Clavish: the quiet London rapper who lets his aloof music do the talking | Music

From London, England
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Up next Debut mixtape, Rap Game Awful, released 13 January; touring the UK and Ireland in March

Clavish’s arrival on the scene in 2018 was every bit as nonchalant as the north London rapper’s laid-back delivery: leaning out the window of a hatchback dropping slick bars over a Migos beat, flicking off lyrics like discarded responsibilities. The clip only lasted 40 seconds but it lit up the internet. The track that followed the buzz, called All These Funds, flipped the lens from portrait to landscape as he debuted a bleak, distinctly British counterpoint to Migos’s glitzier take on trap. People wanted more. But then Clavish clammed up.

He doesn’t talk much. We know this because he says so on Ain’t Gonna Lie, the biting, mournful closer from last year’s 2022 EP. His social media pages don’t include bios; he doesn’t do interviews (see June’s gliding track No Interview); and his “about” section on Spotify, where he attracts 1.5 million listeners each month, simply reads “Instagram: clavish”. So, if you want to hear what Clavish has to say, you – as old-fashioned as it sounds – need to listen to his music. He trades in glassy, aloof rap tracks, all feverishly received, that have come in a trickle over the past two years. “Put on a beat and I’ll say a lot,” he continues on Ain’t Gonna Lie.

Clavish: Ain’t Gonna Lie – video

Clavish’s lyrics can be fraught with misdirection. His writing is raw and direct, yet drenched in double meanings that convert crack rocks to iced-out watches. Sexual intimacy rubs up against intimate violence. “Dripping” can refer to dressing fashionably, or being stabbed. The stories he tells reveal the sometimes narrow tracts between rap and the trap, and the binding aspirations of those who find themselves grinding in either. Clavish has become a master at twisting these threads until there’s tension enough to teeter across: a walking, inscrutable, intriguing contradiction.

As his star has risen – he’s picked up Mobo and GRM Daily awards nominations, bagged a Top 10 hit with D-Block Europe, and sold out a string of 2023 tour dates in recent months – he has found it harder to fend off the attention. While shooting a music video in Santorini this summer, he was captured on camera being approached by an eager American tourist requesting an autograph and inspiration for a love letter. Clavish smiled and signed. But, naturally, he didn’t say too much.

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