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Clever: “You learn by going through the fire”

Perceived perhaps as the most well-connected emerging artist ever, Clever actually isn’t the new kid on the block.

In this day and age, you can’t land collaborations with the biggest pop and hip hop stars in the world without having already made your bones. For Clever to have been handpicked by artists like Post Malone and the late Juice WRLD, he’d have to have one hell of a history behind him to back him up.

For Alabama native Joshua Tyler Huie, known professionally by the who’s who of popular music as Clever, scoring partnerships with these giants of the game has become commonplace, helped by the world-class quality of everything that he does (check: his recently-released LP Crazy). The first and only artist to sign to Post Malone’s Posty Co. label, Clever has the world at his feet as he moves into the new decade.

It hasn’t always been that way for the artist, who unlike the viral sensations of today, has seen success come after decades of grinding in relative obscurity.

From cutting his teeth as a battle rapper (appearing on the acclaimed 106 & Park show in New York), to hustling as a poet, radio DJ, navigating through treacherous recording contracts and even a stint in prison, when Clever sings about the struggle of starting from the very bottom, it comes from lived experience.

“That taught me from the outset that nothing comes easy, you can’t take anything for granted at all,” he tells us over a Zoom call.

“I’ve never stopped grinding, you know? From the rap battle days to doing radio, I’ve always been around the world of music, building those networks and making those connections. I’m still doing that, more than ever.”

Now in his mid-30s, balancing parenting duties with his burgeoning rap career, Clever is facing a meteoric rise alongside genuine responsibilities, making him an outlier from the typical breakout tween success story.

“It’s not just like you have a whole heap of songs taking up time because your contract needs you to.”

“Having a kid, being grounded, it means that you have to work harder,” he says.

“It means that you have to keep pushing, you can’t take any of this for granted. Especially when you get that success, because you never know when it might all go away.

“Looking back, obviously I had some struggles and had to overcome some challenges when I was younger, there were some things that I would have done differently if I had my time again. But overall, you learn by going through the fire, so I’m ultimately glad that I’ve had to really work to get where I am today.”

Now boasting a modest multimillion number of monthly Spotify streams, as well as collaborations in the can with the biggest names in music, it’s clear that Clever is making the most of his hard-earned acclaim.

“I always write. After each release I’ll keep working, I’ve been doing stuff all throughout COVID, keeping those creative juices moving. That’s how you keep getting better, you just have to exercise that muscle,” he reflects.

That muscle certainly gets a workout on Crazy, with conceptual Easter eggs littered everywhere, from the lyrics, to the art and even the tracklisting. Controversially, the first letter of each song leads us to the phrase: “JUICE WRLD IS ALIVE.”

The tribute to the late star is a moving touch, with Clever attributing part of his success to his travels and work alongside the young prodigy, hallmarked by his appearance on Juice WRLD megahit ‘Life’s A Mess’.

“I’ve always loved putting those Easter eggs in my work, it’s something that I’m always going to do…People seem to really love it, because it means that each song on the record means something. It’s not just like you have a whole heap of songs taking up time because your contract needs you to. Everything is about the art,” he explains.

With people flocking to his music by the hundreds of thousands, it seems that Clever has shed his old title of ‘music’s best kept secret’. Long story short: the cat is truly out of the bag.

“Just looking at these numbers, we’re getting heat all over the States, in places like Finland, Germany, Australia. It’s cool after all this time for stuff to be really coming together and for people to be experiencing it the way I always wanted them to,” he confirms.

“You should see some of the shit that I’ve got planned for upcoming releases. It’s only going to get crazier.”

Crazy, the new album from Clever, is out now.