Clark Kent: Super A&R

The fictional character of Clark Kent has super powers allowing his alter ego to rescue and protect what he sees fit. The DJ Clark Kent we all know within our spectrum possesses similar super powers when it comes to music and not just Hip-Hop. And after a career spanning twenty years, experiencing multiple countries and interactions with nothing but thebest,Clark Kent isat a place where he wants to do him.

DJ, Producer, A&R are all avenues walked, working with “Brooklyn's Finest” to grooming the platinum success of pop sensations 98 Degrees; his resume reeks of nothing but metal, the disc variety. Now it’s time to groom and nurture his own roster. Setting up his own company, Clark World, with partner Andre Council, the time has come to have his protégé step up to the plate.

With the F.D.N.Y (Five Defenders of New York) , a collective of lyricists from New York, prepping their joint project as well as solo ones and The Re-Up Gang's Sandman working on his individual project, Clark Kent may be looking at another twenty year run in the game. He understands the importance of a great song, he gets that we have to move with the times and he damn sure knows what makes our feet tap, therefore being on his team is about victory. This interview is the thoughts and opinions of a man who has been there, seen it and done it...successfully. It’s the ten year anniversary of Reasonable Doubt. Had Protools been around when you were creating that project, what difference would it have made to making that album?

DJ Clark Kent: To me, the music, Protools doesn’t change the music; Protools changes the way you record music. Had there been Protools back then, the album would have been done a lot faster, but it would have been the same music because at that point that’s what was needed, that’s what was real. Is Dame still looking for production credit on “Brooklyn’s Finest”?

DJ Clark Kent: [Laughs] You know what, how about this, Dame can have credit. I don’t care about that as everyone knows who made the beat. I had made the beat before for one of his groups for a remix and he was just like, “Use it again.” If he says use it again, that can warrant production credit so I won’t argue with that. There are other producers that get production credit that have never touched a machine before in their lives, but if they can say what they want to hear done, that is considered production credit. That’s why I never argue with it, the whole world knows who made the beat. I am cool with everyone knowing who originally made the beat. Hip-Hop purists say that if you go from producing Hip-Hop to Pop, you are selling out. You went from working with the likes of Biggie and Jay to 98 Degrees, how do you respond to that?

DJ Clark Kent: If someone can say I am not pure, then they are not looking at the fact that I am a producer. I am a DJ first and before there was Hip-Hop. I played Pop, R&B, Disco; those were the basis of what rappers used to rhyme too, what the DJs played with a certain rhythm. It was Pop records, it was Disco records, and it was Funk records, it was whatever, so who gauge what is pure anymore? I watched a documentary the other week I am…Choke, No Joke, which showed the break down at Roc-a-Fella Records. You were A&R at the Roc at that time, how did that divide effect employees?

DJ Clark Kent: It affected employees because they generally loved everybody there; then when you have a split you have to decide where you want to go, that is a pretty hard or harsh reality to come to. I think, basically that was what it was. The people that worked there loved the idea of Roc-a-Fella, but when the split came, it was almost the idea that these three guys who were friends who had built themselves up, it is a hurtful thing for people to go through. Did people know what was going on before it became common knowledge?

DJ Clark Kent: I think they knew, I think they felt but no-one knows until it actually happens. So what are you up to now?

DJ Clark Kent: Right now, me and my partner Dre, we have a company called Clark World Entertainment, where we are building artists, that we are, who we were building solo; we built a group and called it The F.D.N.Y. We are putting their album together right now and shopping. How involved are you in that, are you producing?<br<

DJ Clark Kent: We are producing, we are using outside producers, but we are 150% on top of the whole album. So do you think that you are at a point in your life after doing so much for other labels and other companies, that you can be comfortable doing your own thing?

DJ Clark Kent: Definitely. We had to do our own thing as giving it away the whole time, it doesn’t really add up. Do you think there is a cut off age for when people should really give it in and stop trying to get a deal?

DJ Clark Kent: I don’t think so. Jay-Z was rapping from 14, and I was aware of him by 15, and his reality happened at 27. So what do you say, “I’ve been here for twelve years and now I am going to stop?” No, it’s just that it was his time. You got to look, LL Cool J is still rapping and he is still rapping and being good, still rapping, making great records and having an impact on music. Jay-Z, if he puts another album out this year, he will be 37 with probably the best album out this year; so when is the cut off age when you have that talent? The thing is that people equate rap with youth instead of associating rap with talent. Is that where we are right now?

DJ Clark Kent: That is where we are at right now, as the youth are dictating what is right and wrong. You know I am sitting around watching some 20 year old dude say some raps that we think are ‘whatever,’ and they are going to accept him before they accept the dude who is 36, because he is 36. How about if this 36 year old said some of the best lyrical content you ever heard? I would rather have that than have some 20 year old dude that is only going to be good for a year and a half or two years. Look at Jaz-O, he is up there and lyrically he is one of the best MCs I have heard in my life. He is in my Top Five still and he is 41. He is untouchable, lyrically. As an A&R, do you find Hip-Hop goes with an image now though instead of lyrical capabilities?

DJ Clark Kent: When an image plays into a record, or into an artist, that artist has to pull that image off and if that doesn’t happen, if you don’t pull that image off, no one is going to buy into it. So like with a guy like Jeezy, you know you might think he may not be the best rapper, but he is one of the most believable rappers and people take it when they listen to his records, people feel like they know him when they listen to his records so it makes it easier to buy him. Like T.I, he is believable. His swagger talks before his rap and then he raps really well. So you buy that because you buy that because you believe it. You can tell whose swagger is phony, just look at the record sales. You talked about talent, what else does it take to impress you?

DJ Clark Kent: [Laughs] I would love to hear a rapper make a record to minimalize his lies to one lie a record, because if you didn’t do it and we can tell in your rap, don’t say it because you are not going to be able to pull it off. There have been rappers who have lied, who rhymed, or have said their rhymes with so much conviction, affection and believability that you may believe he killed these people, so you are lucky. But when you are in front of me, I really want to believe what you say and you don’t have to be a killer for me to think you are good. You don’t have to sell the most crack to be good, because 85% of the rappers who said they sold crack are so scared of crack that you can tell right through them, so I am not listening to you. Most crack dealers, can’t rap real good because they are too busy selling crack. Unless you are a prodigy; they are so busy trying to get money, they don’t have the ability to rhyme real well. So what makes a hot song?

DJ Clark Kent: You know it when you hear it. It’s not something that makes a hot song, it is something that happens when you hear it. There is no formula to it, you know perfect hook, great rhyme and an infected beat; just something that hits you when you hear it. When you heard “What You Know”, it automatically was a hit record to you and you are not even paying attention that he is screaming or rapping for the whole song because it was just so good. Like when you heard “I Just Wanna Love You”, you didn’t care that some dude was saying “Give me that stuff, that funk,” you just didn’t care because it just felt perfect. When you heard Biggie’s “Juicy”, we were in the studio together and Big was like, “I hate this record,” and Puff was like, “Just trust me, this is your first record,” and he was like, “I hate this record, I want my first record to be ‘Unbelievable.’ I said, ‘Unbelievable’ is hot but it isn’t ‘Juicy’,” And we were going on tour and he didn’t want to do the record and half way through the record and he was telling them to cut the record on stage and the crowd is going “Nooo” and he’s not understanding how that record is perfect. That record told the perfect introduction, it made you feel like you actually knew him in three verses. It was a perfect record, perfect hook, perfect music, perfect rhymes. It is hard to get that, but when you do.