DJ Clark Kent Tells All: The Stories Behind His Classic Records (Part 1)

Hi-Five f/ Jay-Z "She's Playing Hard (Clark Kent SuperMix)" (1992)

Album: She’s Playing Hard To Get (The Remixes)

Label: Jive

DJ Clark Kent: “I got asked to remix the song, and my remix was pretty good. But at that precise moment, I wanted everyone to know Jay-Z, so I wanted to put him on every record. And I wanted to put Ski on the record because they knew who Ski was [from Original Flavor].

"So I thought if I put Ski on the record, and Jay, they’d have no choice and they’d have to take it. So there’s a version with Ski and Jay on the record, then there’s a version with just Ski, and just Jay. And they ended up putting them all on the promo single.

 

Jaz-O comes over, and he has Jay-Z with him. And Jay-Z is dumb young. He might have been 15, maybe 16. They started rhyming together and he was insane. And I just kept saying, ‘This is the best rapper I’ve ever heard.’ And they’re looking at me like I’m crazy.

 

“The good part is that the Jay one was the one that everybody took to. The remix was good, and Jay was going crazy on the record. It was simple to do because I liked the [original version]. When you like a record, it makes it easy to do a remix.

“What companies were looking for when they would come to someone like me for a remix was for me to ‘make it so you would play it.’ Make it for DJs. And the way that I laid the record out was perfect for DJs. That was my thing. I wanted to make it so that the DJs wanted to play it, and that it sounded perfect for DJs to play. The way the drops happened, the speed, everything.

“Jaz-O was a rapper around Brooklyn, and his producer was Fresh Gordon, and me and Fresh Gordon were tight. Fresh Gordon was this rapper who actually knew how to make music. We would be in his crib, and Jaz-O would come over and he would make Jaz-O’s records.

“One time I’m at Fresh Gordon’s house, and Jaz-O comes over, and he has Jay-Z with him. And Jay-Z is dumb young. He might have been 15, maybe 16. They started rhyming together and he was insane. And I just kept saying, ‘This is the best rapper I’ve ever heard.’ And they’re looking at me like I’m crazy.

“Then one day I’m in Marcy with Jaz, and Jay is there, and he raps again, and I’m like, ‘No, he’s really the best.’ But [that thought] never left me. They went on to do ‘Hawaiian Sophie’ and do shows and all of that, and every so often Jaz would ask me to DJ for him for his shows. And every time we did shows in New York, Jay was always in the show. And I would go, ‘This guy is really, really the best.’

 

Big Daddy Kane changed his style after he met Jay-Z. He started to rhyme differently after he met Jay-Z. 

 

“Then Big Daddy Kane hears him and falls in love with him, and everybody thinks he’s incredible. But nobody is doing what they need to be doing for him as an artist. They’re just sucking the talent out for the moment that they’re in. They were just using him for the talent that he was.

“What was happening at that time in rap was that it wasn’t empowering rappers to empower other rappers, it just was helping them empower themselves. They didn’t have the enterprising wherewithall to say, ‘I’m going to make this guy the next guy.’

"Plus, in the world we live in, who wants to sign somebody who’s better than them? Honestly, if you’re a rapper, how are you going to sign someone who’s going to be a better rapper than you?

“As soon as I got a job in the music business, the first person I wanted to sign was Jay-Z because I just thought he was the best. He was saying everything. He was doing quick flows, regular flows. He just had so much flow, and so many rhymes that were so far above what the average rapper was saying. He was so young, but so perfectly timed with the way he said his rhymes, and he was crystal clear.

 

B.I.G.’s first album was great, but his second album was unbelievable. Why? He was friends with Jay-Z and Jay-Z is forcing him to say better rhymes.

 

“His rhymes were just better than everybody else’s. Like, head and shoulders above. When he rhymed with Kane, who I totally respect, Kane changed his style after he met Jay-Z. He started to rhyme differently after he met Jay-Z. That doesn’t happen unless you’re going, ‘Oh shit, this guy’s incredible.’

“Everyone who’s been around him gets better because it’s like you’re forced to stay around him. B.I.G.’s first album was great, but his second album was unbelievable. Why? He was friends with Jay-Z and Jay-Z is forcing him to say better rhymes. It’s not even a spoken word, it’s just something that just happens.

“I believed that the best MCs should have deals. Not rappers. The best MCs should have the ability to become rappers. And he was, and still is, and probably will still be if he chooses to rap, the best MC ever.

"So I wanted to sign that guy. Plus he was my man, and we were cool, and he was from Brooklyn. You can’t be in the A&R business and not want to be the guy who signs that talent.

 

Jay-Z had too much paper to care, and he thought that rappers were clowns. They were trying to be him. When you hear rappers talk about the things they did in the street, he would go, ‘Well, no, that’s not exactly how it would happen because I’m doing it.’

 

“The one thing that made me want to sign him even more was that he didn’t give a damn about it. I was like, ‘I just have to do this just because he doesn’t care.’ He had too much paper to care, and he thought that rappers were clowns.

"They were trying to be him. When you hear rappers talk about the things they did in the street, he would go, ‘Well, no, that’s not exactly how it would happen because I’m doing it.’

“I begged him to come to New York and make demos. And [the Hi-Five remix] was the first record I had the ability to put him on. I had the ability to put him on a Troop remix before that, but he was in Virginia. With Jay, he was the one I wanted to put on everything.

"If you do the math, I probably put him on ten records. And, I had him writing artist’s records that I was producing. We didn’t even call it ghostwriting. It was more like, ‘Write the god damn records because they’re wack.’ He was the best to me, so you go get the best if you want it to sound right.”

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