make the transition, and, have you ever tapped into any early writings as a blueprint for a song?
Oddly enough, I was inspired to transition from poetry to lyrics after reading the lyrics off of an album cover by the Insane Clown Posse. They were a duo that wore face paint and were unapologetic with their lyrics and concepts, although, I wasn’t inspired by their skills when it came to writing - actually it was the lack thereof. I read over the lyrics and I compared it to my writing abilities, and I thought to myself, ‘if these guys can make a career out of it, I’ll be the best artist there ever was!’ I was 12 years old at the time and I had been writing poetry religiously in class for a few years.
You’ve toyed with various potential careers – ranging from baseball player to radio personality. What was the turning point for you, when you decided you wanted to make music your full-time job?
Music has always been full time for me. I made my debut on the radio when I was 16. At the time, I wasn’t a radio personality, I was actually part of a segment where I would freestyle battle callers live on the air. So, any artist that thought they had talent was calling in to challenge me live on the radio. So even during that time on radio I was performing musically. At some point, I took a job as a radio personality, but for me it was only for networking purposes to push my music further. Baseball was something I was naturally great at since a young age and it was something I could’ve done well in. I turned down a lot of college baseball scholarships to pursue music instead.
At one point, you were a battle rapper. Is that how you made your way to 106 & Park? Talk about that experience.
When I went on 106 & Park I had auditioned in New York City. I had to take a bus because I couldn’t afford a flight at the time and it was a 24-hour bus ride with a lot of stops along the way. I had done local battles around town as well as the radio freestyles and I always had friends and supporters telling me that I should go to 106 & Park with it. At the time, it was a very popular show and they had a freestyle competition every week called Freestyle Friday. I went to audition when I was 18, fresh out of high school. I knew of other artist who made a name for themselves at a very young age and I felt pressure to achieve something great early on. Without any management or labels at the time I was doing everything in my power to research opportunities and I found a chance to audition and took the next bus to make it happen.
How did you connect with Juice WRLD? Talk about your relationship and, what is the greatest gift you took away from that collaboration.
I had just got out of a bad contract that held me back for a good 5 years of my career. I stopped listening to everyone else's opinions about what I should be doing musically and started making the music I wanted to make again. As soon as I was out of that contract, I scratched every other song I ever made, removed them offline and started uploading new material. Right away it started catching some attention. I had shot a few videos and released some snippets on Instagram which got the attention of MyMixtapes. MyMixtapes was successful in releasing some very big artists and putting out mixtapes for years. They actually reached out to Gmoney and he liked what he heard so he played my music for his brother Lil Bibby. Juice Wrld was signed to Lil Bibby’s independent label Grade A productions. Bibby then played my records for Juice and the next thing I knew, Juice was posting on Instagram that he had to have me on his album. After that post I think I gained a new 10,000 followers in the next few days. And I flew to Los Angeles to hang out with the whole crew. I was staying in their extra rooms at the Airbnb’s and sitting through a lot of Juice’s sessions, while networking along the way. Eventually, I did a verse on one of his songs, though it almost didn’t make the album. Gmoney fought for it and it completely changed my life. All of a sudden, they were writing Billboard articles and doing Genius interviews… and just the simple fact that I was co-signed by someone as great as Juice Wrld really opened a lot of doors to other artists who reached out to collaborate.
Were you surprised when Justin Bieber randomly reached out to you? What was your reaction?
I was excited. I was walking down the street in New York and I had some fans hitting me in the comment section in my DM’s letting me know that Justin Bieber had commented on one of my posts. He’s such a huge artist and he hadn’t released an album in about 5 years at the time, so it was an honor to be considered for it. We’ve actually spoke a good bit through text on religion and more. He’s really down to earth to be as successful as he is.
Is Bieber how you connected with Post Malone? Talk about your relationship with Post.
No, actually Post had some people close to him who had heard some of my records. Post became a fan of a song I have with NLE Choppa called ‘Stick By My Side.’ I also had people on Instagram hitting me up saying that a video was going around of Post playing a drum set backstage at one of his shows and the video is of him playing the drums to a song I have called ‘Loyalty.’ There were other videos of him listening to my music from a sprinter van between shows and I knew at that point, he really was digging my stuff. One day I was sitting at the house, just a normal day, and Tyla Yaweh hit me up on FaceTime- and said, ‘Somebody wants to talk to you,’ then handed Posty the phone. Me and Tyla immediately became friends the moment we met each other, and I knew if him and Post were cool then we would probably click as well. I had seen videos of Post and knowing his personality, he’s hard not to like. We made a few jokes, he told me that my music has been like the soundtrack for his tour, that they listened to me all the time, and he invited me to come hang backstage for a few shows. He actually invited me to Las Vegas to watch a Dallas Cowboys game at first, which would have been crazy but unfortunately, I couldn’t make it. I did however, go hang out backstage at one of his shows in Minnesota and he let me know first thing that he was interested in signing me to Posty Co. It didn’t take me long to decide whether I wanted to be there.
You are currently working on a mixtape, as well as your debut album. Can you talk about the mixtape? How will it differ/be similar to the album? Why did you want to drop a mixtape first?
I started working on this mixtape last summer. Me and NoCap both are from Alabama. He used to tell people on social media that I was his favorite artist. After really listening to what NoCap does lyrically, I knew that me and him would make some dope records together. Sometimes you have to listen to his music several times before you really see all of the wordplay he uses. A lot of my fans have been waiting on that tape and after NoCap was arrested and had to sit for some time, it held the tape back a good bit. The moment I started posting that I’m working on a new album I was receiving responses that they are still waiting on that mixtape. I figured it would only help, to maybe build up some buzz and anticipation for the album to come. It will be different in the fact that the approach to recording is a bit different. It’s a collaborative effort on the mixtape, while this album will only be what I see fit for it. They’re both worth a listen.
A lot of people want to know, “Who is Clever?” Can you answer that?
I’m a dreamer… I never stopped. It took me a while, and it was a tough road to get here. A lot of people in my position would have quit, a lot of them have, and I couldn’t. I didn’t have a plan B. Music is all I ever wanted. I was built for it. I see myself as a lyricist, as someone that pushes the limits of writing. There are a ton of artists out there who are trying to make radio records and try to conform to a specific thing. I see myself as the artist that I would want – someone with wordplay and interesting vocals, who’s concepts are different than normal. I just want to write the songs that I feel are missing from the world.