Whether or not Lil B is trolling the Internet, doing some sort of satirical performance art, or just having fun rapping about looking like Jesus Christ and Paris Hilton, there’s no question that his knack for picking producers borders on mastery. That’s mostly because he’s managed to find beatsmiths who can deliver sounds that accentuate his eccentricities while still keeping his songs on track. It’s not like hip-hop production was saved or even in need of saving before the coming of the so-called “Based God,” but having an artist like New Jersey’s Clams Casino (real name Mike Volpe) around has helped music exponentially over the past few years.
“It was just a hobby until about two years ago. I never thought of having a career in it,” Clams says speaking about his work over the phone. “About two to three years ago it kind of just started happening on its own with the Internet and it kind of just started working itself out, kind of by accident.”
“I’m always trying to do stuff, but I get stuck a lot of the times when I’m trying to make things and it’s kind of hard to get anywhere. I’m kind of just always doing it, so when something sticks then I’ll know. I don’t really get inspired from somewhere else and be like ‘Aw man, I gotta go make a beat.’ I’m just always sitting on the computer and trying to get ideas started. It’s hard to say where ideas come from, I don’t even really know actually.”
Clams may not be able to exactly pinpoint a concrete “what and why” of how he works as an artist and how he produces beats may be more in the vein of a free-range eccentric like Flying Lotus rather than a a more traditional beatmaker like Dilla, but his impact and influence are far more tangible and easier to realize. How would the successes of Lil B and ASAP Rocky even unfold without Clams’ productions? It’d be an interesting scenario to envision.
“The first one that people really listened to was ‘I’m God’ and that was really cool. This was when he (Lil B) was making a hundred MySpace pages and in the middle of doing all this crazy stuff and all the stuff I was sending him he would freestyle on. He would just do some funny stuff or just put them on one of his MySpace pages” he says describing his start with Lil B.
Amidst all of Lil B’s trademark social media split-personality insanity, there was always the one main page where he put the songs he didn’t want to get lost in the circus he created, and that’s where Clams Casino’s work soon ended up.
“I always wanted to put something on that one where he could only put one song, so when he put that up (‘I’m God’) on his main MySpace page I was really excited about that. He had a hundred pages with five each or something, and once he did that people started really reacting to that one and that was when stuff really started taking off. That was one of the first ones I think too that he had written to and not just freestyled to, so that was definitely one of the biggest moments so far that has really changed everything for me.”
Over the years, the two have maintained a stable bond of sorts, though never even encountering each other face-to-face. There’s no stories of them huddling together over in a studio on sleepless nights, going on tour together, or anything that comes close to a Premier/Guru or Pete Rock/C.L. Smooth type collaboration. But it’s something that’s benefited and propelled both of them.
“We never really met or anything yet. We’ve spoke a lot. We’ll talk about music and stuff we’re doing back and forth all the time, but I have never really met him yet. It’s kind of a weird relationship, but it works.”
“A weird relationship” it may be, but then again, that word pretty much describes Lil B’s entire career. Irregular and abnormal as it may be, their link has earned them attention from every corner of the globe. In this case, “weird” worked very, very well.