Clemmie Williams doesn’t need your sympathy. What he asks from his audience has nothing to do with money or fame. All Williams wants is a willingness to listen to his tales of hardship and perseverance, and maybe a little help in bringing about change for those still enduring their own personal struggles.
Williams grew up in a frequently homeless, abusive family — and his life since then has been far from easy even on hip-hop standards — but the beauty of Williams’ tale is the success his struggles brought for him. Not many up and coming artists can say they’ve walked into a party and heard their recently released record playing, but he can. It was at that 2011 party where Williams was invited to be a part of Santa Ana’s Konsept Art Collective and their new label Konsept Records, and it’s been largely uphill for the rapper since then. From his first live performance in a Garden Grove garage and subsequent touring, Williams has always found a way to make his rap career work.
“Just a year ago I was on a bus bench up in North Hollywood,” Williams says. “ I’ve been to the depths of Skid Row. All the stuff you hear in my songs I’ve lived that crazy life. Now, I’ve lived in a van for the last year and it’s been great. I go to the beach. I leave the doors open and write. It’s so much better than the bus. I’m thankful for it and for everything I have.”
But the transient artist doesn’t use his background as an excuse for any shortcomings he may have. Williams does odd jobs every so often just to pay for his records, which he then performs at shows and open mics all over Southern California. His new album, Washifornia (a combination of the two states he’s called home over the years), is a sober toast to his past and a nod toward the positive future that he’s actively creating for himself and wishing upon others.
“My purpose in music has always been to affect change, starting with myself,” Williams says. “I want to spark people’s minds and make a difference. Washifornia is all about leaving the past behind — saying everything and getting everything out. It was all a slow growth. I haven’t had a drink in over a year, and I’ve rapped the cleanest I’ve ever rapped as far as composition and songwriting. Everything is just a step up toward the professional stage of my rap career.”
As a teenager, Williams treated his artform as a kind of personal therapy. He sought to release the anger and aggression he felt after running away from home as an adolescent, and it kept his mind occupied from his former hobby of violence. At first listen, Williams’ work sounds as though it reverberates the soul of ‘90s hip-hop greats like the Notorious B.I.G., but the West Coast rapper says that’s purely coincidental.
“When I ran away, I was introduced to a lot of different music I had never heard before,” Williams says. “A lot of people say I sound like Tupac and Biggie and artists like that, but those guys really weren’t my big influences. I would say it was a lot of rock and songwriters like Steven Jenkins from Third Eye Blind.”
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Outside of ‘90s rock, the rapper formerly known as C-tre Flowz also found inspiration outside of the hip-hop genre through movie scores and soundtracks like that of Apollo 13. Hearing composers and songwriters tell stories through various genres has always inspired Williams to work as hard as he can at his craft, but the lyricist desires to step it up a notch with his new album and the new year. Following the success of his 2015 tour and the upcoming release of Washifornia, Williams hopes to spread his message of love and hope farther than ever before. After all, he won’t have to commute to shows on foot or public transit now that he has a van.”
“My goals are to get the message out, push the album to the limit, and put the money I get toward promoting the event or getting my van in better shape,” Williams says. “I want to be able to get on a platform, be able to go on bigger tours, stand in front of thousands of people, and say what I’m saying.”