[Album]: Why Can’t You Be Normal
[Artist]: Matthew Clive
Overall Grade/Rating: 7.2/10
Subject Matter: 7/10
Replay Value: 9/10
Fav Songs: Babylon, Black Excellence, Peter Parker, The Thought, Sweat and Tears
Least Fav Songs: Altitude
Spin or Skip: Spin
Critique: 29 tracks is a bit of an overkill for any hiphop endeavor unless it’s 1990 something and you’re putting together a double album. On the other hand, 29 tracks isn’t overkill when you’re trying to make a statement. Matthew Clive (@clivematthew) gives us a hiphop purist’s survival guide on what to pack during the hip-pocalypse.
Every track on Clive’s debut mixtape is a trip down memory lane. This is also unfortunate because if you’re a listener looking to hear brand new fresh beats from an up and coming beat maker, keep looking. Why Can’t You Be Normal is a mic check, a warm up of sorts. WCYBN allows listeners to become familiar with Clive’s taste in music, and what to expect later on down the road, maybe.
For a beginner, Clive knows how to whip up a good hook. Right out the gate “Babylon” provides one of the most hard hitting hooks out of all the tracks. “Babylon will fall, Babylon will fall, Babylon will fall…” The simplistic arrangement of words packed with so much meaning is what makes it stick. The same formula works on “Black Excellence” with the way the simple phrase “black excellence” catches the beat.
“Wings” is no different except Clive explores his harmonizing abilities. Though amateuristic and a bit flat, he still manages to produce a pleasant and catchy hook. Of all the hooks, “Peter Parker” brings along the most intricate of them all. “That’s how I keep my soul chakra, marriage and my girl, I’m the young Peter Parker,” quite a witty and deep hook.
As the opening track suggests, Clive is heavy into Rastafarianism and black consciousness. His woke truisms appear through out the mixtape with lines like “can I be happy because I’m a negro, livin’ in the United States with white heroes, in North America ain’t no replica of my likeness on statues…,” from “Colours.” And Clive asks the question “is obama’s nation becoming an abomination?” during “Rice Pudding.” It’s of course pleasant to have a head filled with meaningful thoughts after putting on a record. The nature of music is to heal, but no new news here.
It feels like at times Clive reaches to create a conscious situation with collaged interludes that don’t seem to fit. The first interlude is actually the opening track with a snippet from Do the Right Thing with Da Mayor and Mother Sister. Trying to figure out how that ties into “Babylon,” which is the next track, is a mystery.
“Interlude one” is placed better right before “Black Excellence.” Clive includes an excerpt from Nikki Giovanni’s tribute to 2-Pac. “Interlude Two” is smashed in between a track that’s a true display of Clive’s rhyming abilities,”The Reason.” Everything is present on this one, delivery, word play, and then there’s “Honestly” after the second interlude that doesn’t tie into the former content wise. If “Interlude Two” was supposed to serve as some sort cohesive element between the two tracks, it doesn’t fulfill it’s duty.
The James Baldwin snippet that makes up “Interlude Two” seems as though it would have been better placed as the “Intro.” Clive’s eagerness to incorporate elements of black consciousness on this project seem a bit lost in translation when it comes to placement of the majority of interludes. However, “Erykah’s Interlude” is neatly placed right before “Sweat and Tears.” This particular interlude is all of Erykah Badu’s poem from Def Poetry Jam that’s about Erykah’s tale from rags to riches. “Sweat and Tears” follows suit, but with emphasis on the “rags” part.
Some of the most inspiring elements of the mixtape shine through when Clive shares his concern for the human condition. “Weeds” is one of those songs that draws listeners in from all walks of life when Clive unfolds tales of the personal trials that people endure. The same approach is apparent on “Whattaday” with eye opening bars such as “lost my wife lost my kids, lost my house, not my job so I’m still workin’ though, but what for? Only weekend visits, so limitin’ my dividends go to her…” “Remember” and “Wannaplay” cut even deeper into human emotions when Clive shares his fear of getting old and reminiscing about playing video games as kid with family and friends. These tracks are some of the major highlights, because they display Clive’s ability to move his audience and his talents outside of being a conscious rapper.
One of the tracks that’s just fun to go through because it give listeners a chance to experience Clive’s rhyming abilities is “Knowitall.” After this small break from the intensity, Clive always dives back into the deep. “The Thought” is the deepest and most detailed track. On this one he opens up about his disposition in a city focused on mega stars. “I was never really down with the Toronto scene, call it the Six, that is a trick, too smart to play into your marketing schemes,” and then goes into personal comments regarding his father. There’s a contradicting quality on this track and others that discuss life in the “Six.” On “Bullseye” Clive makes comments similar to the ones made on “The Thought” “we need competition for a better market, I know what I’m sayin’ makes me a bigger target…,” and on “Sweat and Tears” “rappers don’t finish lines they just have ghost writers…to have your s— sound tighter, but this ain’t ’97 so you ain’t really a biter, your skills don’t matter you just want to appear flier.”
Then there’s “Feelinit” where Clive once again shares his disdain for artists in an era where originality and writing is taken for granted “music for the writers, bitin’ off the biters.”It’s obvious who Clive is fighting to separate himself from as a Toronto based rapper, or is it? Listening to “In My Pocket,” “Honestly,” and “Much Love” it seems that Clive is more than inspired by the OVO head honcho, especially during his mixtape days. This mixed message could be coincidence or perceived as something more. Nonetheless, it makes Clive’s premise partially non sequitur.
Why? Considering Clive claims to be the black sheep of his city, as the title of the project infers, it would seem he would have been more cognizant with regards to the instrumentals he chose. It all ends with “Soul Shades” with Clive doing what he does best. On this last track, the young rapper motivates and inspires his audience, which he seems to be really good at. He spits “if I had one advice it would be don’t quit, so cliché but how many stay the course?” Simple but said in such a way it lingers in the mind way after the song ends.
As mentioned before, Clive is just getting warmed up. It seems he put this project out into the universe to see what works and what doesn’t work. It’s rare to come across an artist who’s not afraid to be vulnerable, and test the waters in front of the whole world.