Brooklyn-based up and comer brings forward an interesting and infectious take on contemporary electronic music. The multi-talented beat-enthusiast Conrad Clifton spent his early career trawling through the show-business world working as an actor – he’s done stage plays, films, documentaries and even TV commercials. Music has always been his true love however as he sits on a rich and long-running relationship with music – singing, rapping and playing piano at a very young age. His production was soon picked up by some big names and later went on to work with artists like Missy Elliot, Rick Ross, Big Sean, Yelawolf, Asher Roth, Chilli (of TLC) among others.
Taking his talent to New York City has allowed him to showcase his sound in front of an audience and seemed to be a natural progression for the young hopeful. His ecstatic DJ sets are said to be a brilliant balance between nostalgic R&B echos and contemporary bass styles, drawing inspirations from the inner city lifestyle and pushing it back out through the New York DJ circuits. Whilst maintaining this structure he pushes his abstract ethos challenging the confines of modern dance music.
His latest release ‘Picture in Picture’ sees Conrad highlighting his abstract and alternative ideologies. In this full length we see him drawing from a range of contemporary influences from hip-hop and trap to bass and garage. If we had to put it on paper similarities can be seen in artists like Hudson Mohawke, Tokimonsta, Machinedrum, XXYYXX, and Ta-Ku but who uses paper these days anyway?
We spoke the young talent about the state of contemporary dance music, the Brooklyn scene and where he draws his influences.
Hi there, how are you and what are you up to today?
What’s up, I’m great. I’m just taking a break from mixing a new track to search out, and listen to some new music.. I’m addicted to Soundcloud.
To those not familiar with you, how would you describe your sound?
My sound would generally be considered Future Bass, but more specifically, it’s a mixture of Hip-Hop, Electronic/IDM, Trap, and Juke. I’d fall into the same category as Hudson Mohawke, Tokimonsta, Rustie, Lone, Machinedrum, and Giraffage – producers that don’t always fit easily under one genre, but have their own unique sound.
It’s definitely getting harder to pigeonhole producers into certain genres. There are a lot of mixed opinions on trap and it’s place in the dance scene. What is your opinion?
I think you can either love it or hate it, but it ain’t goin anywhere anytime soon. Essentially, trap is an extension of modern american hip-hop. It’s what you’d get if you take a southern rap song, remove the vocals, and combine it with the sensibilities of electro/progressive house (via synth sounds and song sequence/progression). Hip-hop/Rap music has always worked as a party starter, people will dance to it, period. Trap works because it’s rap music – without the offensive lyrics, and it’s at a danceable 130ish bpm house tempo, or 140ish dubstep tempo. Hip-hop is a genre that was said “would never last”, and we see how wrong they were about that. I think trap could be the same way.
What are the 5 albums and artists that have influenced you the most?
Wow, great question.. Ok.
1. J Dilla – Welcome To Detroit
2. Flying Lotus – Los Angeles
3. Miike Snow – Miike Snow
4. Machinedrum – Room(s)
5. TNGHT – TNGHT
You can definitely hear echos of flying lotus in your work. What are some of the key pieces of gear you use to write your tracks?
MacBook Pro, Ableton Push, Maschine, and Triton Pro.
What other artists do you really like at the moment and why?
A few of the hardest beat makers right now are Mr Carmack, Ta-Ku, Starkey, 813, and Ganz. I really like these guys, because not only are the beats hard, but they also give you the melodic content. The rappers I’m into right now are Kendrick Lamar, Wiley (UK), Pheo, and GoldLink. Those last two are not as well known, but I really dig that they give you slick word play/swag, dope cadence, and lyrical content.
If you had the opportunity to work with anyone who would it be?
I think it’d be dope to collaborate with Hudson Mohawke, Machinedrum, and Four Tet. Also, I’d want to produce for Andre’ 3000, Pharrell Williams, Kendrick Lamar, Santigold, Ghostpoet, and Kid Cudi.
What’s the best and worst gig you have ever done and why?
My favorite gig was RNDM PRTY at La Zarza LES NYC. It had a dope lounge club vibe – we packed out the basement, and played whatever we wanted to and people loved it, and danced all night.
The worst gig was at The Delancey LES NYC. I was triggering backing tracks for a band, and singing background vocals. The music & band were not the problem, they were really great. But, there was zero promotion for the show, on a cold night, and we went on last. Literally played for an empty room.. We stopped halfway through the set, as there was no reason to keep going, unfortunately.
For those of us who have no idea can you tell us a little more about the music scene in Brooklyn?
I think the Brooklyn music scene mirrors the overall multicultural/melting-pot energy of New York City, in that there are so many genres and musical influences all in one place. There’s a lot of indie bands, rappers, jazz musicians, classical musicians, electronic producers, and the bass music scene seems to be growing pretty fast. There’s very many niche pockets of people that love any one type of music, which can be a good thing, and a not-so-good thing. Good because when people here love something, they’re usually pretty die hard – but not-so-good when you want to have a really large scene for one type of music (like country music in Nashville, or southern rap music in Atlanta).
Finally, can you tell us about any upcoming releases, projects, DJ mixes or collaborations you have in the pipeline?
I’m currently working on new material to be released by Spring/Summer 2014. My album “Picture in Picture” is out now, and can be downloaded at my Bandcamp or iTunes. Stay up to date on new releases and mixes on my Facebook, Soundcloud, Twitter, or just go to www.conradclifton.com.
For those of us that haven’t had the pleasure of seeing his DJ sets he has kindly provided us with an exclusive mix. The set is overtly a progressive mix incorporating a balance of old and new cuts. Expect a deep and dark club-related approach with an alternative twist:
Drake, Big Sean & 2 Chainz x The Reef – All Me Kitana (Conrad Clifton Flawless Victory Edit)
Stooki Sound x Mr. Carmack – Uppers
Riton – F U All The Time (Trap House Edit)
Rockie Fresh – Superman OG (Feat. Lunice)
UZ x Salva – Molly & OJ
Bwana – Baby Let Me Finish
London Future & Djemba Djemba – Look At Me Now feat. Ifa Sayo
Danny Brown x Darq E Freaker – Blueberry (Pills & Cocaine)
DJ Jonty (Kastle) – Grindin (Kastle’s Edit of an Edit)
Ooh Baby, What’s Up w/ That P***y (Conrad Clifton Fowl Mouthded Edit)
Donnis – Hello Kitty (Cid Rim Remix)
Jay-Z ft. Rick Ross – FuckWithMeYouKnowIGotIt (THUGLI Remix)
Mr. Carmack – Pay (For What)
Pac Div – Posted
Hudson Mohawke – Fuse
Ganz – Pvrple Forest
Short Stories – On the Way
Conrad Clifton – Blacklight