“Hip-Hop is you”: Q & A with Jaci Caprice Clark

ClarkPhoto2smallJaci Caprice Clark is a producer, writer, vocalist, and beat maker who, in addition to writing and producing music for a wide variety of poets, vocalists and hip-hop lyricists, released her own full-length album entitled “Storms Come” (2007), as well as an EP entitled “LoveLikeWater” (2012), both of which she wrote and produced independently. She currently resides in Detroit.

We recently sat down with her to discuss arts, education and social change.


Do you see hip-hop and education as being related?

Arts and education, to me, are really married, one to another. My mother, who is an artist and educator, made sure that my brother and I were nurtured in a creative community of artists and educators who were both supportive and nurturing of our “gifts”. She enrolled us both in schools for the arts starting from elementary and into high school, and made sure that we stayed active in extra-curricular activities, both in and out of school, that allowed us the space to explore and utilize these gifts in “safe” environments, so that we would begin to build up confidence in what we were supposed to do as artists ourselves as we grew.

Art is a way in which we express ourselves in this world, and education is how we connect to others in the world around us and learn from one another. Hip-hop is an example of that. Which is so crazy, because growing up, I wasn’t like, “I’m so hip-hop.” It wasn’t until I was older that I realized, that in fact, “Hip-hop is you.” This is the way that you’ve discovered how to make sense of things around you. So I believe that hip-hop is a way that we tell our stories, and is also a way to think, and causes you to exercise your mind, body, and spirit. And it’s so sweet to see it going on a global level.

I feel really excited to be able to see how hip-hop has grown and is currently being used to break down barriers and connect with people all over the world, and to also play an active role in that happening today through such programs as Next Level.


How do you use hip-hop to help people connect with each other?

I guess one of the specific connections is just in the importance of being able to tell the story. And to tell it in a way that is understandable. One way that I am able to do it is through beat making. You know, anybody can understand rhythm. Whether it’s the downbeat or the upbeat; different cultures clap on different beats. But it’s all rhythm, you know. And in relationship with that, there are many different rhythms of life that people function in from day to day. But it’s still rhythm.

Your story – or your way of functioning – may not be the same as mine, but at the end of the day, we’re all functioning. And so there’s a rhythm to me that really stands out with music and telling the story and connecting. It’s like putting the kick with the snare. I may be the “boom” and you may be the “bap”, but when we come together, we create life. This is life. We’re talking about life and we’re communicating through life. That is the similarity as far as rhythm and telling the story and relating to one another. Both can be used to do just that: to connect people. So it’s all rhythm, it’s all about rhythms and placement and structure. You know, when you make a beat, there’s a structure to it. When you live, there’s also a purpose and a flow. So in other words, it’s all about the flow.


How does Next Level give you the opportunity to do those things?

When my good friend and sister in rhyme, Mahogany Jones, told me about the opportunity with Next Level and I looked into it, I was like “wow”. Look how things have grown. Look how big this movement is. I was like, “man, this is it!” It’s time to get out of what is comfortable to you as an artist. It’s time for you to step into your destiny and to step into your purpose while stepping into the why of your being nurtured and raised a certain way. It was for this moment right here. Next Level is that program that takes you there. It connects you with those of us who…music is who they are. Be it emceeing [rapping], be it beat making, be it graffiti, dancing, just having the knowledge. Next Level is a program that takes those particular people and connects them with other “creatives” in collaboration to do what it is that we’re supposed to do as artists. And that’s effecting change through music and through exchanging culture and for basically getting over yourself and getting out of yourself.

Next Level gives you the opportunity to do that. To say, “I have a story to tell and so do you.” Let’s communicate. Let’s talk. And hip-hop just happens to be a way in which we can both do that on a leveled plane. Next Level opens up your eyes to the possibility – and allows you the space – to just be you. It gets us out of ourselves and into our destiny as musicians and educators—all of us who have taken time to learn something and someone. To connect with a community that is making BIG moves in BIG ways through music all around the globe. That’s pretty dope.

I truly look forward to exchanging with other artists who are there just being free to be who they’re destined to be musically. And to use hip-hop, art, academia, and their own life’s experiences to just fly. Just soar. No limits. These things are important to me.


Do you feel that being a woman has influenced the way you experience hip-hop culture?

I am a “Hip Hop Humanist” at heart. And what this means is that I will NEVER agree with the mistreating of ANYONE within the culture of hip hop. I believe that everyone has a story and a voice that is valid, regardless of what anyone else thinks of that story. For me, someone who happens to be a woman, I continue to develop my story through living by example. Every time that I make a beat, write a rhyme, rock a stage, create a promotional graphic, or anything that I may do in preserving the culture of hip hop, I believe that I am chipping away at the strongholds of negative thinking against women and what they are capable of doing, bit by bit. And I have always been like that. I live my life as an artist who is a woman who wants to show other women (and people, in general) that they too have a “voice” within the world in which they can express themselves without having to be at the disadvantage of others in order to do it. That she can in fact use her gifts in ways that will sustain her and make her life fulfilling.

One of my goals while in Zimbabwe with Next Level is to connect with other women who are a part of the movement there. To confirm with them that we are a global culture with the same goals and objectives: “To move the crowd”. Whether you are a DJ, Beat Maker, Emcee, Graffiti Artist, B-Boy/B-Girl, or spread knowledge about the culture of hip hop, your stories are valid, and no one has a right to edit it by any way or fashion.

Your story is your story, and hip hop is a way for you to tell it to the world!