The state of mind is simply defined as the condition, or character of a person’s thoughts or feelings. Periodically, our states of mind fluctuate, affecting everything that we do. As a result, they become inevitably contagious. How do we handle these complexities? We just cope with them, and navigate through them, in the best ways that we can. No one knows these feelings better than Virginia Beach native, J.R.Clark. On the heels of his new EP, My State of Mind: The Prelude, Mr. Clark speaks candidly about the impact of his state of mind on the people and things around him.
AS: Greetings Mr. Clark! Thank you for taking the time to chat with me today! You served almost a four-year term in the U.S. Army. Briefly describe your experience and how it inspired your hip hop journey.
JC: That’s correct. I did three and half years on active duty in the U.S. Army. I was a studio engineer while I was attending community college. I then went into the Army to escape my surroundings, because it was a bad environment. I joined the armed forces to finish my degree, and get more funding for graduate school. Once I was honorably discharged from the Army, I resumed back to my hip-hop career as a full-time artist.
AS: Was your college experience similar in terms of shaping your career?
JC:. A lot of people think that being a musician is just about the rapping and singing. However, being an artist requires some formal level of business acumen. Being a college graduate has allowed me to understand that the music business is run by contracts. It is also run by the type of contract an artist signs, which determines how an artist is paid. This includes royalty splits, percentages owned, and musical obligations. Additionally, being an independent artist, I knew I had to set myself up like a business entity because theoretically, independent musicians are a small business.
AS: The rhythmic pattern of My State of Mind: The Prelude, is hard-hitting hip hop, delightfully seasoned with R&B. Many of your hip -hop inspirations include Nipsey Hustle, Rick Ross, and J.Cole, to name a few. Who were some of your R&B influences? How did all of these artists help you to define your core sound?
JC: In terms of R&B, I was, and still am inspired by Chris Brown, John Legend, Anthony Hamilton, Alicia Keys, Mary J. Blige, and Erykah Badu. These artists I’ve mentioned have that x factor. I feel that their sound and musical style will never be outdated. The music that they make comes from a place of passion.
AS: What was your creative process when crafting the EP?
JC: My creative process for this project focused more on pre-production. I updated my entire home recording studio. My equipment included, Manley Reference C microphones, a BAE 1073 mic preamp, a 1176LN Universal Audio Compressor, and a Prism Sound converter audio interface. I devoted a lot of attention to this area, because I wanted this project to sound high quality. I also wanted this project to be able to compete with a lot of my favorite mixed commercial songs. Moreover, I am like a studio gear enthusiast. I like to have the best of the best when it comes to recording, and when the budget allows it. Also, this project was mastered by Chris Athens. He is one on my favorite mastering engineers. He has mastered albums for a lot of my favorite artists, such as Rick Ross, Yo Gotti, Meek Mill, Nicki Minaj, Drake, and many more. I just wanted this project to be finalized by someone who has years of experience with mastering in the music industry.
AS: The track “Perception” speaks about the importance of remaining levelheaded while adapting to unexpected change. When was the last time that you were challenged while trying to achieve this?
JC: I try remaining calm, and rational in any given situation. More importantly, I always try to exercise strategic thinking, by thinking outside of the box. For example, during the global pandemic, musicians across all genres were affected. The outbreak caused touring and live performances to come to a solid halt. However, I adapted to the new norm by creating new ways of forming digital content. I pretty much had a lot of resources at my disposal while recording in my home studio.
AS: “Levels of Trust” is a song that all humans can relate to. The lyrics chronicled a few of your personal experiences, which triggered your discomfort of trusting others. You also mentioned that at times, you’ve questioned trusting yourself. Give an example of a time when you didn’t trust yourself.
JC: I’m not big on giving second chances. I look at it as an opportunity for someone to screw you over again. There has been times when I have given second chances to collaborate with other artists, and they did not deliver what they said they would deliver. They have also given weak excuses for why they can’t hold up their ends of the bargain. I get mad at myself for being weak and giving second chances.
AS: Totally understandable! One of the EP’s most melodic tracks is “Put You On Game”. It’s soulful sonance, paired with your trademark flow, and Jon Echols’ smooth vocals, was the perfect R&B/hip hop fusion. How did your collaboration with Echols come to fruition?
JC: Jon Echols is the homie. I met him through my homie Atlasmusic, who is on the hook for “HourGlass”, which is track seven. Its just that when me and Jon get to together, we make that type of music that has the classic Rick Ross Maybach feel to it. This can be heard on tracks like, “Fake Friends”, from my album When Muzik Was Good. It can also be heard on a single we released last year, called “Wrath Flow”. It’s all about chemistry when I work with different artists.
AS: In “HourGlass” you coyly refer to yourself as the “Brown James Bond”. If you ever had the chance to portray that character, how would you add a hip–hop twist to him?
JC: This line reference stemmed from my swag. Meaning, I always dress nice and I’m always driving an exotic coupe. With the help of acting coaches, I would love to take on a role of James Bond, with the green light from Daniel Craig, Pierce Brosnan, and Sean Connery.
AS: Aside from your college degrees, what are some other accolades that you hope to acquire for your accomplishments?
JC: I hope to win a Grammy one day and be acknowledged by the mainstream industry.
AS: Cool! Do feel that accolades define success?
JC: That’s a double edged sword, but it depends on how one defines success. I don’t feel accolades define success, but rather it defines that you as an artist, have achieved a new level of recognition. Additionally, accolades don’t really have any currency tradeoff value, meaning they don’t really translate into dollars.
AS: Interesting concept! What are three things that you hope to achieve with your music?
JC: I hope it reaches the music listeners who appreciate my style of music. Also, I hope to inspire independent artists to be unafraid to invest in their crafts. More importantly, I hope to start my own tour, to cover fifteen cities.
AS: What’s next for you?
JC: I’m in the process of recording a new album for 2023 or 2024. I’m just staying ahead, staying motivated, and dedicated to my craft. I want to keep elevating to the next tier.
AS: I hear that! J.R. it has been a pleasure! Good luck with the EP and all of your future endeavors! Where can the fans reach you?