Reginald: Man Behind the Mask
by Gina Lee
Twenty-four-year-old Reginald Clark has been waiting for our attention since 2010, when he dropped his first mixtape, The Canon: Waiting for Your Attention. Since then, the South Philadelphia native has been unenthusiastically grinding at his nine-to-five, a deed that most of his followers can relate to. Reginald further explains his distaste for the nine-to-five on “Brain Dead Slave” featuring GodlyMC, a song from his new project, Man Behind the Mask, which dropped in October 2013.
Reginald, a straightforward realist, knows exactly where he stands in the hip-hop music industry. He seemingly has no place at all, as he would later explain. But that doesn’t stop him from creating thought-provoking music that challenges the viewpoints of today’s traditional hip-hop. Reginald shares with us introspection in the form of an emotional eight-track album with songs touching on a somewhat dismal reality, which he calls his own. Reginald admits that his introversion is one of the things hindering him from making it mainstream, but makes it perfectly clear on tracks like “Hope in the Sky” and “Be Free” that he can’t hide who he is. Unfortunately, who he is, is something the city of Philadelphia has yet to discover.
Main Course: People tend to think your name is Reginald Canon, but it’s not. So, what’s The Canon?
Reginald: People always get it so confused. Reginald Canon is not my rap name. The Canon is a whole separate thing. Like, you know I’m Reginald; The Canon is a separate entity in itself. The Canon is the full body of work, the story that I’m trying to portray all along through a series of projects. My first one was Waiting for Your Attention. That was the first part of The Canon. And my second one, Man Behind the Mask, that’s like, not so much a continuation of it [Waiting for Your Attention] . . . but this is who I am when you actually get an introspective view. My next one is going to be a little bit further, a little bit more advanced sonically, and a little bit more honest. Like my friends, they’ll call me “the Canon” and I’m like no, I’m not The Canon.
Tell me about how Man Behind the Mask came together.
This album was rushed because the whole marketing and promo board just kind of blew up. I lost my publicist and I never really had a manager, and my producer was getting tired of waiting for the records to come together, so I’m like, alright, one last session and I’m going to put it out and that’s going to be that. I finished what I needed to get finished just to make sure everything was under wraps. I have songs that were supposed to be on there that I couldn’t get on there, because I couldn’t get them finished. I felt like what I had to do from that point was piece the story together with missing pieces.
How many songs haven’t been released that you would have wanted to be released?
There are probably three that are just sitting there. Three that really, really need to get heard. I have this one song, it doesn’t even have a title. It’s like, one of my greatest works ever.
On Twitter you wrote, “Nobody likes Reginald’s music. Shame on them.” Do you really believe that?
No. I don’t. That was in response to something. I believe people like my music. I don’t believe that enough people like it. People will come up to me and tell me all the time they really love this song, and it’s always a different song. They’ll come up to me and tell me these things. That makes me feel really good. I know people like it.
What are you lacking as an artist?
It’s that chameleon type thing. I don’t want to blend in. I don’t want to be fake. I kind of want to be as straightforward as possible. To make it in the music industry, you have to be fake to a certain extent, and that’s just a hard pill for me to swallow. I’ve missed out on a lot of opportunities just because of that.
On “Hope in the Sky,” you refer to a bittersweet life. What’s the bitter and what’s the sweet?
I’m not that social butterfly guy. I’m more of an introvert. I’m not going to give you anything more than what you ask for. People don’t like that. People like overexposure. I can’t be out there because it’s just not me. The sweet, essentially would be breaking through all of that. Me actually being comfortable enough with myself to be whoever I am, around those people that want to criticize me and judge me.
As an outlet, does the city of Philadelphia give you what you need as an artist?
No, because there are a lot of politics involved. People have their own little circles. By me not wanting to be a part of that circle, it makes it that much harder for me.
Do you think you would do better as an artist in a New York City setting, or maybe Atlanta?
Not necessarily because you take yourself wherever you go. People like to put other people in boxes, I think that’s another layer to it too. What box are you really going to put me in after you listen to my album? Where do I fit in at?
Do you think you belong in this era of music?
Hell no. No, I don’t because this era is not really geared toward a person who wants to be totally honest and blunt like I am. If I had to pick an era, I think I would pick the ‘90s. I think I would totally dominate the ‘90s.
What artists from Philadelphia are you listening to at the moment?
There’s literally one that I’ve been anticipating to come back out. Asaad. He’s a really great artist.
In 2012, Complex Magazine put out a “10 New Philadelphia Rappers To Watch Out For” list. Asaad wasn’t on that list and a lot of people were mad about it.
Yes, because he inspired a lot of what a lot artists have done. To listen to his music, when you really dig into his music and understand what he’s talking about, he’s a good artist. That’s the one Philly artist that I pay attention to.
Who are your hip-hop influences?
Biggie because my dad used to listen to Bad Boy tapes everyday. I would listen to a lot of The Lox. The Lox were crazy. Nas, too in a way, but Nas came much later. And Outkast, definitely.
Outside of hip-hop, what are you listening to?
I think I suggested J*DaVeY the other day to you. That’s kind of more the wave that I’m on musically, listening to really alternative stuff.
Is Reginald looking to promote himself more this year?
I’m about to get back in the studio. I definitely plan on doing some more in 2014. My issue with music, I realized . . . is I always tried to capitalize off of my art so much that I wasn’t capitalizing on the art of capitalism. I didn’t learn the art of capitalism. I just tried to capitalize off of my art and it made me realize I have to come into this game with a totally different perspective. I’d rather take a chance on this [music], something that will make me happy, then to work at a post office for the rest of my life.
To learn more or to download Reginald’s latest project, Man Behind the Mask, visit www.thecanon.bandcamp.com.