By Rebecca Bulnes
By Laurie Charles
By Chuck Strouse
By Lee Zimmerman
By Laurie Charles
By Falyn Freyman
By Hans Morgenstern
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."