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Name: Adam Bernard
Home: Fairfield, Connecticut, United States
About Me: Entertainment journalist with 15+ years of experience. Supporter of indie music. Lover of day baseball, fringe movies, & chicken shawarma. Part time ninja. Nerdy, but awesome.
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Artist Of The Week - Otis Clapp
Monday, September 20, 2010

I first met Otis Clapp at the start of the summer at a BBQ in The Bronx. Although he told me a little bit about his music, a few artists we were mutual friends with told me a lot more. For me, this is a telltale sign that I need to keep an ear out for someone. When Otis Clapp’s album, Welcome II Nowhere, dropped I put it in my CD player and was extremely impressed by what I heard. When I sat down with him the other day for an interview, my jaw dropped at some of his very real life stories. A true survivor, Otis Clapp opened up about his extremely rough past, and how it affects him in the present. He also laid out the road map for how we can all get a first class trip to our own personal Nowhere. Before making that journey, however, I received a tour of his Nowhere.

Adam Bernard: Start everyone off with a little bit of your personal history. Where are you from and why were you drawn to hip-hop?
Otis Clapp: I’m from Queens, NY. I came up in a time when being a rapper, or emcee, wasn’t the “cool” thing to do. I actually wasn’t always a fan of hip-hop, I grew up on rock n roll. When I was 15 I started writing a little bit and got into hip-hop very slowly. Eventually I became a student of the game and a slave to the art.

Adam Bernard: You’re fairly new in NYC’s hip-hop scene. How receptive have you found the other artists in the scene to be, and did any artist in particular reach out to you when you first started looking to make a name for yourself?
Otis Clapp: Honestly, people have been real receptive to me and what I’m doing. More recently than in the beginning, though. I mean, it’s not that other artists were being NOT receptive, it’s just that when people started meeting me I wasn’t really trying to jam my music down their throat. I knew I’d have my chance to get heard, so I just came out to shows supported artists that I felt were dope and tried to link and collab with the ones I felt. No one really reached out to me per say, I definitely came in alone, knowing no one, but I met Felecia Cruz at an event and chopped it up with her. I started booking my own shows at this spot she was running and she introduced me to my brother Warren Britt, and her and Warren introduced me to a bunch of people. So to answer your question, no one really reached out to me, but people like Warren Britt, Felecia Cruz and definitely Top $ Raz and Kalil Kash, have been spreading the word about what I’m doing.

Adam Bernard: You recently released Welcome II Nowhere. In it you state Nowhere isn’t a place, but a state of mind. How did you get into the Nowhere state of mind, and is it a state of mind you find inspiring, or infuriating?
Otis Clapp: Nowhere is a state of mind, but it’s YOUR state of mind. It’s really whatever you make it. For me, Nowhere is real dark at times, other times it’s glorious. Sometimes it’s a struggle being nowhere, sometimes it’s being on top of the world. So most def sometimes it’s inspiring, but sometimes infuriating. I think your Nowhere derives from how you were raised, obstacles you've overcome, obstacles you're still facing... feel me?

Adam Bernard: Most of the album has a decidedly dark feel to it. Do you consider your outlook on life a dark one, or was this a thematic choice for Welcome II Nowhere?
Otis Clapp: My outlook on life is definitely a dark one. My dad got heavy into drugs and bounced out of my life when I was six years old. It got real bad towards the end, to the point where he was selling all our toys for drugs and shit. I remember my dad throwing me and my brother in a cab in the middle of the night and taking us to the projects and leaving us outside in the cab so he could run inside and do drugs. I remember him tellin the cab driver “don’t go anywhere. If you leave with my kids I’ll find you,” and then he’d spend like an hour inside getting high or whatever. I remember after he bounced on us my mom was on food stamps, we were late with rent every month, eating macaroni and butter for dinner because we had no money. Then my mom married another clown who was physically and mentally abusive. Imagine waking up to someone tellin you how ugly you are, or how you're never gonna be shit, for 13, 14 straight years of your life. He used to beat the shit out of us daily. Shit was crazy. So growing up, even to this day, I’m definitely in a dark ass mind state. Nothing’s nice over here. My brother’s serving a two year bid upstate. I just got arrested last year on some possession bullshit. There’s a lot of madness in my life.

Adam Bernard: That’s extremely intense, and in your music you aren’t shy about your checkered past. At times you seem almost boastful about some of your actions, but in the next breath you’ll say you aren’t proud of many of the things you’ve done. Is this a case of emcee bi-polarism, or are we listening to you coming to grips with your past?
Otis Clapp: It’s not that I’m boastful, it’s just that I have a story to tell. My music reflects my life, past and present. I think more so than anyone else in the scene right now... I mean, I’ve done a lot of foul shit in my life. I remember one year around Christmas me and my boys drove around robbing Christmas shoppers for their gifts that they bought. The way I grew up, and the shit I’ve been through, I felt like “fuck it, I got nothing to lose,” but now that I’m older I think about that shit every year around Christmas. I try to donate money every year to charities because of all the dumb shit I’ve done, but I can’t just act like none of this shit never happened. Maybe someone else could learn from some of the foul shit I’ve done.

Adam Bernard: Finally, to end things on a much lighter note, tell me about your Kermit the Frog tattoo. To get an image tatted on your body you have to have some pretty strong feelings about it, so why Kermit?
Otis Clapp: I’ve always been a huge fan of The Muppets, like that was my shit! Some people are into Star Wars, or Star Trek, or some shit like that; me, I love The Muppets. Honestly, I’m a big kid. I still watch cartoons any chance I can get. All I really enjoy are sports and cartoons. {laughs}

Related Links

Bandcamp: otisclapp.bandcamp.com
Twitter: twitter.com/otisclapp
Facebook: facebook.com/otisclapp


posted by Adam Bernard @ 7:54 AM  
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