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Success and stability as an independent artist, by Roderick Thomas – Red Hook Star-Revue

The history of the independent music artist is usually marked by challenges and hopes of “coming true” and signing a record deal with a major. For rapper JR Clark, his career as an independent artist brought challenges, but also success without a deal with a major. Here’s how JR Clark found stability and success as an independent artist.

Roderick: Hi JR, it’s a pleasure to talk to you.

JR Clark: Of course, thank you for doing this interview.

Roderick: So JR, let’s talk about your origins, where are you from?

JR Clark: Well, I grew up in Virginia — Newport News / Virginia Beach.

Roderick: I don’t think Virginia gets enough recognition for the artists she produces.

JR Clark: We definitely have Missy Elliot, Timbaland, Pharell, Pusha T. The list goes on.

Roderick: When did you realize you wanted to be a rapper?

JR Clark: At first I was a studio engineer, but I got tired of recording people [laughs].

Roderick: What made being an engineer tiring?

JR Clark: People couldn’t pay their bills in the studio, so in the mid-1920s I decided to go rap. I knew the structure and concepts of the songs and I understood how to make songs.

Roderick: What were some of your inspirations as a rapper?

JR Clark: When I first started rapping, I was on YouTube typing “cold beats” and this Curren $ y guy kept coming. I found out he was a rapper and started looking for him on Datpiff.

Roderick: Were you a natural then?

JR Clark: Musically, sure, but I took my time to get the sound right. When I started, mumble rap was so great. I tried that sound and was like, this isn’t for me [laughs].

Roderick: You are currently an independent artist. What has been the biggest challenge so far?

JR Clark: I can’t say there was just one challenge. I will say that as an independent artist you have to make multiple phone calls by yourself. You have to be involved in almost every step.

Roderick: For you, what’s the biggest difference between being independent and signing up for a major?

JR Clark: The majors have the money and when they give you a budget you have to pay it back. For me, the difference is having the machine of a large company behind me. Music labels are companies, I wish more artists would understand this.

Roderick: When did you feel like I finally arrived?

JR Clark: You know, I think I feel that way right now. The life of an independent artist is fantastic, I would say that just having stability in my career is fantastic.

JR Clark: I recently went shopping and ran into Rick Ross and then Santana. We were all buying stuff from the same place. To me, it’s a reminder that you have the power to make your dreams come true.

Roderick: It’s unbelievable. Have you had the chance to work or perform with major artists recently?

JR Clark: Thanks. I performed with Pop Smoke and it was definitely a big deal. Just attended 420ish festival, everyone was there: Rick Ross, The City girls, Gucci Mane, and so on.

Roderick: Did I hear you went to Regent University? I know they have a law school, are you a lawyer?

JR Clark: Absolutely not, I’m not a lawyer [laughs]. I studied criminal justice as an undergraduate and earned my master’s degree in government studies from Regent University.

Roderick: What prompted you to study criminal justice?

JR Clark: I knew so many people, even family members in a federal prison. I think it was my way of figuring out how not to end up in the same place I saw others.

Roderick: How does your education influence your music?

JR Clark: I was formally educated and educated by life experiences and those influences end up in my music. I was on the street at one point, so that’s part of my story. Today I rap about what my life is like now.

I have traveled to many different countries and I am also a businessman. I incorporate all my experiences, I’m not just talking about the streets.

Roderick: Speaking of travel, will you be taking your music overseas soon?

JR Clark: I’m going to Colombia soon, but it’s for vacation with my family.

Roderick: Oh, do you speak Spanish?

JR Clark: Actually, a lot of people don’t know. My mother is Latin, Haitian and Dominican.

Roderick: Very nice. You know reggaeton is making a comeback and I feel that Latin music, especially Caribbean music, is doing really well right now. Have you ever thought about doing some reggaeton?

JR Clark: Yes! I just did a reggaeton song called “El Trafico”. But the Latin music I really love is more old school like bachata and salsa. Not sure if Reggaeton is my way, but it’s nice to expand.

Roderick: So you have a new project coming out, an EP called My State of Mind: The Prelude. Can you tell me what people can expect?

JR Clark: I wanted to create a project that was recognizable, relaxing music that reflected ordinary people, the things we go through. My mood reflects where I am in life: the ups and downs, the joy, everything really.

Roderick: I love it. Is there a song you really connect with from the EP?

JR Clark: My favorite right now is “Perception”. I talk about everything, and the way the song hits directly, just sets the tone for the whole project.

Roderick: Any advice for emerging artists?

JR Clark: If the music business is what you want to do, you have to study what you are getting yourself into. Second, you need to have some income to finance what you do: your job, an investor, both, whatever. Third, understand what kind of artist you want to be: your image, your style and your voice.

JR Clark: Focus on your musical skills. Today, people are so focused on power and fame. I don’t even tell most people that I’m a rapper [laughs].

If music is what you want to do, be skilled. Clout is not a success. You can be very famous and very broke. Focus on being talented, qualified and successful.

Roderick: What are your music business goals for 2022?

JR Clark: Um … maybe he works with a major, but the timing has to be right.

Roderick: Ok, last question. What do you want your legacy to be?

JR Clark: Ultimately, I want to leave a legacy that tells others that you can own your stuff. I want to have inspired others to own their art and build wealth.

Roderick: Hats off to you JR Thanks for taking the time to talk to me

JR Clark: My pleasure Roderick, thank you for hosting me.

Listen to JR Clark’s new EP: My State of Mind: The Prelude, now available on all streaming platforms.
Subtitle: Roderick Thomas is a writer, director and screenwriter from New York.

Instagram: @Hippiebyaccident, Email: [email protected], Site: roderickthomas.net

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