Friday, March 9, 2012

The Milk Crate: Clams Casino

            Thank God for technology.  I’m getting sick of the paranoid iPhone and google users worried about being tracked by the government 24/7.  You’re really that afraid that Google will tell the world you went to a strip club? I’ve learned to embrace the technological boom the world has experienced in the past decade.  Not only can I learn the answer to virtually any question in less than ten seconds with a visit to Wikipedia, but I have noticed an incredible renaissance of electronic-based music. 
            This is not to say that all of the new music being made is good, some of it is pure garbage.  However, with the exciting new utensils now available at the fingertips of the everyday consumer, there is a lot of room for innovation and cutting edge music from those who previously never had the chance to show what they are made of. 
            If you showed me a Clams Casino beat in 2005, my head would explode.  How is it that hip hoppers like Lil B, Soulja Boy, and Mac Miller are blessed with beats that sound like DJ Shadow ate an album of Sci Fi movie scores dipped in reverb.  The music is gorgeous.  The combination of recognizably lowbrow rappers, and music that is both intricate and emotional yields some very interesting results. 
A$AP Rocky received his best beats on “LiveLoveA$AP” from Clams, which I attribute as the only reason I was initially able to distinguish between Aesop Rock and A$AP Rocky.  “Wait, are you talking about the one with the dope beats? Oh, okay, word.”  Although Clams cannot be given full credit for Rocky’s performance on the album, which is exceptional, he is definitely part of the equation.  All you need to hear are the first five seconds of “Palace” to tell you that this new epic approach to simple hip hop can result in some important new musical trends. 

Allow me to compare and contrast A$AP and Clams to Guru and Premier, or C.L. Smooth and Pete Rock.  All duos have a very capable and talented MC, who absolutely needs the help of monumental production to make any sort of impact.  All duos are recognized as an important factor in the progress of music from their time period. All duos have a unique way of presenting the producer-artist relationship. However, Clams and A$AP are not exclusive to each other, nor do we yet know who will surpass the other, if at all.  With Gang Starr and C.L. Smooth & Pete Rock, both groups are aged enough for us to determine that the producers were better than the rappers.  Clams Casino, as it currently stands, has a bigger impact musically than A$AP, at least on “LiveLoveA$AP.”  Part of the excitement surrounding Clams is that he can go anywhere from here.  Rumors that he is holding beats for high profile commercial rappers have been circulating, and I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see him score a film in the next year or so. 

Another interesting fact about Clams is that he picks carefully.  As exemplified by Lex Luger, shit gets played out.  If Clams Casino were to clutter the rap game with his sound and attempt a domination similar to Lex Luger’s, his career will be short and probably not too enjoyable after his fifteen minutes are up.  Lex is still current, and he can churn out the same beat time after time and earn a few hundred thousand dollars doing so.  Clams does not have that option.  His sound is too layered and specific for every rapper to spit on.  Unlike Lex, whose beats are simple and do a good job of showcasing the rapper, Clams’ beats battle their corresponding rapper for the listener’s attention.  This is the reason that his instrumental tape has such high acclaim.  His beats are truly standalone when they need to be, something most producers strive for. 
  I know I always write about how technology is changing the rap game, but I can’t stress it enough.  Clams reportedly works from a laptop with some sort of midi keyboard, that’s it.  Videos and pictures of Kanye West during the making of “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” showed Kanye in the studio surrounded by thousands of dollars worth of equipment, hanging with Elton John or Pusha T, with a hundred dollar bill burning in the corner somewhere (just kidding).  Clams achieves a sound that is just as epic, mainly by sampling female vocals, excessive use of reverb, and sitting on a couch in Jersey. 
His involvement in the latest Weeknd album, “Echoes of Silence,” has showed listeners that he has the ability to work under a specific tone, as The Weeknd is definitely a more somber and dramatic R&B effort.  Unless the public suddenly grows tired of epic hip hop doused in a vat of reverb and ambient effects, Clams has a big year coming up. 

by Ken Glauber