At 18 years old and barely out of high school, Clairmont The Second is poised to be Toronto's next big hip-hop hope. With the release of his latest project Quest for Milk and Honey, he definitely is not doing himself a disservice. The 13-track affair finds the young MC rhyming with a wisdom beyond his years discussing spirituality and exploring vulnerabilities, while impressively presiding over the jazzy, soulful production entirely handled by himself.
“My music is pretty much like neo-soul, R&B, gospel, jazz influenced with rap,” he says. “I like chords a lot. I like chords that give people the stankface. I always want a melody that's just unpredictable and just sounds beautiful, that's what my style is, over some hard drums, maybe.”
Quest for Milk and Honey is his fourth full-length project (following mixtapes Becoming A GentlemIIn, Project II and A Mixtape by Clairmont The Second) which, according to the MC and producer, represents a fresh approach. The clean break is jarringly illustrated in his latest video for "A Declaration."
"It's me cutting everything off from my past," he says. "I don't want to hear about my old music because I've moved on from that. It's really just a metaphor of moving on."
CBC Music spoke with the artist (who plays Toronto's Drake Hotel on July 28) to find out 5 things you need to know about Clairmont The Second.
1) His main inspiration is his brother
Clairmont The Second’s brother Cola is 10 years older than him and plays in Toronto rock band The OBGMS. “Watching them perform and them teaching me how to command a crowd, that was something I paid attention to,” Clairmont says describing his own kinetic stage energy. Clairmont constantly refers to his brother’s mentorship and says Cola began teaching him production at the age of five. “I won't say I based my style off of him, but the way my style is, is because of him 'cos he's the one that taught me how to do what I do. So, that just kinda morphed into what I create now. I remember one specific conversation when trap was getting really big, really early on. I was maybe in Grade 10 and I made this one trap beat and I'm like 'Cola, check this out!' and he's like 'I know what you're going to do' and then it did what he said it was going to do. And he's like 'Try to make something that stands out and something that sounds different.' And from there I haven't focused on a genre of music because that stuff would die down eventually. You're hot for a second and then that stuff just dies, so I focused on something that's unique, that could bump in the clubs, I guess, but it shows the talent as well. It’s not something that's easy to do, it's something that you can't really replicate.”
2) He wants to be in your top 5
Clairmont is ready to commit full-time to a musical career now that he’s out of high school. With Toronto currently in the spotlight as a hip-hop centre, he intends to be one of the artists taking advantage of this reality. “I wanted people to know that I really do this,” he says, discussing his mission statement for his latest project. “This music thing is serious and I want people to know that I'm in the top five MCs in Toronto. That's one thing I really wanted to really put out there. Not only that I could rap very well, I can write very well, I can produce as well. I can do so many different things and I can do it at a more than average level.” As for his own Top 5: “The first two people that come to mind in Toronto are Drake and Jazz Cartier. I also think Cola of OBGMS is one of the best rappers in the city. He's the reason I rap the way I do. He's also my brother. And Keita Juma and Spek Won are two of the MCs who are just next level. Like, you have to put me somewhere in your top 5. I feel I could hang, you know. That's truthfully what I feel.”
3) He is comfortable with being vulnerable
While he does rap with an insight that often belies his teenage years, Clairmont is not afraid to show his vulnerabilities or attempt to act like he knows it all, often detailing his learning experiences on his records. “Ignorant” from Quest for Milk and Honey is a very good example of this. “I think maybe in the past year I had to really grow up, I'd been seeing a lot of things that were confusing to me,” Clairmont says. “Things in media, in people, within certain facilities. And I remember when I didn't know those things and I thought those things were great. So, [“Ignorant”] was a song about going pretty much back in time when we didn't know those things about people, those negative things. Because when we didn't know those negative things they were our heroes. There's a lot of things I've seen going on in the church that confuse me very much and when I was younger it was very much a place of healing, a place of happiness and stuff and when you find out what goes on behind the scenes, you're like, 'This actually happened?' So overall, the song was about growing up and seeing things you just don't want to see and wanting to go back to a time where you didn't know these things because life was a lot happier. A lot more fun.”
This approach extends to songs about romantic relationships, like his recent collaboration with Last Gang producer Harrison, "It's Okay, I Promise," where he emotionally wrestles with the fallout of a breakup. “I am comfortable, man, like it's nothing to me,” he says. “It's just stories. I don't mind telling stories because no matter what there's gonna be somebody in the world, at least one person that can relate to the story. They'll feel for you and stuff like that and I feel for them. It is what it is. I've been in the same situation. So I have no problem in trying to tell stories I've heard someone tell me or I haven't really been through. So I actually don't mind telling people what I've been through because it makes for a good song, it makes for a good story and it's good to look back on these things.”
4) He actually reps Toronto's Weston Road, recently referred to on Drake's 'Weston Road Flows'
Listening to Quest for Milk and Honey, you’ll hear many references and shout-outs to the west end of Toronto, specifically the area around Weston Road. For Clairmont, being from the area is part of his artistic motivation. “One of the things is that I feel like the entire west end is not represented in like mainstream music or really up there,” says Clairmont. “To say that Drake is a west ender is a lie, he doesn't sound like a west ender in his music, he sounds like an east ender and I feel like that the mentalities are actually very different. People might not think that, but they're different. They act different from like, west side, like against, maybe Scarborough. So, we don't really have many people from this area, especially Weston, who are doing crazy things. We have a few, but I kinda wanna be the representative for music. We have Ryan Enn Hughes who directed my "Lames" music video. He's from Weston and he's amazing and probably the best in the city at what he does. And we also have J Soul who signed to Cash Money who is from this area as well and I actually went to school with him. We have those two people and it's like how do we build Weston up to be the illest spot in the city? And that's one thing I really want to do, I want it to be, like, that guy. But also to make great music. I don't want to be that guy just to be that guy.”
5) He doesn't make 'Toronto sound' music
While he is currently an artist making a name for himself in the Toronto hip-hop scene, he doesn’t necessarily make the nocturnal and ambient music people outside of the city might associate with it. “I feel like it doesn't relate at all. The Toronto sound – I try to stay away from it. I do have beats in the vault that do sound like that, but I try to stay away from that because it's so easy to get lost. That, plus I want to make something that's timeless. And although it does take longer than if I were to make one of those tracks because that's what everybody likes right now, I won't feel 100% satisifed with myself if I made one of those just to make one of those. I just wanted to make something that will be here for a very long time as opposed to being here for a season.”
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