For those who are new to your work, how would you describe your vision & sound?
What was your life like growing up in Bed-stuy? The good the bad?
“Bed-Stuy has influenced me in so many ways. I have an extra chip on my shoulder being from the same place as the Jay-Z’s, the Biggies, The Fabs, and The Big Daddy Kane’s. I grew up when Bed-Stuy was truly “Do or Die”, I was always pushed by the drug dealers the same way I was pushed by my immediate family to do better and be better. I got to see all the things I heard in the songs and understand them early on. Most of my survival skills come from being in the middle of the jungle.”
What we call Gentrification, is such a divisive issue, as we’re both native New Yorkers let’s just assume the reader is not. So, you know the experiences; the kinds that probably had us taking those walks to school alone with danger lurking, care for elders, develop relationships with drug dealers (not by choice), all the while maintaining our good grades. Is there one positive for the future for the influx of new and the battle hardened old like us that unites us?
“The one beautiful thing I can take from gentrification is that if you can find a way to stay planted in the community you can benefit from the new businesses coming into the area.”
Do you remember the earliest musical moments that drew you into music as a power?
“I actually started music in elementary school as a soprano of the school choir and that led to singing in a lot of unique places, meeting Dead Prez, and leading me to consider doing music as a profession. I began rapping after I hated what puberty did to my voice.”
What are some of the record(s) that changed your musical ideology forever? I find almost everyone has a moment where an artist they listen to redefines both their personal identity and/or their understanding of the place and potential of a writer.
“I’d say the records that had the biggest influence on my identity would be Ex-Factor by Lauryn Hill, Bag Lady by Erykah Badu, De La Soul – Baby Phat, LL Cool J – Around the Way Girl and finally BIG – Unbelievable.”
Does your youth Hip-hop mentorship at Eagle Academy have anything to do with what you think the role of an emcee is or can aspire to be?
“Definitely. Nina Simone once said your art should be a sign of the times, we have social responsibility to do more than just create, We need to show the youth especially more now than ever all the options they have and if you don’t get out and connect directly how else do they get that knowledge.”
In The Good Fight Documentary you mentioned school being a place you loved. Hate to put you on the spot but you then went on to say that you were in band, what instrument did you play?! You weren’t in marching band were you? (I refuse to admit if I was unless you were… then maybe we can dish some stories!)
“Haha!!! I actually played a few instruments over the years. I’ve played Clarinet, some Tenor Sax and a lil flute. I always had an appreciation for the horns and woodwinds. I wish it was a marching band man!!! I’d be like a young Nick Cannon!!!”
Now speaking of your full length, The Good Fight, was this your first time recording an album? What did it take in terms of preparing material, where was it recorded, and what was your most memorable experience from this?
“The Good Fight wasn’t my first project ever; it was just my first project I was comfortable releasing. The album took 6 months to create once I knew where I wanted to go sound wise. It was recorded and mixed mostly at Lounge Studios in Midtown Manhattan. The best part of the album was a indirect result of creating the album; my friendship with Skyzoo. Skyzoo became a big brother figure as I crafted the project and he didn’t say much but he always said enough to let me know if I was going in the right direction, very honest dude.”
Are there any artist that come to mind that embody your ethos? And are there venues or places that you find to be fruitful for your musical endeavours? If so, tell us!
“I’d say the artist that reminds me of myself most in character would be MK Asante, Skyzoo, Black Thought, Bishop Lamont. In terms of places I’d love to spend some extended time in LA, maybe the warm weather might help me make some classic Nate Dogg like music.”
In terms of the future, what’s next for Ace Clark? I’ll let you answer as specifically or existentially this questions as you choose to. And for what it’s worth, I really enjoy the work you do and thank you for speaking with me, your insights are so important to the legacy of this city we both love, thank you.
“More music, a lot of living, and I wanna say more radio appearances. I try not to think about the future because I still believe has so much shelf life to it. More is def coming though.”