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The Rap Game UK: Meet JClarke

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East London Arts & Music (ELAM) alum, JClarke is a rapper from Brixton, South London. Winner of the viral 2019 U18 Black Box Cypher, the rapper and producer grew up in a musical household – his dad is a DJ and mum a pianist, and he always knew music was his calling. A regular on the skatepark when he’s not behind the mic, JClarke approaches rap in a tactical manner, dissecting and strategizing as his method to success.

Where did you develop your love for music, and rap music specifically?

For the most part, I come from a very musical background: my dad was a DJ, my mum knows how to play the piano, and my sister’s a singer, so it’s always been around me and something I just naturally gravitated towards.

Were there any artists you listened to, or that particularly inspired you when you were growing up?

This is hard because my answer always changes. When I was younger, I was first introduced to rap with the early 2000s American sound, so Chris Brown, Jay-Z and all the notable names of that era, but it was more of an image thing of being in the spotlight than the music itself. But, as I grew up, I started to appreciate sounds from the UK more, artists like Kano, Stormzy, Ghetts, and Chip really influenced me.

Did you always see yourself pursuing music as a career long-term, or was there anything else you thought you might do?

I think so – when I started trying to write I was in primary school, so I always kind of had it in my mind that I wanted that arrogance that rappers had, like “yeah, I’m gonna be a rapper – I’m gonna do something like that when I’m older”. So, I feel like from a young age I always knew I wanted to do something along those lines, and as I grew older, I figured it out and worked to make it happen.

Where did you learn to write, and like how did you develop your flow and your lyricism?

I wouldn’t say my lyricism, but my ability to use language and my confidence in using it came from reading. I was an avid reader as a kid, and it’s not to say I neglected it, but as I grew, I started to focus more on my flow for instance – that came from when I started picking up drums and I think that’s the main place I developed my rhythm.

How did you find out about TRGUK and was being on the show different to what you’d imagined?

I was very tuned into the first season when it launched, and after that, so it’s a great platform, especially when you’re coming up in the scene – it helps you to connect those dots.

From a TV aspect, I wasn’t really surprised by some of the ways things worked when filming. From a musical aspect of it though, especially the group we had this year, the level was just so high. It was sick because the other artists just brought it, and everyone came with a very abundant mindset – everyone wanted to grow and get better, so it was great being in that environment; it pushed me to not only progress and do more with music, but it was a good experience.

Did Krept, Konan, DJ Target, or any of the guest mentors give you any advice that you’ll take on after the show?

Yeah, for sure, especially from a business aspect. I’m naturally big on strategy, so when I spoke to Konan he talked a lot about the way they operate – it’s very business-oriented, they’ve always been, and they always have their ducks in a row. Essentially, it’s just being ready to shoot your shot at all times and carry that same mentality with business. It was also reaffirming things and I already stood for, but it was good to hear from someone else not yourself. So, I’m just keeping the same hunger as always, growing, progressing and that will stick with me.