Artist Spotlight: Clif Soulo
In this interview with Oakland, California artist Clif Soulo we discuss who he is, which artists he respects in the game right now, and his own mixtape, Forever Be Hip Hop. If you’re looking for some new artists to check out, he drops a boat load of names for you to look up as well as himself.
Michelle Huxtable: Your website is WhoIsClifSoulo. So who is Clif Soulo?
Clif Soulo: I am an aspiring emcee from Oakland, California who is on a mission to make some really dope, honest hip-hop that hopefully touches people’s souls. I don’t have any gimmicks, or a fabricated image to portray. 95% of what I rap about is real; factual. The other 5% is story telling, but that’s what emcees do.
Michelle Huxtable: You mentioned that you’re real and have no gimmicks. That seems to be a major complaint about Hip Hop nowadays. What do you think about the current state of Hip-Hop? Is it really dead?
Clif Soulo: I think the current state of Hip-Hop is great! I think when Nas made that statement several years ago, he was addressing the mainstream, commercial side of Hip-Hop. From where I stand, Hip-Hop is booming. I can’t even keep up with all of the dope music that’s being put out.
Michelle Huxtable: And what artists are dope out there? Mainstream or otherwise.
Clif Soulo: How much time do you have? (laughs) Off the top of my head, I have to represent my hometown first. Erk tha Jerk from Richmond, California. Novaboy from Oakland. Fashawn who just dropped an album from Fresno. LA artists: H.O.P.E, Pac Div, TiRon, U-N-I and Blu. Pill and Donnis from ATL. DMV artists: Ice the Villain, Wale, Southeast Slim, Kingpen Slim, FNFG G*two and Mouse. XV from Kansas. Oh can’t forget about Nipsey Hussle from LA. That’s all I can think of at the moment.
Michelle Huxtable: That was a pretty extensive list. No mainstream people on there I see. Wale and Pac Div most recently have gotten exposure but other than that, no mainstream artists.
Clif Soulo: Well I love mainstream music as well. Rakim has a new album next month. Clipse, Snoop, T.I. once he gets out the slammer. (laughs) Hov of course. I’m hoping Ye gets back to rapping rapping. Lil Wayne, DJ Quik and Kurupt, and I know I’m missing some people so my apologies. Oh! B.o.B. aka Bobby Ray! How did I forget him?!
Michelle Huxtable: Who would you compare yourself to?
Clif Soulo: I haven’t figured out my exact sound or discovered who I am as an artist. But my goal when I started was to try and mold myself after my favorite artists. T.I. with his energy. Little Brother with the feel that they give the listener. They make you feel like they are your cousins or good friends and are just choppin it up with you. And Common with his social consciousness and being able to make songs that give you a feeling in your soul.
Michelle Huxtable: How are you going to make sure you don’t become a ringtone rapper or any other cliché? It’s easy to start off now and say you’re going to keep it real but at some point it seems like every rapper has to give a bit of themselves to become a part of the industry.
Clif Soulo: Well I made that mistake with my very first song I ever recorded. One listen to that horrible 3 minutes and 45 seconds of a song and it will snap me back into reality. (laughs) My goal is to tell my story in the most honest way I can while making it entertaining. And since I released my first mixtape Forever Be Hip Hop, which is the most personal music I have made at this point in my career, the feedback has been like 99.8% positive. It showed me that being honest is the only way to go for me.
Michelle Huxtable: Tell us more about Forever Be Hip Hop [FBHH].
Clif Soulo: Forever Be Hip Hop was my first mixtape that I put out as “Clif Soulo”. It was also me paying homage to Common, who is one of the people that inspired me to rhyme. The title Forever Be Hip-Hop comes from me using beats from Common’s albums Finding Forever and Be. I tried to tell my own story while weaving in Common’s album titles, song titles, lyric references, and even references to Chicago throughout the album. Hopefully listeners that know and listen to Common’s music catch the hints and references.
Michelle Huxtable: FBHH was featured on a few major sites. Was that your first taste of success?
Clif Soulo: Yes on that level. To see blogs and websites post up my music and write reviews and talk about their favorite songs, it really motivates me to keep creating and working. I have a long way to go before I’m even remotely satisfied, but it was like a very small step forward in my musical journey.
Michelle Huxtable: Your musical journey. Jay-Z once said, “Truthfully I wanna rhyme like Common Sense/ But I did five mil, I ain’t been rhymin like Common since.” Will your musical journey lead you to be Common or Jay?
Clif Soulo: Well if I could sell five mil, you could call me Billy Bob! I kid, I kid. To be honest, I’d be happy as either of those legends. They both have made it to a place where they can create the music that is honest to them.
Michelle Huxtable: What’s your favorite song by you?
Clif Soulo: I have two. “My Best Friend” from Forever Be Hip-Hop because that is about my daughter. The other is tentatively titled “Winnin” which will be on my upcoming mixtape entitled, I Wish These Was My Beats Vol. 1.
Michelle Huxtable: Last words to the people?
Clif Soulo: I hope that folks can break free from the close minded approach we can sometimes have with music. I know when people hear “rapper from Oakland”, or California in general, they have their assumptions about the music. Just give it a chance. And that’s not me saying it as a thirsty rapper trying to get you to check out my music because it’s something I’m working on myself.
Thank you very much for being interested in my music and myself enough to do an interview with me. I really appreciate it more than you may know. Oh! And if you have thoughts about my music, good or bad, I always appreciate the feedback. So feel free to hit me up!
Michelle Huxtable: Where can people contact you?
Clif Soulo: You can check out my blog at WhoIsClifSoulo.blogspot.com
Download my album/mixtape Forever Be Hip-Hop at ClifSoulo.Bandcamp.com
Reach me directly on twitter at Twitter.com/ClifSoulo
Free Tracks to Download: