Bay Area rapper Clyde Carson was always into music. Even in high school and college when he played basketball, Carson says, “I wasn’t with all the hoopers talking about last night’s game. I was more into hip-hop.”
In 2001, Carson decided to move to N.Y.C., which ended up being a pivotal move in his career, helping him to meet numerous music industry professionals and inspiring him to form his own crew, The Team, when he returned to the Bay. Consisting of Mayne Mannish, Kaz Kyzah, and Jungle, The Team put out songs that ranked on Billboard, including the buzzy, synth-laden single “Slow Down,” which appears on the video game “Grand Theft Auto V.”
In February, Carson released his first official album, the mellow, syncopated, and lush Something to Speak About 2, a follow-up to his 2012 mixtape of the same name. I spoke with Carson while he was in New York City promoting his new album, and got the rapper to reflect about his time living in N.Y.C. and why he converted to a vegan diet.
SF Weekly: Back in 2001, why’d you move to New York?
Clyde Carson: I snuck backstage at a T.R.L. concert and I met Kain Cioffie who was signed to Bad Boy Entertainment at the time and his producer Ty Fyffe. I ended up connecting with them and flying out to New York to try to get something popping. I spit a verse for Ty Fyffe when I got out there and he signed me to a production deal. I ended up living out there and recording a lot of music and trying to shop a major deal. I never got one, but the experiences gave me a lot of confidence when I went back home.
SFW: You’ve said in the past that you found your voice while there.
CC: At the time, Yukmouth was pretty popular, and I had a grimy type of flow, so I guess I was subconsciously imitating him a little. When I got out [to New York], I was doing so many records, and when I came home, I started recording and rapping in this soft-tone, mono flow. I remember calling my partners and saying, “Stop selling my CD, that shit ain’t cool. I am way better now.” I guess I found myself.
SFW: In New York?
CC: Yes. New York was a new experience for me. In Oakland, I had never been around luxury. We were on the block bullshitting. I never really experienced Porsches and going to clubs with Champagne. I was out there living the life with Ty Fyffe. I would find myself in Baseline Studios with Eve because Ty had five songs on Cam’ron’s album Come Home with Me. And I would see Harv Pierre and different people in Daddy’s House, the studio that Bad Boy had. I wasn’t necessarily working with them, but I am the type of nigga who will say “What’s up?” and I’ll make it happen if I see somebody. So, when I came back, my confidence was incredible.
SFW: The title of your new album is Something to Speak About 2, but in the first line of the first track you say, “We don’t talk about it…”
CC: (Laughs). Yeah. How about that? Something to Speak About refers to spreading the word about me and my music. “We ain’t talk about it” means I ain’t talking about the dough. If you ask me how much my chain costs, then you are going to have to guess.
SFW: Speaking of shiny things, I really like the album artwork. Who made it? What does it represent?
CC: A good friend of mine named Taj is a video director. We came up in Oakland together, and he also does artwork and photography. I was telling him that I don’t want my picture on it. Instead, I want some dope artwork that is going to catch the eye and represent me. And I think that represents me because it is flashy and bold. It was so dope, I had to go re-record, because the music did not match up with the artwork. We had to find new production and new everything.
SFW: On STSA2 there is a hilarious insult.
CC: (Laughs).“I am a richer, more updated version of the nigga you are fucking with?” I thought that was a dope line. You don’t think about it when you are doing it. You are in the moment. It is insulting. It is funny. I don’t know how to explain it. It’s just part of being a rapper.
SFW: Tell me about the very distinct, “Caught a Wave Interlude.”
CC: Shonuff has these Auto-Tune type of songs that he plays around with. He’s been doing this since the early 2000s, before T-Pain, and we would always hear these songs, which were hilarious. We heard a run, I guess you would call it, where you just get on the mic and do some shit. You got 24 bars of a whole to spit a verse, do a hook, or some other shit. And we just caught this little line where Vgo D’Artiste said, “Caught a wave,” on Shonuff’s beat. I felt like that would be a dope interlude to the next song. At the same time, it makes sense with where I am at in my career. I feel like everyone wants to catch that wave and ride that motherfucker.
SFW: You mentioned your stepfather inspired you to exercise and practice a vegan lifestyle?
CC: My stepfather used to walk sideways through the hallway. I know that sounds crazy, but for real. He was huge. He got a split in the middle of his foot just from being so heavy. He passed away at 31 from weight complications. So that is one thing that always stuck with me. Another thing is that I gain weight really easily, so I try to be healthy. I also watch a lot of documentaries on food. I read, do research, and study. I am a follower of Dr. Sebi, even though he has passed on. Are you familiar with Dr. Sebi?
CC: Dr. Sebi is from Honduras. He preaches about veganism and no starch. You’ve got to research Dr. Sebi. He always said, “Let your food be your medicine.”
And Dead Prez have [an album titled] Let’s Get Free, and when I was high school, listening to that album changed my life. It was before I started being a vegan, but I clearly remember the lines [to “Be Healthy”]:
I don’t eat no meat, no dairy, no sweets
Just vegetables, fresh fruit and whole wheat
I’m from the old school, my household smells like soul food
Curry, falafel, Bar B Que tofu
No fish, no candy bars, no cigarettes
Strictly ganja, fresh squeezed juice from oranges
Exercising daily to stay healthy,
And I rarely drink water out of the tap because it’s filthy.
I never heard a nigga talk like that in my life. I thought they were onto something that I was not onto because we were eating bullshit every day, and to me that’s just slave food. It’s good, but knowing your history is important. There are a lot of different things in my life that have brought me to where I am at.
SFW: I know this is an annoying question for vegans, but how do you get your protein?
CC: Dr. Sebi speaks on that. You have to research him because I don’t want to misrepresent him. But he’s not into protein; he is into electrical foods that grow from the ground. I don’t really trip off protein. I usually don’t eat breakfast or lunch, and I just wait for dinner, which will probably be some electric foods, meaning no rice, no beans, no starch, no blood, none of that, just some vegetables that I might cook up.