The reality in which female rappers shine for a certain period of time then dissipate into the wilderness has come and gone. Nowadays, rappers of the fairer sex have staying-power that extends beyond their physical attributes, which creates a channel for lyricism to be explored and cultivated. Clara T, hailing all the way from Durban is proof of this premise. Tapped to appear on the street banger Lefemme Remix, Clara’s grind was ultimately recognized and brought to the forefront of South African hip hop amongst the most lyrically gifted emcees. We spoke to Clara T about her background and plans for the release of her full body of work.
QuenchSA: What’s your fondest memory of hip hop music?
Clara T: I’ve always loved music. In terms of rap music, I remember my first memories of it was when my elder brothers used to listen 2 Pac and other 90’s hip-hop artists at home, but I only started taking interested in Hip-hop when I was 12, when I heard Lupe Fiasco’s “Kick, Push”. At that time I just learnt to listen to the music and the words, everyday after school I’d get the CDs we had and just listen to whatever my brothers were listening to.
QuenchSA: When did it first hit you that music is what you wanted to do for a living?
Clara T: In the beginning it was really just a hobby, a way to get my thoughts out. I only began taking it more seriously after I got myself my first paying gig in September of 2013. I realized that if people are willing to pay for my expression, something that comes so naturally to me, why not pursue this as a career? It’s been a process, convincing my family – mainly my parents – that this is something that can work out, because there are so many stories of people who try to make a living from music but fail because of reasons that are unique to each person’s situation. I’m always told that talent means nothing if it’s not coupled with hard work, and that’s a given.
QuenchSA: How would you classify your brand and style of rap?
Clara T: I’m a lyricist. I like word play, rhyme schemes, and I write from my experiences, my own knowledge and thoughts. I have found my voice as a rapper, which was something I struggled with when I started. Right now I rap to convey comfort, fun and honesty. With regards to my brand, I’ve always found it difficult to classify that until I was told that it simply means what I represent. I’m a free-spirit, I’m a little sister to all the homies in Hip-Hop and a sister to all the women in Hip-Hop. I like everything colourful and I convey that in my music. I also like letting people make up their own minds with regards to what I rap about, but I always stay clear in my intentions and what I say. I aim to always personify “clarity”.
QuenchSA: If it wasn’t music, what would you be doing?
Clara T: If I wasn’t doing music, I’d be studying to finish my LLB… I did start with my studies but I couldn’t afford go continue this year so I used the opportunity to fully commit myself to pursuing my music career. I do want to go back to school soon, but I want to first see where the music might take me.
QuenchSA: When can we expect an full body of work from you?
Clara T: I have been working on a full-length project for a while now… A mixtape called Late Blooming. Some instances have left me to put it on hold but now I am prepared to complete the project and make it better than when I first started with it. I have been through some experiences and engagements that have helped me grow and I want that to be expressed in the music. I feel like a full-length project should take time because the point of it is for people to go through it and understand the story behind each song, and the idea of the concept/s from beginning to end. When Late Blooming drops, I think the music will make sense to a lot of people and to myself, it won’t just be a rap mixtape, it’s going to be music.
QuenchSA: Is it harder to establish yourself if you outside Johannesburg?
Clara T: I think establishing yourself is not the issue if you’re outside of Joburg. It’s maintaining and growing the establishment. I feel like any artist, from anywhere, has to get out of their own town/city/province/country if they want to expand their reach, and coming to Jo’burg is the next sensible step in your career to move forward. If I had started doing “this music thing” as my mother calls it, in Jo’burg, I feel like I’d be at a much different place in my career right now. I can attest to this because when I was in Jo’burg a few weeks ago for a short time, I was able to do more in a month than I’ve been able to do in 6 months in Durban… and I’m just talking about this year. Most national radio stations, major television broadcasting studios, head offices and agencies are based Johannesburg.
QuenchSA: You were part of the Lefemme Remix. Has the exposure impacted you in anyway?
Clara T: Oh definitely!! Being on the Now Or Never #LeFemmeRemix has given me quite a few first time experiences and has exposed me to bigger audiences and has opened my eyes to the possibilities of bigger opportunities. It’s all been very positive and now it’s a matter of maximizing on the opportunity we were given and creating more opportunities for ourselves. It’s crazy how this all happened over Twitter, because for a long time I felt like I wasn’t doing enough, but regardless of this people were watching and some really awesome people called me out for the track because they felt like I deserved to be heard and that’s how I got a spot on the remix. I’ll forever be grateful to all those souls.
QuenchSA: Was the Now Or Never Remix bashing Trap and commercial music?
Clara T: I don’t think it was “bashing” necessarily, I think the premise of the song was that rap has lost some of it’s substance and it raised a question about the state of the commercial scene more than anything else. In my personal opinion, I feel like there’s a place and a time for anything and everything in our industry, but the attention is not equally divided to account for everyone’s taste. The only way I feel we can counter that is by letting people decide what goes on radio and TV, and by that, people need to know just how much power they have. I don’t have anything against trap, trap is dope when it’s done right. Commercial music is dope when it’s done right and that’s all it should be about. It’s funny, Hip-Hop is the most indiscriminate culture there is, yet there are so many divisions within the culture all created by the people in the culture
QuenchSA: The beginning of Spring, where can your fans expect to see you perform?
Clara T: Ah, I wish I had a better answer for my fans…I don’t have any performances lined up at this moment, but I’ve got a project released (#ItsFreshDoe) for streaming and download and I’ll be releasing Late Blooming this Spring as well. I will be out and about checking the scenes out so I’ll update the heads on my socials and they can also let me know where they would like to see me.
QuenchSA: Who would you like to get on a record?
Clara T: In my life…Erykah Badu.
QuenchSA: You are an independent artist. Are you looking for a label or you like things as they are?
Clara T: I like being an independent artist. I like having control of my time, what I do and who I do it with and most of all, my music. I’m pretty happy the way things are.
QuenchSA: What can your fans expect from you in the immediate future?
Clara T: They can expect the mixtape of course, Late Blooming and a single… That’s in the immediate future, everything else they can find out as it happens.