Each week Billboard magazine lists radio songs that saw a significant increase in airplay on its “Greatest Gainers” chart. For the week of September 24, 2012, only 2 Chainz’s “No Lie,” G.O.O.D. Music’s “Clique” and Lil Wayne’s “No Worries” performed better than Clyde Carson’s “Slow Down.” Of course, the main difference between “Slow Down” and all the other songs mentioned above, is that Clyde Carson’s track is from an independent mixtape that was released nearly two years ago. Time is in short supply for the Bay Area native these days. Yet, interestingly enough, it’s one of the things he’s least worried about.
“If it takes another year for motherfuckers all over to catch on, then fuck it,” he quips. “It’s just a year. Them things goes by quick.” This from a man who was whisked into the studio for an interview while battling a visible head cold and an impending curtain call for a show with fellow artist, Problem.
At a time when more and more rappers are blaming their labels for their own missteps and contracts that they willingly signed, Carson is creating his own buzz while still in the constraints of one of the remaining the three major labels. Despite the organic radio growth “Slow Down” has seen, he still wants to get bigger. He performed the track at halftime of a San Francisco 49ers game, but he still wants more. When you hear how he got to this point and where he ultimately wants to go, increased growth seems entirely possible.
HipHopDX: Something To Speak About and “Slow Down” are making noise. A lot of artists go straight into album mode once you get a single performing that well. What’s your next move?
Clyde Carson: Just to do shows on tour and promote Something To Speak About until the next project comes out. There are people that heard it, but I want more people to hear it. I feel like it should be bigger. But we’re really wrapping up the next project right now called, Playboy. We’re doing that with DJ Carisma.
DX: When you put a single on the Billboard charts and get that radio love, how does it influence your next move? Do you go bigger?
Clyde Carson: I think you always try to go bigger. I just look at it like a stepping-stone to something bigger. So if it was real popular on the West Coast, the next single should be popping all over the country really strong like it was out here on the West Coast…so it’s not just a regional hit.
DX: That leads to the next question. You talk about being universal and appealing to a wide range of fans. How did going overseas on the L.A.X. tour with Game help you out?
Clyde Carson: It helped out my performance. It showed me that people were interested in the music across the country—across the world, actually. I think the L.A.X. tour just got me prepared. While I was on the tour, I was excited to get back and get to work so I can continue to go on the tour and really have a body of music that they would know. They weren’t really knowing the music, they were just impressed by it. It’s kind of like you’re auditioning every night, and the audition gets better on the road every night as you keep going. It’s like they’re not singing the words. They’re singing the words once they know it after the couple seconds you’ve programmed it in their heads. They start singing the hooks and singing along, but I’m talking about having something to where when you go out, they know it completely. They’re ready for that song that’s coming as opposed to just enjoying your performance and feeling it.
DX: They weren’t really familiar yet?
Clyde Carson: Not at all. They were feeling it—they definitely were feeling it—but it wasn’t like they knew what was going on. Like the shows I’ve been doing recently, the fans are like, ready. When I throw on “Kill It,” or if I throw some shit on from Something To Speak About, they know it. They’re ready; they’re singing it—real shit. [LAX] was definitely a great experience, though.
Clyde Carson Talks Touring With Game & Debuting “Slow Down”
DX: Was there anything in particular you picked up like, “Okay, I figured this out and now I’m going to incorporate that.”
Clyde Carson: I think fans want new stuff. They like to hear what you have just released. They like to hear classics, too, but I think they want to hear the new shit. If you go to the Watch The Throne tour, you want to hear the shit from the actual [album.] Classics are cool, but they want to hear the new shit, too. That’s what I was picking up. Just watching my performance, studying Game, studying all the people I’ve been on tour with.
DX: Do you think that’s a byproduct of the Internet age? Because before, when artists did new songs on tour, people in the audience are like, “What is this?”
Clyde Carson: Yeah. It could be. I think Internet makes everything immediate, but like I said, as long as they know the music—even if they don’t—but as long as they know the music, I think it’s better. I understand your question…but what do you mean?
DX: Well, you said you want to try the new stuff out on them. I remember before, you go to a lot of Rap shows and the artists say, “We just did this in the studio. We’re going to perform it for the first time now,” and everybody in the audience doesn’t know how to sing along to it.
Clyde Carson: Right. You just got to know it’s that one. A lot of artists in the South take that shit from the studio to the strip club. That’s always a good place to test shit out. We’ve done that on the road. We’ve been doing that. We would record a song and go out and perform it because we know the energy.
Like “Slow Down,” that’s how we knew it was something. The first time we performed that was in Santa Barbara at a college show. [The audience] never heard it before. It got the biggest reaction of the night. It went fucking crazy from the time it started…getting pumped. When that shit dropped to “Slow Down,” they fucking went crazy. We came back after the show and we were like, “They ain’t never heard that shit.” They acted like they knew everything. They didn’t say no words, but there was a fucking mosh pit in the crowd going crazy and going stupid. That shit does work. If the music is powerful, that’s how you know you got something.
DX: Personally, I’ve been hearing about you and The Team for a long time. There was a lot of stuff that kind of held up the process of a proper release. How do you stay so patient? It’s never been a “Free Clyde Carson” campaign or anything like that.
Clyde Carson: I know it’s going to happen. Anything you put work in will see results. Anything you do. I know we work hard, I know I work hard, staying in the studio. A nigga ain’t never really slept, that’s why I’m all stuffed up and shit right now. [Laughs.] I just know that anything you put work into, you’re going to see results. It’s going to happen. Everything we try to get to, everything I’m trying to get to is going to happen. But if it takes another year for motherfuckers all over to catch on, then fuck it. It’s just a year. Them things goes by quick. We’ll get there.
DX: How much does it help that you’ve got your hands in a lot of other things. There aren’t too many other rappers out with Hyphy Juice and stuff like that.
Clyde Carson: It’s cool, but it’s about the music. You can have five clubs. You can own a whole bunch of shit, do hella shit, but if your music ain’t really popping off—if it’s not hot, then it doesn’t really matter. It’s cool that I got that shit, and I’m glad we’re pushing forward. I do know that it’s going to even get bigger. We had some people over last night, and they haven’t heard of Hyphy Juice. These people have heard of it out here, even if they haven’t tasted it. They haven’t heard of anything, but when they tasted it, they were like, “Shit, this is good.” As long as the product is good and what you’re giving is something of quality, then it works and it’s profitable…not necessarily just profitable, but it makes sense for the whole campaign. I don’t want an energy drink just to have an energy drink. I want shit to be good. I want shit to really affect you when you fuck with it, as well as the music. Everything that we’re trying to do is on that quality level.
DX: I know you dropped the Bass Rock EP a while ago for the diehard fans, but from what I remember, it ended up hitting Billboard, too. What kind of hopes did you have for it?
Clyde Carson: There weren’t no hopes. I mean, Bass Rock, I just did it because like you said, diehard fans. Motherfuckers would be like, “C’mon blood, put something out.” I was like, alright, put out Bass Rock. I wasn’t 100% happy with it, but my fans were. They fucked with it and they liked it. I think I was on the same page with Something To Speak About. I felt real good about it. I didn’t have no intentions even when I put out The Team project I did, which was called, Hell Of A Night. That’s where “Slow Down” originally came from. It came from an EP I did with The Team called Hell Of A Night. People asked me about [The Team], “What’s up with The Team?” It was like, “Alright. Fuck it, here.” It wasn’t even promoted. The majority of the people don’t even know that shit’s out, so go check out Hell of a Night. It’s a dope EP, [and] you can YouTube the motherfucker or go to Thizzler. We gave it away for free. We just threw that out and that shit happened. I feel like as long as I keep feeding motherfuckers, something will pop from it.
How ProTools & An NYC Trip Changed Clyde Carson’s Career
DX: I want to visit 2002’s Beyond The Glory.
Clyde Carson: Holy shit...2002. Beyond The Glory.
DX: We’re looking 11 years already.
Clyde Carson: It’s been 11 years? Holy shit. We’re in 2013.
DX: As an independent artist, how did you lock down features from Nate Dogg and Nas?
Clyde Carson: Alright, this is how you do it. Move to New York. Shout out to Ty Fyffe—all my niggas from Queens and shit. I met him backstage at a concert from sneaking in and shit. Met him backstage and hooked it up, kicked it with him and ended up flying out there on a fluke and I never came back for like a year. When I’m out there, I don’t know ProTools or know how to use it, but ProTools is new, I guess.
DX: Right. It came out around 2002 or 2003.
Clyde Carson: Right. We’re doing records, and I’m seeing how they’re putting shit together. So I’m thinking, “When I go back to the Bay…” or at least when I got back to the Bay, I’m like, “I can do songs with motherfuckers. And they’ll have no clue how I did that shit.” In Oakland, I remember niggas using straight tape. The studios we were going to were straight tape.
I remember Shade Sheist. I knew that I had something that motherfuckers from the Bay wasn’t listening to. The motherfuckers in the streets—the harder streets in the Bay—you know, The Bay be on their own shit. I knew Shade Sheist wasn’t on nobody’s radar out there. Motherfuckers heard of him, but he wasn’t really popping in the streets of Oakland. I had Nas on there, too. I just happened to find an instrumental to a song that was only on the Circuit City release of—what the fuck was the name of the album?
Clyde Carson: Out of all the songs, I get the instrumental to a song that was only released on a [Circuit City version]. I’m like, “Niggas ain’t heard this. I ain’t copping no shit from Circuit City.” [We can] bootleg off of this. Niggas ain’t heard this shit. So I’m finding all these songs. I’m in the back of [Rasputin Music] looking through all the used shit trying to find anything I could get with a feature, so I can put this shit together on this program that I’ve been out in New York seeing Fyffe and them use. If I could find a nigga out here who got ProTools—which nobody had. I had to drive way the fuck to Napa to find somebody to put that shit together, and I’m finna sell these motherfuckers. And you can’t tell me that I ain’t fuck with these people!
When I go up to you and holler at you and be like, “I got Nas on this motherfucker, Nate Dogg, I got Loon,” you can’t tell me I wasn’t in the lab with them. First of all, Nate Dogg’s my cousin, and Nas, I fuck with him. So I was out there mouthpiecing…I’m straight hustling. You feel me? I just came back from New York. And that’s how I got all the features on there just like that. We sold that motherfucker for a minute, and that was popping in the streets. Shout out to ProTools. We got on it early.
DX: Sha Money XL was using ProTools in somewhat of a similar way when he and 50 Cent were doing mixtapes…
Clyde Carson: That’s where I got it from—50 Cent. Straight up. 50 Cent had a song where he flipped, [Raphael Saadiq’s “You Should Be Here”] and he was hot. When I was in New York, he was on fire. That was before he signed with Dre and all that. I took the 50 Cent formula, straight up. It was nobody making songs out of freestyles. I took what he did and I was like, “I’m finna go back to the Bay and I’m going to make songs. That shit worked.”
DX: Definitely. Not too many people were on it like that.
Clyde Carson: Nobody. Only nigga who was doing any kind of a freestyle was Celski. Other than Celski, niggas wasn’t doing mixtapes. They weren’t rapping over nobody’s beats in the Bay.
DX: ProTools and Digi 01 were like $1,000 back then.
Clyde Carson: Yeah.
DX: So that’s how you got the production credits on those songs? You were messing with ProTools…
Clyde Carson: I mean, I wasn’t, but I found somebody who could do that shit on the motherfucking program, put me with blood and them, and mix that shit. I’m finna put this shit out. They’re gonna really think I was with these niggas. They can’t tell me I wasn’t.
How A Major Label Factors Into Clyde Carson’s Plans
DX: I mean, history speaks for itself. So given that success, and then you’re having more recent stuff with “Slow Down.” No disrespect to the label, but what can a label do for you now that you can’t really do for yourself?
Clyde Carson: I don’t know. Just take it to a bigger level. At the same time, as long as the music is right and people spreading it and you’re doing shows and on tour, you can do it yourself. Who’s independent and is popping at number one?
DX: Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, but that’s not really street level per se.
Clyde Carson: He’s independent?
DX: Tech N9ne.
Clyde Carson: Yeah, Tech N9ne, but I’m talking about “up there.” I’m not disrespecting Tech N9ne—I’m a fan of Tech N9ne. One of my first shows was with him up in Reno [Nevada]. Ten or something years ago this nigga had two tour buses. Trust me, I know he’s doing his shit independently the correct way. But I’m talking about is A$AP [Rocky] independent, is French [Montana], is Rick Ross? Are the biggest motherfuckers out there independent?
Clyde Carson: There you go. If the right shit comes along, make it work. I’m not in this to do nothing less than the top shit.
DX: I checked out a lot of your interviews, and never once have I seen you tell anyone how you first started rapping.
Clyde Carson: How I first started rapping…I said I wanted to rap, but I wanted to be different. If I’m going to do this shit, I’m going to do this shit for real. Let me see who…I’m looking at the area, [and] 3X Krazy is popping. A lot of underground mob music in the Bay area is popping. Mob music, not hyphy music. Straight mob music, slow music where niggas do this [motioning/dancing]. This is how they’re dancing. Ain’t no hyphy going stupid. It’s smoking weed, popping your collar, freaking. That’s the mob music. So when I started rapping, I’m like I wanted to be appealing. I don’t want to just appeal here, I want niggas in New York to fuck with me. So I went and bought Immobilarity.
Clyde Carson: I went and bought Like Water For Chocolate and Immobilarity and Life and Times Of S. Carter. Three East Coast artists and Chi-town. [I bought] Raekwon, because I was a Wu-Tang fan, and I listened to that shit and studied that shit. I already knew all the other shit. I was a Bay Area fan. I would just incorporate that shit and try to make my shit appeal. I would listen to how their flows were…shit like that. I just started rapping. I found this cat named who was doing beats and putting out music for high school—you know, like little shit. I took it from there.
My partner Chili Powder from Richmond hooked me up with the CD thing, like, “That’s how you do it.” From there, we’re selling out the trunk. It didn’t take too long. It was like, “Find somebody who can produce, [and] find somebody who can press it up. You know how to take pictures? Okay, boom.” We go to my grandma’s house out of town. Take this picture and put this shit down. We all through the town. We all through the Bay, Berkely—everywhere. We’re selling these CD’s and keeping this shit lit. That’s how I started rapping.
Then I went to New York and I was listening to Ty Fyffe, and everybody was doing it. I called my niggas in a couple months and was like, “Don’t push that no more. Don’t sell that shit. That shit is wack.” Even though it wasn’t wack at the time, when you’re first making something—it wasn’t wack at the time.
DX: You grew though.
Clyde Carson: But yeah, when I went to New York and I was listening to what was going on and I was hearing my shit, I was like, “Yeah, I got to take it to another level.” That was the origins of me starting to rap. From doing that shit in Oakland to New York, we were like we can’t sell that shit no more. I got some new shit that’s crazy. After the first couple weeks of recording out there, it was like I was on a whole ‘nother level.