Clairmont The Second's
Do You Drive Feels Like a Mid-2000's Mixtape Masterpiece
Evan Dale // Feb 19, 2019
Clairmont The Second’s follow-up project to his 2017 Lil Mont from The Ave feels aesthetically like a meticulously crafted masterpiece from the late-2000’s mixtape era. The thing about a hip-hop album that we’ve come to forget is the idea that it should come to sound something like a detailed and perfected mixtape. But, somewhere along the way to the experimental moment of hip-hop transcendence that we’re lucky enough to be currently experiencing, we lost the texture and the dynamism of the classic mixtape. The mixtape – unlike the LP, the EP, or the modern-day playlist that rappers are so fond of putting together – was a congruent, individualistic space to experiment and coalesce under a rapper’s terms. There was no pressure to perform in the same manner of an album – full-length or otherwise; there was drive to grant it harmony and ubiquity in its auditory aesthetic; and there was always, always a story to be told. More often than not, mixtapes were quickly assembled and error-prone, but that was part of their charm. And every now and then, a mixtape would come to life as something altogether grander, more influential, and more hip-hop than its album counterparts.
These were the masterpieces. TI’s Down With The King, Young Jeezy’s Trap or Die, Drake’s So Far Gone, and everything released by Lil Wayne between the Da Drought 1 and the Dedication 4. In equal breath, these artists were releasing albums, but their mixtape series brought something thematically and musically different to their catalogues – many of which proved more important than their proper albums – garnering something more legitimate and less marketable without necessarily sacrificing quality or true fandom.
And for the first time in a long time, an album has hit the hip-hop mainstream that feels truly reminiscent of those mixtape masterpieces. Clairmont The Second is a Toronto rapper who has never really sounded like anyone else. A workhorse who has traditionally composed every aspect of his music by himself, he has long been on the road of fully unearthing his own unique take on hip-hop. Lil Mont from The Ave was a vibrant and downtempo dark take on the world of grungy hip-hop that has long called home to Toronto. But his new album, Do You Drive, is eerily reminiscent of absolutely nothing that we can think of.
In discussion with The Fader, Clairmont went in depth about his growth from two years ago and how the mistakes he felt he made with Lil Mont from The Ave got him to where he is today.
"I'm a better writer now, I'm a better producer now, I'm better at directing and editing videos, my art direction is better, and I ultimately don't let what's happening around me influence my work," he explains. "For Lil Mont from The Ave I was trying to somewhat fit a mold but simultaneously staying true to myself, my production elements, and what I talk about. With the newer album, I just made what came naturally to me."
I just made what came naturally to me.
Let that bell toll for a while longer because in that sentence lies exactly what it is that differentiates mixtape masterpieces from even the most transcendent and perfected works of experimental hip-hop today. Somewhere in any modern album’s conception comes outside influence. Whether it be the drive to deliver perfect production, overly orchestrated storylines and songwriting techniques, or even an artist going out of their own way to appear effortless, modern hip-hop has gotten so grand, worldly, and absurdly technical that even the most effortless of artists rarely make what is effortless – what is natural to them.
Do You Drive is a pinnacle work from an artist that has always striven not to be different – but to be natural. And that’s the key. Defined by clean and simple keystrokes, Do You Drive’s production is a compositional rapper’s 25-minute symphony where West Coast synths and low-fidelity piano build a rock-solid foundation for Clairmont The Second to delivery meditative, dedicated, and fervent lyricism verse after verse. In result, Do You Drive is a fluid, enticing album that is best listened to all the way through. And then listened to again and again and again.
Clairmont’s laid-back demeanor is addicting and gives even the darkest and most intense of tracks on the album – Po’ and Grain – a relatable and subconsciously relaxing identity. In fact, the album in its entirety feels like one long, run-on track that – much like classical symphonies and classic mixtapes – is a natural delivery by an artist at their rawest, and simultaneously happens to be just what’s missing from an otherwise insanely saturated and perfected moment in hip-hop history.