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That authenticity is what makes people connect with Clark's music, says Amy Winehouse/Nas engineer Frank Socorro, who offered to mix Clark's new project after hearing Stripes. "Steven is a real dude, and that place that he's coming from is honesty," Socorro says. "He gives off that everyman energy. It makes you wanna buy him a drink and talk shit. But there's no denying his brilliance. The balance of the two is crazy."
Clark's complexity is also reflected in his eclectic personal style. Sporting a minitwist hairstyle, he looks like Buggin' Out, Giancarlo Esposito's rabble-rousing riot-starter in Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing. Or maybe a lost member of De La Soul circa '89. "Ever since I've got this haircut," the singer observes, "I've been getting a lot more women fans."
The day of our interview, he wears a brown T-shirt emblazoned with the images of an Indian chief and a wolf. "Every Christmas, my grandma used to lace me with three or four of these shirts, with bears and shit," he recalls of his mom's mother, a Native American artist from Arizona. "I hated it back then. Like, 'Grandma, I can't wear this shirt to school. This is not cool!' And it's still not really cool. But I don't care anymore."
Clark lives in a tiny room near the Design District with all the accouterments of a hungry, semi-employed artist focused on his craft. The remnants of a ramen-noodle 12-pack and DVDs stacked on the floor share space with the workstation where he builds all of his beats.
Offering a preview of Fornication on his desktop, he's particularly enthusiastic to play the project's closing song, "Don't Have You," an up-tempo track with a hypnotic, insistent beat that echoes Frank Ocean's "Swim Good."
"It's like a confessional," Clark says of the track, inspired by the end of a relationship. "I almost wish I didn't make it. Almost."
After playing "Don't Have You" for his ex-girlfriend, she cut off all communication with him. Still, Clark speaks proudly of the song, which he hopes will build hype for F.U.C.K. when he releases it as a single soon. "This is the song that's going to change everything for me, man."