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.
Listening to a Clams Casino production, regardless of whether or not Lil B was spewing something over it, is akin to falling asleep on opiates and drifting into a floating, hazy cloud of dreams. Even if Lil B is rapping lines that sounded like "nonsense" to some, the beats always keep your ears locked on the track. Since Clams Casino's initial work with the Bay Area rapper, we've heard countless imitations. The irony of it all, though, is that it didn't even start out with truly serious intentions or aspirations.
"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 by itself, kind of by accident."
Accident or not, nowadays even artists as big as Beyonce are taking some cues from the work of Clams Casino. Listen to the last spacey, syrupy bit of Beyonce's most recent track "Bow Down" and put it side by side with Clams' work with Lil B or ASAP Rocky. You would be near deaf to not hear some similarity. Unlike the calculation and the methodical approaches of others, however, everything is still more freely forming when it comes to Clams and his now signature sound.
"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."
Later on in our call, Clams further elaborated on how he sculpts his sound and fine-tunes his creativity. "It has more to do with feeling than the actual sound," he says. "There's so many different types of sounds I wouldn't really know what to be attracted to. It's just the feeling -- it could be any type of sound, it's just more of a certain feeling that will get me to mess around with a certain tempo."
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.
Still, it all goes back just a few years ago to his original association with Lil B and tracks like "I'm God," which helped propel him and his sound to the level it's at now. Initially, Clams had just sent B a message over MySpace because of his longtime love of him and his group, The Pack, but soon after the two started a back-and-forth email exchange and from there their collaboration together was born.