Rising: New York rapper CLIP makes music for flexing through the tears
CLIP is in a period of transition.
“Honestly, I’m not so good with change,” the 23-year-old New York artist reveals over video call. In recent months, she’s packed up her things and moved across the country to Los Angeles – a common direction of travel for musicians who want to make a name for themselves. “It took a minute as I like being comfortable, but I’m settling in now.” CLIP’s cat, Boots, is her grounding force; a reminder of home who occasionally barges into view during our call.
CLIP’s rise to fame has been swift, her almost overnight success powered by 2020’s brash, Crime Mob-referencing single, Sad B!tch. Released during the initial throes of the pandemic, the track’s bright and combative attitude fit the mood, and then some. “‘Cause I’m a sad bitch but I love being bad/ Hopped up out my feelings/ And I hopped in my bag,” she whisper-raps over soothing, undulating synths and a skittering trap beat. The track’s subtle bravado, paired with the lyrics’ candid vulnerability, resonated with a young generation that embraces life in all its contours.
Perception, her recently released debut EP, serves as an expansion pack to the world set out by Sad B!tch, and is even more assertive and audacious. There are elements of the current hyperpop zeitgeist in her futuristic sounds, but it’s not all set to fast-forward. Fall Back, with its nods to footwork and Houston’s chopped and screwed, funnels its reference points through Flo Milli levels of braggadocio.
Growing up in a Jamaican family, CLIP spent her early years immersed in reggae and gospel, with a noughties indie phase striking when she was in her teens. “I was actually big into music like the 1975 and Arctic Monkeys,” she says, matter-of-factly. But like with many people her age, it was the rise of cloud rap that proved to be a watershed moment for CLIP, and she still cites “Carti” and “Lean” as early inspirations.
These influences are evident in the unfiltered, confessional and subtly dark nature of her music. “I just pour my emotions out and whatever I’m feeling in certain situations, like love, or feeling sad,” she says with a sigh of resignation. Take Villian, a standout track on Perception, in which she sings with a hint of detachment, “I don’t want to talk about my feelings/ I just smoke away my pain.”
Recently, she’s found herself struggling to come to terms with the recognition her new-found fame has brought. “I’ve dealt with a lot throughout my life, and even if good things are happening, I can dwell on the negatives and dismiss the positives. I was big on pity parties,” she admits, “but now I’m training my brain to not resort to this.”
Happily, the positives are getting too numerous to dismiss. The rapper was recently invited by Marc Jacobs to model in the Heaven campaign, an experience that sparked a renewed interest in fashion. “I really want to express myself fashion-wise and tie that in with my music.” And like her songs, her style leans into the bold and colourful – it demands attention. “[Though] I don’t really know how to define myself, I really want to develop who CLIP is, while remaining versatile,” she smiles. “I never expected this [career], but I’m grateful and proud of myself!”
Perception is out now via In Real Life