Hailing from rural Alabama, CLEVER is a rapper and singer paving his way in the music industry through his skyscraping spectral melodies, woozy rhymes, untouchable charisma, and unexplainable mystique. Having worked alongside notables such as Snoop Dogg, Justin Bieber, and countless others, he’s who the icons of this generation are calling when they need a fresh dose of something special. What was once music’s best-kept secret, as acclaimed by HotNewHipHop, CLEVER is now letting us into his melodic and story-telling world.
From being a songwriter to releasing his first single in 2018, and years later being signed to Post Malone’s label Posty Co., CLEVER’s success didn’t come overnight and is definitely not an accident. His voice, lyrics, and attitude have set him apart from others and even made him your artist’s favorite artist. Through the uniqueness in his music CLEVER knows what his purpose is, as he shares, “I’m not here to be Elvis, I’m here to be Shakespeare.”
With his latest single, ‘Rolls Royce Umbrella” Clever says, “I’m talking about how far I’ve come. It’s a concept we all can get behind.” It’s a rags-to-riches story, that also touches on the transition from “misery to mimosa – I was poor and now I pour it up.” To no surprise, CLEVER attracted GRAMMY® Award-winning superstar Chris Brown to join him on this track. Together, they are bringing something unconventional to the song through CLEVER’s voice and Breezy’s striking verse, making this a must-listen-to-banger of the season.
CONTRAST Magazine caught up with CLEVER to talk all things music, playing a part in creating change as an artist, and what makes him strikingly different, here’s what he had to say.
Your music has been compared to a “Tim Burton character that hopped off screen and made hip hop.” If Tim Burton directed one of your music videos, what would the concept be? It would be Tim Burton- so obviously it would be very distinct and immediately recognizable. I definitely have this aesthetic that’s very Burton-ish.. I’m the outcast hero- and the concept would be just that. Something very dark but beautiful at the same time. It’s all rain and umbrellas over here. I would prolly shoot for a Clever Scissorhands with a really cut and dry square suburb area and this dark but deep character trying to fit in.
Tell me about this new single Rolls Royce Umbrella. What’s the message behind it and how did it come about? Rolls Royce Umbrella is a celebration. It’s a rags to riches type song. It reminds me of the saying “Money can’t buy me happiness, but I’d rather cry in my Lamborghini.” It basically says that champagne showers can’t make flowers bloom- but regardless it’s still going to rain champagne and it will rain champagne on my Rolls Royce umbrella. From misery to mimosa- I was poor and now I pour it up.
I was listening to your new single and thought “this style is so Post” then my brain went to “Post is a cancer.” Then I checked and you’re a cancer too; born a day before me actually. They always say cancers are emotional people and that’s very true. How are you able to convert those emotions into lyrics? For me, that’s the easy part. The first song I ever wrote was an attempt to put my emotions on paper so that I could see them. It made me feel as if those issues were no longer on my chest- but instead they were on this piece of paper and I could now do as I please with it. I think converting emotions into lyrics is the one thing that really comes natural to me- the birth of my songwriting came from me trying to find an escape.. and for me, it’s still therapeutic to this day.
Walk me through how Post Malone first heard your music leading to a record deal. Me and Post had a mutual friend in Tyla Yaweh- and they were on tour together- Posty listens to a lot of music backstage. One day my song “Stick By My Side” with NLE Choppa made its way from Worldstar to one of those backstage playlist- and next thing I knew I’m getting tagged in a lot of videos of Post singing my songs. I must have seen three or four different videos circulating of him listening to my music- one video of him playing the drums to a song I have called “Loyalty” – and it seemed like he was a fan of my music for months before we ever spoke. But then one day I get a facetime call from Tyla’s phone and when I answered it- it was Post Malone sitting there smoking a cigarette telling me that he liked my music. Within a week I was flying out to Minnesota to link up with them. He didn’t waste any time asking me about my situation as far as contracts go- and I didn’t hesitate to tell him I was interested in working something out.
The world is in a re-set moment culturally, racially and in so many other ways. How do you feel you are playing your part in this change as an artist? As an artist- it’s my obligation to cry for the world- or to shake my fist in a way that only I can. Injustice is something I’m very familiar with from experience. Therefore, it’s definitely a topic that I dance with from time to time. I have a song called “Wooden Box” that came out a few years back that speaks on police brutality and the mascara that runs down the face of the latest mother on the news that lost a child to such a thing.. as well as a song with Lil Baby on this album that comes from a white persons perspective on the subject- speaking on how I can’t just have a black man in the car with me without us being profiled like we’re doing something wrong- as if we can’t just be friends or family- but instead it must be about drugs. When I can’t drive through a black neighborhood taking a friend of mine home- without being questioned by police about my reason for being there as if I didn’t belong there and I must be up to no good- then I understand profiling.. they start profiling me because of this attitude they have going into the situation. They characterize the black man before they leave the house- and I think it really pisses em off to hear me say it- to hear it come from a white face. And that’s how I play my part, I call it like I see it.. and I’ve seen it.
When you look back at your career, what would you say is that one consistent thing that sets you apart from everybody else? My approach to music sets me apart. I’m an artist to the core. It’s real art for me and I had to fight to be here so there’s a lot of substance there. I’m trying to make a statement and share a message just like the next artist- but I do it in a way that only I can. My voice- my lyrics- my delivery- my attitude- is very much my own. The goal was always to be very distinct. I’m not your typical artist aiming in a direction- aiming at billboard records and manufacturing songs based off of patterns that worked before. I don’t aim at a specific genre- I like to think my music can’t be put in a genre. That it’s a style all it’s own that I’ll never compromise for the love of money or popularity. I’m not here to be Elvis, I’m here to be Shakespeare.
Can you share a personal experience that has reshaped your views on music?
It took me years to get here. It was never an overnight success for me- I use to walk around full of pride but this business will humble you. The cutthroat business side of it makes music less appealing to me- but at the end of the day this is my reason for being. Through my music I’ve been a bad influence at times- I still sing about addiction and cry about an overdose- but I’ve realized the power that music has.. from experience I’ve witnessed people cherish my music for reasons I never really thought about. Whether it be that they were suicidal and found peace through my music- or they lost someone close to them that was a fan of mine and they think of that person when they think of me. I guess my views have changed in the sense that I’ve come to realize that I’m not just a podium that screams it’s emotions but at times I’m a wounded person still crawling under the rubble to free people from debris.
The definition of Contrast is “to be strikingly different.” What makes you strikingly different? My music doesn’t sound like anybody. They can try to draw up comparisons but it’s very much my own. Eventually, I won’t need an introduction from the radio personality before the song comes on- when you hear me on the radio you will know it’s me by my voice. When you hear my lyrics you will hear the difference. You will get raw emotions- there’s no sugarcoating here. I’m your favorite artists favorite artist. The artist they may wish they were- creative control at its finest.