J.R.Clark is here to put Virginia Beach on the map, reppin’ the 757. Serving as the last artist to open for Pop Smoke before his demise, the independent rapper is passionate and motivated as ever to make it to the big leagues, spending every waking moment perfecting his craft in the lab.
From spending 4 years in the army and even getting his Masters degree in American Government, J.R.Clark serves as inspiration to never fall short of your fullest potential.
Having made music for 6 years now, J.R.Clark got his start as a studio engineer before transitioning to his own solo artistry. With a big studio, he was able to record everybody from the 757 area. He states, “If you lived in tidewater regions of Virginia, I’m quite sure I’ve recorded you at one point in time.”
Having collaborated with everyone from Smoke DZA, Stalley to Cookin Soul to Fendi P (Curren$y’s artist), J.R.Clark prides himself in his originality and unique sound that stands out in today’s oversaturated music industry. Most recently, he unleashed his newest project titled When Muzik Was Good, an 11-track project that pays homage to the foundation of Hip-Hop.
AllHipHop: What was the household like growing up in 757?
J.R.Clark: I lived with my grandma for a minute, my dad was in federal prison. He came to Virginia, I moved with him when I was 12. My mother’s family is Haitian and Dominican, but they’re from California. They grew up in California until the age of two years old, so I have an American side, Creole, and Hispanic side. When my dad was locked up, he always made sure I knew who he was. It wasn’t like when he came home, “who is this man?” Out here in Virginia, my dad‘s name was always good. He was a kingpin, he was on CNN back in the 80’s. A lot of people in Virginia said “oh I know your dad, he’s a solid dude and still is. Great peoples.”
My uncle as well, he came home last year from doing 35 years in federal prison. A lot of males in my family, their name in the Virginia area carried weight. That was never my lane, but a lot of people respected me from the upbringing I came from. The people I came from, I came from a real circle so they already knew how I was cut. I wasn’t with the funny s###, everything’s straight up and down. Whatever I’m saying is etched in stones. When you tell people stuff, you have to follow through with that. I don’t care what happens, if you tell someone you’re going to do something, you must do exactly what you say you’re gone do. That’s what I carried into the music.
AllHipHop: How so?
J.R.Clark: When I do stuff and how we move, it has to look professional. Keep your professionalism and your mannerisms. Be punctual and on time, it’ll get you a long way. Because of my upbringing, I took that and put it into my business side as a music person.
AllHipHop: How’d you get your name, J.R.Clark?
J.R.Clark: My real name is Jerry, my last name’s Clark, my second last name’s Juneau. That comes from my mother’s Haitian and Dominican side. I wanted to come up with something that was simple but at the same time, I could still be me at the end of the day. A lot of the times, rappers’ names sound too street or it’s a hard time branding that type of name. I look at it from a Business standpoint, J.R.Clark is easy, rolls off the tongue. It’s not long and it’s my real name anyway. [laughs]
AllHipHop: Biggest influences growing up?
J.R.Clark: Rick Ross first and foremost, Nipsey Hussle, Curren$y. From an R&B Side, Alicia Keys and John Legend because they make that type of music where it feels good always. I like music that has substance. I like the other music I hear in the clubs, that trap music’s cool to hear in the club. When I’m in the car or at home in my circle, I need something that gets my brain going. Help me think different, I don’t want to hear you killing a bunch of people. I get it, you got your draco, you have your money phone to your ear, you have your Lamborghinis outside. That’s cool, give me something I can stick with.
AllHipHop: What was Curren$y’s influence on your career?
J.R.Clark: Funny story, I was online when I first started rapping back in 2016, typing in “chill beats” on YouTube. I see Curren$y’s name keep popping up on YouTube. [laughs] I thought oh, he must be a beatmaker. One of my friends said “nah, he does music. He’s a rapper, the person probably made a beat to his style of music.” A month goes by, I end up going to D.C. from Virginia Beach. It’s about a 3-hour drive, let me listen to his music on the way. Dang, he’s talking about the same stuff I’m talking about: chillin’, fly s###, lowriders.
Where I live at in Virginia, a lot of people think I’m from Cali. I have two classic cars: lowriders with hydraulics. A lot of people ask “you from Cali?” Nah my peoples are from Cali, I took the culture and brought it here to Virginia. Everybody out here in Virginia has the big 24, 26 inch rims. I’ma pull up on a lowrider with the old school music so the OGs and homies that’s on the strip in Virginia Beach oceanfront; that’s where it’s going down at. It’s a vibe here for me.
AllHipHop: How has being a studio engineer helped transition into being a full-time rapper?
J.R.Clark: I know how music’s supposed to sound even before I started rapping. I couldn’t rap, it took me a long time. I knew what bars are, how a sound structure looked. Sonically, I know how it sounds. But putting the words to the beat, I didn’t have that so it took me some time. Going from a studio engineer to a rapper, I knew how a song’s supposed to sound. I know how it’s supposed to be mixed, I know what people listen to. I took all that and put it into being a rapper. Now, I don’t have to pay for studio time.
Only thing I have to pay for is marketing and videos. That’s a huge chunk really because a lot of rappers I see pay for a shitload of studio time. That money you put into studio time, you can buy your own equipment — but you have to know how to work it though. Anybody can buy equipment but you have to learn how to use it. You could buy a $10K mic, if you don’t know how to use it right, it’ll sound like a $50 mic. Knowing the ins and out of recording music and putting that into the rapper bag.
AllHipHop: What was the creative process making your album, When Muzik Was Good?
J.R.Clark: I was working on my last video shoot for my last album, 4eva Chill but Lit. That was in Atlanta, Coronavirus had just hit. They shut the airports down so we’re stuck in Atlanta for a day or 2, trying to figure out how to get back to Virginia. We’re in the airport working on music. Since everything is shut down now, when I get back to my house, I could really record all the music I want to. I can be online and reach out to other local artists from different areas.
A lot of people on this album, I never met a day in my life. I had the verse, had a spot up there for them to give a hook or verse. A lot of them checked out my previous work, “oh dang, he wasn’t bullshitting. His visuals are dope, song sounds dope.” A lot of them were sending me hooks and verses back within a week’s time. Being in the studio every day listening to beats. networking with different people on Instagram. Trying to make something that resonates with me but also trying to do things a little bit different. My core sound’s more of a chill type vibe, but I don’t perform chill songs. I’ma give you that turn up you really want to hear. Now when I got you at the show, you can go back and listen to all the other music like “oh dang, he makes good music.”
AllHipHop: What advice do you have for those who are seeking to make it in the music industry?
J.R.Clark: Do your research, know what you’re trying to get into. It’s like a job believe it or not. Let’s say you want to work for CNN but you didn’t go to school for journalism or marketing. You left the block and want to go apply at CNN. They’re not gonna hire you for one, but you didn’t do your research. You didn’t know what it takes to get to that position. As an artist, do your research. Learn the business first, the music’s easy. The music’s the 10% of it but learn the actual business aspect of it. When you go sit down at a table with record labels and business executives, the same stuff they’re talking about, you can comprehend and understand.
I hate to hear when rappers say “my record label screwed me or my manager took advantage of me.” No, you didn’t take time to make sure your business was right. Know your business first. Just because you see somebody that’s online poppin’, I guarantee you they have some type of machine behind them. Nothing’s organic. If you think something’s organic, it’s not. It’s some type of machine, nobody’s isn’t doing everything on their own.
AllHipHop: Do you feel like hip-hop is oversaturated nowadays?
J.R.Clark: F### yeah. Everybody’s doing music, but are you doing it the right way? There’s no right or wrong way, but does it sound like something? When people send their music to me, I always try to listen to other people’s music because I was that one guy at one point in time. I can remember passing out CDs like man, I can’t wait to be on that big stage. Virginia Beach Amphitheater, Wiz Khalifa came one year. Me and my homie passed out 3000 CDs, full cases. A few people told me how nobody uses CDs anymore, everybody’s streaming. This was 2015, I said “that’s cool, but I want you to have this.”
Out of those 3000 people, 2000 people tapped in and said “damn, you’re just getting started but what you’re doing is right.” The following year, I got a call from the radio station. They said “hey, we want you to perform at the main stage opening up.” I’m like oh s###. The dedication and making it look right, people looked at the content I was putting out and was like “he’s serious about his craft.” Yes it’s oversaturated. Artists are putting out music just to say they put out music, but they don’t invest in it. If this is what you’re doing, you have to put some money into it to make it look right. Only the real content cuts through. I never get discouraged by who’s poppin’ and who’s not poppin’ because I’ma keep doing what I”m doing.
AllHipHop: Who’s in your Top 5?
J.R.Clark: Rick Ross, J. Cole, Nipsey Hussle, T.I. and Pusha T. That’s the homie, I see him a lot. When I was young, we used to go to the same salon to get our hair braided. When he came out with “Grindin’,” I remember seeing him on the same block in the black on black Benz. Dang, that’s Pusha T. When I did the Shaggfest there in Virginia Beach, I went on right before him. As I was leaving the stage, we took pictures backstage, we chopped it up. Man going from being 15 years old and seeing you in the salon to walking off the stage, dabbing you up and taking a picture backstage. The music he puts out, it feels good. Iit sounds right. He doesn’t make Virginia look bad. [laughs] He definitely carries the torch.
AllHipHop: What are you most excited for in the new year?
J.R.Clark: I have a whole new album right now, it’s 13 songs. I probably won’t put it out until 2022. It sounds like a long time but I tell people, when you come from doing stuff on your own or you got your team, it takes time to make it look right. I’m in the process now, we’re listening to everything. We’ll process and engineer in April, shooting videos in the summertime, fall, winter. I have a whole album already ready, recording and everything for 2022. I try to stay a year head whatever I’m doing.