Clinton Sparks - conducted by Bill "Low Key" Heinzelman
>Hardest Working Man in Hip Hop
MVRemix: How did the catch phrase "Get Familiar" start?
Clinton Sparks: When I finally got hired to do radio in '99, I was striving to be original and creative. I didn't want to follow what everybody else was doing at the time. And I live by that, because if somebody else has done it, I'm not interested. So when I was getting on the radio I knew I had to come up with a handle that represented me. I wasn't trying to say, "Ya heard, or now what I'm saying", and all the typical cliché lines that everybody says. So I literally sat in my room, and just started jotting down sayings. I eventually came up with a bunch of them, and get familiar came to mind, and it stuck. The saying made sense because it fit everything. An artist can say get familiar with Clinton, I can say get familiar with this music - the possibilities were endless. So I got on the radio, blasted it off, and the rest is history. And its funny because right when I started saying it, people started biting me right off the bat! But I would put the call in immediately and dead it. There were two different DJ's who started saying it, and I called them immediately and ended it fast. I knew it was a thing I needed to brand myself with. And if I allowed them to keep saying it, people might associate them with it, instead of me.
MVRemix: You have a crazy schedule, as last year you were the first DJ to have a live show at three different stations in three different states. Plus, you work at Sirius Satellite, you have the mixtapes, and you have your own online vinyl store. How do you manage to balance all of this?
Clinton Sparks: It comes down to having a lot of focus and motivation, Plus, getting no sleep, and having great people behind you. I got my partner, D, who helps handle the business aspect. Then I have partners at Mix Unit - Jeff, Mike, and Lee. They are the hands on, day to day operations. I come in when it's time to have meetings and make decisions - things like that. For example, Mixunit.com, we just did a joint venture with a multimedia company. They create software technology, and they created a new software which will revolutionize the way you target market - demographically and geographically. The whole site is being re-developed and we are going to re-launch in about two months. We are going to have everything from ring tones, to downloads, clothing, retail CD's, to vinyl, and online gambling. Right now we get seven million hits a month, so once we re-launch, we are aiming to be the Hip Hop version of Amazon.com. So as far as maintaining my time to do all that stuff, my mind is literally all over the place at all times. I will literally be in my studio, doing a mixtape, while working on a beat, talking on the phone, writing down ideas, and emailing somebody - all at the same time. (Laughter) I have learned the art of multi-tasking, and pretty much perfected it. Even when I do my show live, I have so much stuff going on, people think its pre-taped and I have it tracked. But its not, I'm literally hitting the sampler, I'm on the turntables, and I'm doing everything at one time. And people don't get it until they see me do it, because I have a lot of haters. The stations competing with me will say stuff like, "He's only hot because he tracks his shows", and things like that. And that used to bother me, but it doesn't anymore. Now everyone has seen me do it live, and there is nothing they can say about it.
MVRemix: Ok, lets get into Maybe You Been Brainwashed. Have you been pleased with the reactions it has gotten?
Clinton Sparks: The reactions have been incredible, I can't even tell you. This album wasn't even supposed to do what it has been doing, it has a life of its own. Because the story behind this album is, technically its not even supposed to be a real album. What happened is, I got an album deal with Koch, and they knew I produced a lot of records. So they were like, why don't we put out a mixtape to set up the real album. But anytime I do something, I don't do it half assed. So I got behind the project and started pushing it like a real album; because it is, its all original songs that I produced with major artists on it. Eventually people started to take notice, and word spread. Vibe gave us 4 stars, Rolling Stones did an amazing write up, even Penthouse reached out. And from there the buzz spread, so I just ran with the album, thus, the title Maybe You Been Brainwashed. Because there are so many meanings behind that title, but Maybe You Been Brainwashed to think that this is a real album, or you been brainwashed to think what a mixtape DJ is supposed to sound like. So I looked at this album as a setup. Because a lot of times people will release a single to set up their album, but I released an album to set up an album. But overall, the response has been incredible, because I'm on Shade 45, and we have been getting calls from everyone stating how much they like the album. I couldn't believe how much love the album has been getting. So it amps me up that people are that receptive to this, and now I can't wait until the real album, which I have more time to make. Because all of the skits on this album, I literally did the night before the album was due, so I will have more time with the official album. And the official debut is Get Familiar Vol. 1, which should be out this fall.
MVRemix: You have some real heavyweights on this album. And I assume Koch's budget isn't that big. So did all of these guys hook you up and do you a favor? Did you pay for the album out of your own pocket?
Clinton Sparks: This is another reason why the album is called Maybe You Been Brainwashed. Every single song, except for Kardinal Offishall's record, none of them were done with me and the artists in the studio. What it is - since I work for so many radio stations, artists come by and give me freestyles. Or, I link up with independent artists, who had major artists on one of their songs, and we work out a deal where they gave me that verse. So basically, I took all of those verses, created music, made hooks, and made brand new records. This entire album was a hoax in a sense, because I fooled the label into thinking I had all of these songs with major label artists. I have never produced a hit record in my life, so there is no reason why I should even have a record deal. But when I walked in with all of these songs done, they were looking at me like, "Holy shit! This guy is incredible, he has all of these songs". So I basically brainwashed the label into giving me a deal. (Laughter) Now these artists are hearing the songs and its even crazier. I was on the radio the other day being interviewed, and me, Bleek, and the Young Gunz were all there being interviewed at the same time. So they were asking me who was on my album, and I gave the lineup, "Busta, P.Diddy, Mobb Deep, Bleek, and the Young Gunz". However, Bleek and the Young Gunz didn't know they were on my album, and they were sitting right next to me. So we all started laughing. And when I played the record with Bleek on it, he flipped out and emailed me that night telling me he wanted to put it on his album. So now I got other artists hitting me for beats. Joe Buddens just hit me up, because the track on my album, "Whatever It Takes" - he did that as a freestyle on one of my mixtapes. But I took the track, made a whole new beat, and he hit me at 2 in the morning like, "Why didn't you play me that song before you put it out. That record is incredible!". So now the artists are feeling what I'm doing, so its incredible.
MVRemix: Yeah, the original version of that Joe Budden's track, with the Young Gunz beat, when I heard that on your mixtape, I played it for a month straight. I love Joe Budden, I think he is underrated.
Clinton: Yeah, he is a true lyricist, and I don't think people recognize that.
MVRemix: You have the lead single with Diddy, Run This City, which is crazy. Is there a chance we can get a video for that?
Clinton Sparks: Actually, that’s funny, because we are talking with an animator now to do a video. Because its damn near impossible to get Puff involved with a video. But how that record came about is funny as well. I got cool with an engineer at Bad Boy, and he gave me the vocals to that song. Puff actually recorded it a couple years back, but they never did anything with it. So I made a brand new beat and a hook for it, and now it’s a new record. And I told Bad Boy, I did this crazy record for Puff, and they told me to send it over. I did that, but I never got any word back. But once Kay Slay played it nine times in a row on the radio up at Hot 97, and Flex kept playing it and dropped bombs on it, that’s when they called me up telling me how much they liked the record. And I told Sean Prez over at Bad Boy, since Puff is working on an album, he needs something in the streets and people are feeling this track, why don't you give me clearance to put this out as my single? Eventually he made that happen, as he called Puff, and Puff asked him if the song is a good look for him? And Sean Prez was like, "Hell yeah, the song is crazy". So right now Puff is not co-signing it, but we are good to go and I can put it out as my single. But, if the shit starts to blow up, that’s when he'll jump on board and start to run with it like its his single.
MVRemix: Yeah, cause that’s the most aggressive he's been in years.
Clinton Sparks: Yeah, and that's what everybody says. People have been telling me, 'Wow, you have really made Puff come back strong'.
MVRemix: Who is going to be on Get Familiar Vol. 1?
Clinton Sparks: Right now I got, Common, Juelz Santana, Slim Thug, Talib Kweli, Young Gunz, Mike Jones, Paul Wall, Cam'ron, and D-Block. Those are official right now, but obviously there are more people I'm trying to get at.
MVRemix: What else do you have going on?
Clinton Sparks: I'm working on a children's Hip Hop TV program with Jerry Bruckheimer's production company over at Hollywood. Basically, we are trying to do a Sesame Street/School House Rock with Hip Hop. Its an educational show through the means of Hip Hop. Talib Kweli and Akrobatik are going to be writers for the show. I also just did a deal with Def Jam Mobile to create a new ring tone called Scratch Tones. If you are familiar with my mixtapes, and how I do my intros and manipulate records, that’s what these scratch tones are going to be like. Say you get a call from an unknown number, then Biggie will come in saying, "Who the hell is this". Stuff like that, so I'll be cutting up records for these scratch tones. I'm also working on another show for MTV, and I'm also trying to get this patent for this card game I made for casinos.