Clams Casino produced every rap song you’re obsessed with

From sampling Adele for Lil B’s “Realist Alive” to the beginnings of his epic partnership with A$AP Rocky, Clams Casino shares the stories behind his favourite productions.

by Frankie Dunn
03 December 2019, 5:07pm

Over the course of the past decade, New Jersey’s Clams Casino has redefined what hip-hop should sound like. You see, before Soundcloud rap, there was cloud rap: a simpler genre from a simpler time, before Xanax was rife and when sample-heavy ethereal music was all anybody needed. After self-releasing the first in a series of now cult instrumental mixtapes back in 2011, Clams Casino was integral in taking the genre to the mainstream. Developing his signature minimalistic yet psychedelic production and blessing only the most deserving acts with it, the rest of the 2010s has brought collaborations with the likes of Lil B (they met on Myspace), Mac Miller, Kelela, The Weeknd, FKA Twigs, Joji, Lil Peep, Flohio and -- perhaps most iconically -- A$AP Rocky.

Having just released his first album in three years -- Moon Trip Radio, a sonic return to his Instrumentals era after a period of vocal-led projects -- we thought it only right to ask Clammy Clams to get reflective and break down the stories behind his favourite productions, and in doing so, reveal the magic formula that goes into his work. Here goes...

Vince Staples -- Norf Norf
“This one was a rare case for me because it only took about 15 minutes or so to make. The main sound is a hardware synth through some guitar pedals that I recorded at my favourite studio in LA -- The Ship -- when I was working on my own project. I wasn't really making too many beats out there though, I was mostly just recording sounds and samples to flip when I got back home to my own studio. When I got back to my apartment in New Jersey some time after that, I pulled up this long recording of the samples I made in LA and listened through. That little part immediately stuck out to me and I started from there. The drum programming is kind of funny because I was really just throwing in random samples without thinking about the sounds or where they would go, so that part is super sporadic... I was just having fun with it. It came together really quickly and naturally, without much thought at all, which is how I knew it was a special one. It felt like it kind of just happened on its own. I played it for Vince at the studio after we finished recording "All Nite" for my album, and after only about a minute of listening he was like, ‘Ok, I've got a hook for this.’”

Clams Casino -- In A Mirror
“This is a track off of my new album that had an interesting start because it was originally made for a ballet. My cousin Stephen Petronio is a choreographer and asked me if I wanted to score one of his dances at the Joyce Theatre in NYC. It had to be a single piece of music about 25-30 minutes long. I was nervous because it was the first time I had done anything like that, but I was excited for the challenge and to see where it would take me. We worked on that back and forth for a few months -- I would send a bunch of musical ideas and he would listen and try things out with the dancers, then give me feedback on what was working and what wasn't. I used to go to the rehearsals from time to time to see how it was all coming along. This track was taken from somewhere in the middle of that ballet piece (named “Locomotor”) that I made in 2014. The piano was recorded at my mom's house -- you can hear her pet birds in the background. The space and tension and feeling of this track seemed to fit perfectly with all of the other newer music I was doing for my latest project so I brought it back out for Moon Trip Radio.”

A$AP Rocky -- LVL
“This beat was made in summer 2011. It was the first time I ever went to L.A. As soon as I touched down I saw a message saying that someone from Drake's camp was reaching out for beats, but not long before that trip my computer crashed and it wiped out all the sessions and sounds I had worked on and saved up for about the last four years. I didn't have much to work with and wasn't fully up and running yet. I started looking through old beats I had made and started trying to sample parts of them. This beat actually just sampled a piece of another beat I had made a year or so before. I sent it out to Drake and he held it for a while but then never ended up using it, so I played it for Rocky when we were working on his first album. Most of my favourite beats that I make are very minimal and have no more than 5 sounds in them, like this one -- kick, snare, clap, sample, bass.”

Lil B -- Realist Alive
“The sample on this is “Hometown Glory” by Adele. This was an important one because it was kind of a transitioning point where I can hear that I was pushing myself, trying to switch up and add new sequences back to back and really get more in depth in the arrangement. I was trying to break out of the more normal and basic hip-hop beat loop zone that I was feeling stuck in.”

Clams Casino -- Cupidwing
“This came out of a typical process for me, which is pulling elements from three or four unfinished beats together into one. The oldest part is the little vocal chops that I took from a beat from seven years earlier. All the synths are taken from a long freestyle recording I did on a Prophet synth. I tried to get people on it for a while until I realised that maybe it’s just supposed to be left instrumental.”

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