Clams Casino is the producer behind some of Lil B’s trippiest and, therefore, #BASED-est beats, from “I’m God” to “Motivation.” Until the release of his self-titled instrumentals mixtape last week, his name was known to only the most devoted scourers of Internet rap. But thanks to the tape’s mysterious, very un-hip-hop design (a black and white marble image), his wonky producer name, and the beats themselves — moaning, fractured, noisy things that sound as much like Tim Hecker’s Ravedeath, 1972 as they do rap instrumentals — the 23-year-old North Jersey-based producer is enjoying a wider profile. Earlier this week, we met up with Clammy Clams at a Mexican spot near his house in Nutley to talk about his spaced-out, hypnagogic hip-hop, which just might bring you to tears, it’s so beautiful.
What do you listen to? I hear Björk on “Illest Alive”, but do you listen to any electronic or experimental music?
A lot of people are kinda surprised because they think I listen to weird stuff, but I don’t, really. The stuff I sample is just kinda generic, but I try to flip it and make it into something totally different, and take, like, a not-really-crazy song and change it.
How did you arrive at your sound? It’s so specific.
Effects. That helps them stick together. I just love seeing what I can do with effects. I’ll have an outline of a beat done, and then just add effects for hours and get carried away. Lately, I’ve been slowing sounds down more. If I slow them down, there’s just more to work with. Like, you take a 15-second clip and slow it down to 30 or 45 seconds, and then you’ve got all these things you can cut and move around and elongate.
They sound more like completed songs or full-on compositions than beats unadorned by rappers.
Yeah, they work as instrumentals, because I only think about how they sound. I’m not in the studio with the guys rapping, so I just kind of make it to make it, and I don’t even think about hearing people on it. It’s to keep me interested.
Can you walk us through how you make a beat?
Oh yeah, sure. I usually start off browsing through samples. Most of the time I’ll use one sample source and do three different things with it. Like, I’ll be doing something and then I’ll hear something else in the sample, and I’ll take that little part and put it in another folder, like a different project, and then I’ll come back to it later. So, I’ll have a few different projects with the same sample, and I just take bits and pieces from every project I have. Even when I’m out or something, I’ll remember an old sample, and when I go home, I’ll throw it on another beat. I’m always going back to beats and samples.
What’s with the cover for the mixtape? It’s perfect, but I’m not sure why.
I made the cover the night before I put it out. It’s just black and white marble. I think I got it from a website that sells marble. I don’t know. I just thought it would look cool. I definitely wanted something cool to go with it, especially when you open it up in iTunes or on your iPod.
Are you a full-time beatmaker?
I see producing as a hobby right now because I think it’s the best thing for me to do, because that’s how I’ll make the best music. I can’t really see myself just going all in and doing only this, because then I would start thinking of it as a business, and I know for a fact that it would just mess up my music. It would take the art away from it.
When did you start producing?
I started making beats in my freshman year of high school, so I was like, 14? I’m 23 now, so almost 10 years, but I’ve played music all my life. I grew up playing drums and messing around with stuff, but ever since hip-hop, I haven’t really done much else. That’s all I started listening to, and that’s all I was interested in making.
How did you hook up with Lil B?
I was a real big fan of the Pack. [The Pack producer] Young L is one of my biggest influences. Young L’s stuff is like, real simple, and I can never make anything like that. I think too much. Like, “I’m Shinin” was my favorite, and I love it because I would never make stuff like that. Lil B was my favorite in the Pack, and I sent him a message on MySpace at like the end of 2008, because I was a real big fan. He hit me back a few weeks later, and I sent him some stuff and kept sending and sending him stuff.
You’ve been crucial to developing Lil B’s specific sound.
I see a lot online, like people say the first time they heard Lil B was “I’m God,” and even with “Motivation,” it seems like those are the songs that turn them onto Lil B, which is cool, but I gotta give him credit for everything he does. Lil B does everything. My mixtape was important for people to know that I did all those beats, though. I see people online saying those are all their favorite Lil B songs, and they had no idea I did them all. I go around everywhere and type my name in the comments to say that I produced them. I do that all the time.
You did a beat for Havoc from Mobb Deep, right?
It was called “Always Have a Choice.” I sent that to an artist who was kinda with G-Unit/Mobb Deep. That was like a year and a half before it came out. He was just one of the guys that answered me on MySpace. His manager ended up managing Havoc later on, and that’s how it happened.
Is New York an influence? I can hear some of that grime in your sound.
I listened to a lot of Mobb Deep in high school. The Diplomats are what I listened to the most. I think back when I first started I would make stuff that was exactly like [Diplomats producers] the Heatmakerz or Kanye. Now I have more of my own sound, but you can tell that I was influenced by them, which is what I want. I want you to be able to hear my influences.
Are you going to do more instrumental work?
I’m working on another instrumental project, and it’s all unreleased stuff. It’s gonna be a lot like the one that’s out now. I’m shooting for like May or the summer. And the instrumental tape that’s out now will be out on vinyl on Type Records. They’re putting out about 500 records — I’m not sure when exactly, though. And I supposedly have a song with E-40 that I haven’t heard yet. The beat I sent, I have no idea how E-40’s going to sound on it, because it’s pretty much what would be on my mixtape.
And what’s the story with your name?
It started off as a joke. My friend was calling me that, and it really doesn’t have a meaning or anything, but I kinda kept it, and it just stuck and was funny and catchy and people remember it. Or when they see it, they’re like curious about it, so I was like, “Alright, that’s cool. It works.” Unfortunately, now, that’s it, though: That’s my name.