Not everyone in the music industry walks the same path, Clemm Rishad is a testament to that. After getting his start as an independent artist, the Tacoma native made a name for himself in the game as an exceptional song writer, with placements on Grammy nominated hits like Nicki Minaj & Rihanna’s “Fly”. Although he’s established himself as a beast with the pen, there is much more to Rishad as an artist than just his writing ability. Check out our interview with him below and get a look at his unique journey through the music industry, and what he has lined up for the future.
You’ve had an interesting journey through the industry, working behind the scenes a lot. How did you develop your initial love for music?
My love for music comes from the freedom of expression man. Just getting out my thoughts and reaching the world. I started off doing poetry, and then started spitting it to the homies. It kinda led from there. Initially how I really got started was with my brother. I wrote some lyrics down one day, recited them to him and the rest is history. He just believed in me since then, and were still rocking together from the beginning ’till now.
How did you transition from making your own music into writing for other artists? What was your first experience with that kind of gig?
I’ve been doing music since 2006, I was an artist first. I was traveling on tour and I met a producer by the name of Adrian who was signed to Warner Brothers. He was working on my album, and he believed in what I was doing, and he recognized my pen game and was like “You should write for some cats in the industry, I know some producers”. He kind of put it in my ear that I could do that. I then had a contact to J.R. Rotem and he helped me initially get in the game. I sent him some music, teamed up with another artist from Tacoma by the name of William Jordan, and together we formed the writing team known as The Writers Block in 2010. We were just submitting music, and our first placement was with Iyaz and Travis McCoy for “Pretty Girls”, a radio single. Then we did “Fly” with Nicki Minaj and Rihanna and that went Platinum and put us on the map with a Grammy nomination. So that was my introduction to the writing game, just submitting music to J.R. and he took a liking to what we were doing. We just jumped in, and kind of got put in to the music industry.
When the idea of writing for other artists was first brought to you were you opposed to it? Was it a situation where you wanted to keep your best work for yourself?
Not at first, when I first started I knew I was dope enough to do it for myself, but I also have a great talent of hearing things. I’m like a chameleon, there’s no lane I can’t do from pop to whatever. I knew I had the passion and talent for it so it was a win-win for me. It was always my passion when I was younger, I loved the music but i also wanted to see how it was all made, and whose behind the scenes. When I would actually get there and see Pharrell in the studio writing for someone or The Dream writing for someone it was just so dope. It’s all apart of the game and how it works. It’s a team building these sounds and the future. When I first picked up a pen I didn’t say “I’m gonna write for so and so” but when it all started I knew i could do it. There are times though when you’re working on a track and you think “Damn I wish I could keep this one for myself”, there’s a thin line between working on another artists music and working on your own, but it’s good to not be one dimensional.
How does the writing process work exactly? Are you in the studio with the artists, or are you usually writing a song, submitting it to someone at the label, and having them give it to the artist?
In the beginning you don’t really work with the artist. Sometimes you can, but it’s 2017, so everything is usually sent via email. I prefer to be in the studio though, because it’s all about vibes. My biggest thing is that I like to jump into the shoes of the artist, you know give me something that brings the best out of you. Sometimes being by myself I can’t always do that so then I just try to make the best record, and speak in a broad enough way that most people can feel it.
A song like “Fly” has a distinct vocal progression from Rihanna on the chorus. Are you setting that up in anyway or instructing the artist how to hit the notes a certain way or is that all from their own interpretation of what you’ve written?
Yeah that’s all us. We give them the instructions, it’s all from the demo where we actually perform the song. If they like the demo and the chord progressions they’ll keep it, if not they’ll monetize it and do whatever they need to do. A lot of the time we just give them the kinda vibe that we think fits best, and then from there it goes into what they want. A lot of times you don’t know what’s gonna come out of the record and it turns into what it turns into. We didn’t know that [“Fly”] was gonna be for Nicki Minaj and Rihanna. We just submitted it and then found out, and it was like “Guess who we got on this song, its Rihanna and Nicki Minaj!!”
How does the the payment work when you’re writing? Is it all based off of royalties?
It’s just royalty based. You get paid quarterly, and the label helps you keep track of how it’s used. When we did Fly we were signed under Rondor, which is under the Universal umbrella. They helped us register the music and cover the copyrighting.
Do you have a preference when it comes to what genre you’re writing? Do you prefer Hip Hop over others?
Yeah for sure, organically Hip Hop comes for sure off top. But it’s fun some times jumping into a different sound or a different element, my music and my writing has no ceiling. It’s commercial music but it’s not like I’m Flo Rida. I’m really into lyricism, Hip Hop, and the culture of Hip Hop. I really like that stuff that comes natural, similar to what I’m doing with StreetRunner on my project. He’s so talented as a producer so all I do is feed off his energy and it makes it that much more motivating to write for it.
Lets talk about your upcoming project “So Far So Good”. You’ve dropped other projects before, is this your first official album?
Yeah,you know I wanted to wait to release an album until I was mentally ready. I didn’t just want to put an album out and make it feel like a mixtape, I wanted to have something to say, I want to tell my story. I also wanted to do it when the production was right, when everything was right. When I met StreetRunner, he was looking for an artist to work with, and I always wanted to work with one producer instead of having all these different producers at the same time. This is everything I’ve always wanted to build with a producer, and someone with his credits is more than you could never even ask for as far as someone commiting to you for a whole project. This project is the evolution of me as an artist. I just had a son, my life is changing, I’ve had some success. It’s a whirlwind of emotion and a lot of shit has been happening to me so this is a time where people don’t hear too much from me, but they’ll hear it through my music. “So Far So Good” is showing growth and showing my story from how it started to now, with all dope production and quality hooks. I’ve been working at music so long that I’ve been fine tuning my craft, and now I’m the artist I’ve always wanted to be. None of this was over night, this is my ups and downs. We’re trying to build the future, and “So Far So Good” is gonna be dope.
Any features you can hint at?
I gotta keep some of them under wraps, but ever since I was young Lupe Fiasco has been one of my favorite lyricists, so to be able to work on his project and have him on my album is dope. I got other names that I want to keep under wraps, but I got a lot of dope people.
Washington is not a place that has a super strong music scene outside of the whole 90’s grunge movement. What was it like coming up in that whole Washington/Tacoma area.
It’s hard bro, it was hard. Even before doing songwriting I was always traveling and thinking why does Atlanta have 15 artists blowing up right now? Why do New York and LA have so many popping artists? We don’t have anyone here who made it, and instead of trying to boost one person up, everyone in my city is trying to make it. But we’re starting to build a scene, Macklemore started it, and we have a lot of talented people coming up. There’s other artists who have been grinding but they just don’t get the exposure because where so far off the map, were late to everything. Were late to get music, were late on fashion, were just kinda late. We don’t even have a big radio station out here any more. Because of that the stuff that my team is doing is pretty big. Me and my brother started Dope Music Festival, which is a festival at the Tacoma Arena and we’ve had some big name artists. The first year we had 9,000-10,000 people, we brought Chris Brown, Tyga, Schoolboy Q, I performed. We’re doing these things because we never had the opportunity before to do them. We had to build a platform for ourselves to show case our own stuff. Last year was our third one, we had Gucci Mane, Russ, Meek Mill. Between that and writing all this music it’s so massive, but it’s still not even heard. At the end of the day, we’re touching so many people but in a small area. I know that our movement is gonna break through to the world but right now were just trying to bring more awareness to the city and keep doing our thing.
Make sure to follow Clemm Rishad below and keep an eye out for his debut Album “So Far So Good”, and buy a ticket for the next Dope Music Festival.
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