Miami's Steven A. Clark Is a "Superhero" and He's Here to Help Save R&B

Categories: Local Music
StevenAClark.jpg
Last year, when Frank Ocean's Nostalgia, Ultra and The Weeknd's House of Balloons dropped within weeks of each other, critics and music fans celebrated the arrival of a fresh movement in R&B. Though the moods of those recordings differed considerably, they were both remarkably self-assured and sophisticated for artists so young (23 and 21, respectively), sharing an aesthetic that borrowed equally from indie rock and hip-hop-tinged R&B.

Nostalgia, Ultra and House of Balloons also benefited from bold-name co-signs: Ocean's affiliation with an insurgent Odd Future gave him an instant platform, while The Weeknd's Abel Tesfaye owes at least some of his overnight fame to support from fellow Torontonian, Drake.

With a famous friend or two, Miami's Steven A. Clark (picture above by Greg Gibbs, antisteez.com) might've easily been in that conversation as well.



For the considerably smaller audience that came across it, Clark's 2011 album Stripes provided an equally distinctive and immersive preview of R&B's future.



Self-produced with post-production support from Mr. Familiar (a three-man beatmaking team that, along with Clark and singer-songwriter Albert Vargas, make up local music collective, Freelve), the eight-song LP is colored by raw emotional directness and dark unorthodox arrangements.



Over the course of an interview at La Sandwicherie on South Beach, the singer cites Boyz II Men, A Tribe Called Quest, PM Dawn, Seal, N.E.R.D., Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams," Andre 3000's The Love Below, and Kanye's 808s and Heartbreak among his influences.



"It ain't just, 'I want to make love to you and make you my wife,' it's every aspect of life," Clark says, over a croissant sandwich, regarding his own creative impulses, as well as those of his fellow new-wave R&B soldiers. "It's the drugs. It's the drinking. It's the love. It's the hate. It's the pain. It's every emotion.



"And when you fuse that with supporting music that's not just typical 75-BPM R&B tracks, but with that same soul you'd get in a Marvin Gaye record, it just makes this new sound. This generation, we take in a lot. It's not a thing that's superclear. It's just obvious that we're influenced by everything."



While Clark hasn't enjoyed the instantaneous adulation that greeted Ocean and Tesfaye (Nostalgia, Ultra and House of Balloons both appeared near the top of many year-end best-of lists), the singer is slowly collecting accolades of his own. Local hip-hop website The305.com called Stripes Miami's best independent album of 2011. And coming off his biggest local show, opening for Theophilus London at Grand Central in late January, he'll perform for the first time outside of Miami or New York (where he opened for A$AP Rocky at last October's CMJ conference) during South by Southwest in Austin.



Meanwhile, Clark is already wrapping up work on his follow-up project. He plans to call it Fornication Under Consent of the King. "It's like me saying to a girl, 'I want to fuck you,' without saying, 'I want to fuck you,' he says of the playful title, which hopefully won't be confused with Van Halen's For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge.


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