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The curious case of Show You Suck

(Closed Sessions )
November 26, 2013|By Ernest Wilkins, @ErnestWilkins | RedEye Sound Board

When I say "rapper," what immediately comes to mind? A tired stereotype with gold teeth and a big car? Some sort of menacing thug caricature? Are you one of those misguided souls who calls R&B singers “rappers?”

Show You Suck (real name: Clinton Sandifer) aims to buck traditional notions of what it means to be a rapper in 2013. From his lyrical content--which contains heavy doses of hardcore rock, comic books, and cartoons--to his proudly straight-edge lifestyle to his affiliation with the Treated Crew--a seemingly never-ending association of rappers, artists, DJs and the guys from Good Charlotte--he's not the rapper even rap fans are used to encountering. “Dudebro,” ShowYouSuck’s new EP dropping Tuesday, solidifies this approach with glowing tributes to breasts from back in the day ("’80s Boobs") to guest appearances from the Hood Internet, Javelin, P.O.S. and the Unstoppable Death Machines. 

Chances are you aren't listening to this kind of rap. We should change that. RedEye sat down with the 28 year-old Bellwood native to discuss his uncommon style, Chicago’s rap scene,and the low bar set for hip-hop shows.

RedEye: When I met you (Full Disclosure: Clinton and I are social acquaintances,) I didn't know you rapped--you were just Clinton, the cool guy who worked at Code [of Conduct, the South Loop tattoo studio].

Show You Suck: Yeah, I've been rapping since the seventh grade and then started doing more freshman year of high school openly. I went to school for fashion marketing and management at SAIC and then helped Floyd Davis open up Artpentry and Code of Conduct. Through those avenues, I got opportunities to show what I was making to the world. It's always been about fun. 

RedEye: Everything I've heard about your music can be summed up in the word "unorthodox." Rappers are only supposed to do certain things. With you embracing things that aren't ever thought of in a rap context, I can definitely see that people have trouble knowing exactly what to do with you and your music. 

S: I've been in situations where I'd read a write-up and people would try not to call what I do rap. I think they mean it as a compliment, but I find it insulting. Call what I do rap because rap can be things other than the stuff you're used to. That's the flag I'm waving.

R: Is there a divide between the rock scene and the rap scene in Chicago? If so, why do you think it's there?

S: Not sure if that still exists. I think if there still is a divide, it's being held up by the older folks in the scene. Nowadays, I see the same kids at rap shows that I see at hardcore shows. That whole stigma of "white guys like rock, black guys like rap" may have been enforced by the people who grew up with that idea in their scenes. That mentality is being moved out by a new crop of kids, some of who are moving into Chicago from the suburbs. They were working in skate shops and going to shows, and now they're planning their own nights.  It's very rare to find kids who only listen to one genre of music now. [Listening to multiple genres] used to be weird; now it's the norm. 

R: Where do you fit into Chicago's rap community?

S: I think I represent the idea that you can make rap that sounds like traditional rap but can talk about different topics. You can have something going on and not be 19, 18 or that. That tends to get glorified more than it should. You don't have to be a young kid to be a hot rapper. 

R: That youthful energy is the foundation of what rap was founded on, right?

S: Not at all! What, do you get old and stop listening to it? That's ridiculous. It started with young people, but it didn't end there. Rap is for everyone, not just disenfranchised black dudes. I mean, you've got nerdcore, stuff for bros, for college kids. There's something for everyone. In my case, I dig it. If you listen to my music and don't know what to do with it, then I don't want to work with you anyway. You aren't forward-thinking enough as it is.

R: What about your live show? There's that old stereotype about rap shows almost always being terrible.

S: Generally the shows are really bad. I've gone through years of loving the music but hating the shows. We got to a point where the bar was lowered in terms of what people expect from live shows. People say the show was good and it really wasn't. I've always enjoyed myself at hardcore shows, and I tried to bring that aesthetic to my live show. Those shows are fun! The bar is set so low that I don't really have to do much. I pay attention to things like transitions [between songs], so when I do it I get praise. I don't think I should because all rap concerts should have that energy but don't. I want to have a party. I'm also trying to do a lot with a little [money] so that all has to have extra thought behind it. You just gotta come out and experience what we do. It's a non-stop party, I promise.

R: Speaking of partying, talk to me about your identification with the straight-edge lifestyle. The concept of the rapper that rages but doesn't drink/do drugs is another narrative that comes up when people are talking about you. Has the straight-edge community embraced you? 

S: Well, I've been straight-edge for about six years, but I didn't start claiming it publicly until a year ago when I started getting more notoriety. I decided to do it because there's kind of a negative connotation when it comes to people who claim they're straight-edge.

R: ... that they're assholes?

S: Haha, you said it. I didn’t. Anyway, I'm trying to change that. I get tons of love from folks who are straight-edge and folks who aren't.

 "DudeBro" is available today on iTunes and Spotify.

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