Soulquest LAB #13 - An interview with Clbrks

This week, we are back in the UK with our new guest, London based rapper Clbrks. Through a very insightful phone call, he gave us a moment to talk about his satirical, unique and stellar style and flow, his sample infused beats and his latest collaborative project with Ottawa producer Dweeb, ‘’The Library of Babel’’ released with Group Bracil.

Congrats on your new project man. How is it going so far? Are you happy with the feedback and reactions?

Thanks man ! It’s been good yeah. We sold all the vinyls off the back of 2 singles and we just finished selling the cassettes. That’s quite good for me because I don’t have to worry so much about promoting it and sticking it in people’s face because I’ve done what I wanted to do. I haven’t received any negative feedbacks. My main goal was to take things differently in terms of concept and have a whole cohesive art structure. I think people have noticed that I tried really hard on this one. A lot of people are saying that’s it’s my best work and as an artist that’s just my goal.

For any artist or in any profession you just want everything to be better than your last thing. 

The whole project was produced by Canadian producer Dweeb. How was the process of working with someone overseas and how did you first hear of each other and start collaborating?

We’ve been aware of each other for a while because of Soundcloud. We kind of been around on Soundcloud since 2015. He sent me batches of beats and he noticed what I picked so the next batches were more tailored toward that taste. He’s always thinking about how he wants the album to sound. Originally I was like ‘I have this beat by this other producer’ and he was like ‘’nah I’d like it to be all produced by me’’ which is cool to me.

The project seems to have a less satirical and slightly darker atmosphere than your previous project, Microwave Cooking 2000. The universe and atmosphere are very intriguing and stellar to say the least. The title is a reference to the 1941, Jorge Luis novel ‘’The Library of Babel’’. An infinite library containing the entirety of the universe's knowledge, past, present and future. Can you tell us about the intention behind this decisions and what made you wanna reference this?

It was a book I’ve read a few years ago. When I first started getting the beats from Dweeb I felt like I needed a change in subject matter. Like you said, something less satirical, less tongue-in-cheek. I bought the book physically in Lisbon a few years back. It’s like a metaphor for the universe in many ways. Trying to find information in the chaos of day to day life. It touches on a lot of subjects like mortality, religion, delirium. I hate to say it but it sort of fits with this kind of environment we’re in now and it touches on my hopelessness a lot. I think that something that a lot of people struggled with this year is not knowing exactly where their life is going. It’s quite indicative of that

I wanted to talk a little bit about your beat selection. The beats you pick are always gritty, raw and very spacey. How do choose your beats? What do you look for?

I have very little general rules. Largely sample-based stuff. I like stuff between 65 and 80 bpm. Slow stuff. A lot of people if you give them a slow beat they’ll just rap slowly but what you realize is that between those kicks and snares you get a sh*t lot more speaking room. If you can do it properly you can do it in a way that doesn’t sound rushed. The goal isn’t to double time - it’s to find space. Almost like a saxophone in a jazz band moving in between the other instruments. That’s how I try to treat my voice and tones.

Let’s just go back in time for a moment. When did you first start rapping and recording music? What was the catalyst of your art when you first started?

I think I started recording music on my laptop on GarageBand between 2010-2013 when I was in high school and sh*t. I’ve always made stuff. I made art and as a child I would play the drums so I already had an understanding of rhythm. Around 2015 I moved to London and I guess I just started taking it more seriously. I met Kiina and made some sh*t with him.
I think it has a lot to do with being in the right environment. I’m a very shallow person so I like having people congratulate and rewarding me and stuff so it’s easy to do when you’re in place with link-minded people. I think London was a big catalyst for me doing music. Before I was just doing retail and that sucked.

I wanted to think about your work ethic but also your consistency. What tips would you give someone who struggles with consistency and with the fear of putting themselves out there ?

I think the main thing is that it’s not so much about consistency, it’s about maybe not sitting on your music too long. Some people can but I just can’t sit on my work. Every time I drop an album, I haven’t listened to it in a long time. I don’t wanna go deaf on it and stop hearing or feeling the music. Another thing is that people seem to think that everything is gonna cost them a shit load of money. It doesn’t if you surround yourself with the right people who share the same idea and there’s a collective goal. It doesn’t necessarily involves paying a lot of people. It can work like that  but you don’t need thousands and thousands of pounds to make good music.

I think that’s one of the things I realized when I met Jay Swingler and Rommel from youtube. They were so cool and I assumed that it would be a whole production team and managers and sh*t. They run some of the biggest YouTube channels in the worlds and make shit tons of money off of something they just believe in and work on together. That’s really inspiring.

You travelled a lot growing up. I’m sure it inspired you and allowed you to have a broader perspective. Do you think it has served your work ?

If I said I didn’t I’d be completely dishonest with myself. Of course, I think that’s why people want to travel. I wasn’t voluntarily traveling. It was because of my dad’s work. I got me to grow up in Africa. I got to go to international schools with kids from everywhere. Kids from South Korea, mormon friends from Utah, Fiji. Being around so many different cultural perspective gives you access to so much more different stuff. I think growing up in London sort of does that for a lot of people. They grow up in these massively diverse, multicultural areas. I guess my difference is I was in this educational system that really promote diversity and acceptance.

I went to an English school for 1 year and they don’t teach you about other people or cultures. They just teach you about the monarchy and wars and shit. I think I had one day on slavery like what the f*ck? We should really talk about this and understand why the world is this way. They don’t touch on those things.

The 1st thing that struck me when I discovered your work is how genuine and unapologetically yourself you seem to be. This is super inspiring. You talk about 'disregarding f*ckery', not overthinking and being yourself to the fullest.

I have to be humble and I do conform in many ways. I don’t say everything that I wanna say of course because if I did, I don’t think so many people would work with me in this community. I’m very opinionated. I have a lot of fucking opinions and it used to put me in trouble.

But where do you think it comes from?

My dad. He is just a very noble person. Very kind but very aggressive in many ways. So we both struggled dealing with not saying the first thing that comes to our mind all the mind. I’m definitely angrier than I’m happy most of the time but now I’m older and I gotta balance it. 

Music gives me a place to express myself. I also have to remember within my own self that there’s Clbrks and there’s Conrad. It’s the person who my girlfriend knows, goes to sleep with every night and the person who my mother raised. It’s my rap alter ego. It’s not a facade but there’s a level of theatrics to being a character. I think that as a rapper you sort of sell your personality and not only your skills or whatever. There’s a lot of people who can really rap but I just don’t wanna hear whatever they wanna say.

It’s kind of annoying to talk about Covid all the time but as artists ourselves, we know how much this affected us. Can you tell us how it affected your process ? 

It’s been very confusing for me because it was my first ever vinyl releases. Microwave Cooking came out march 26, 2020 and that’s when the world shut down. I had no real indicators in front of my face to tell me if it was successful. Usually I go and do a show and I’ll have a bunch of people smiling and happy to see me and that gives me the affirmation in my heart that what I’m doing is the right thing. The only way I could see that was the internet, statistics and sales. You see but you don’t get that feeling. At the same time even before that I was always just very much an internet based person. On Soundcloud I have a broad spectrum of fans from all over the world. Now I almost channeled it all back to the UK. I’m trynna take on the UK first and then I can take my shit to another place. But yeah covid definitely f*cked with the money because less people are working therefore they can’t pay me to do things.
This whole time I was forcing myself to work because I had nothing else to do and at times I was just grabbing thin air for inspiration. I love being around people. My life is my inspiration so If I’m not out doing all sorts of crazy stuff, getting into trouble or making people’s day better what the f*ck can I write about ? I can’t write about being on my socials all day. Nobody wants to hear about that. That’s why I was digging into the books.

In terms of lyricism, who were the rappers who inspired you the most growing up ?

I’ve just always been a big fan of 50 Cent. He was the man when I was a kid. Huge fan of East Coast rap music in general. Prodigy is one of my favorite rappers. Styles P, Jadakiss, Capone-N-Noreaga. All those kind of gritty Hip-Hop New York sounds. I’d spend a lot of time studying, reading bars and breaking everything down mathematically and that sh*t would blow my head off. It exposed me to how structure really works. JAY-Z and Nas as well. I’ve been listening to a lot of Max B Lately. I’m trying to learn how to do little singing choruses and stuff. Always studying.

What’s next for you? What should people expect from you this year ?

I’ve been working with YUNGMORPHEUS, he’s been producing an album for me I’m hopefully gonna get him to rap on a couple of tracks too. I really like his rapping man. I’ve been doing a few bits with Blah Records still, definitely Morriarchi and my boy Baaghmaar.

Amazing, we can’t wait for all of this to drop and wish you all the best for your future projects. Thank you so much for your time.

Thank you for this man I really appreciate it. Peace brother.

Go buy The Library of Babel and support Clbrks on Instagram, BandcampSoundcloud and Spotify.

Photography: Harvey Wallbanger 
Interview: Kreæm




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