Joey Clipstar, also known as ‘The Connect’, is the founder of Hardest Bars and the General Manager of Link Up TV, a heavy weight in our world of music.
Joey took time out of his busy schedule of podcasting and interviewing to join 9bills on #MusicMotivated , a Twitter Space to discuss the questions we want answers to the most, from icons in the music industry.
Hardest Bars, originally a show to discuss the hardest songs and lyrics in the scene, expanded into a multimedia hub with a mixtape series, online talent show ‘HB Talent’, ‘HB WellBeing’ content, ‘The 2K3 Podcast’ and various freestyle series, one being ‘HB Freestyle’ which the current series is in it’s fourth season.
Check out some of the takeaways we got from Joey during the Twitter Space when our hosts Shanté and Nelson explored the value of freestyle platforms in this economy.
11 Years of Hardest Bars
Joey: 2018, Boxing Day, we kicked off with RA, as that was one of the main artists I was listening to growing up as a kid. I just wanted to start off with someone I grew up listening to. It then developed into something more. At first, it was literally a freestyle platform, but with a difference. So the difference was someone doing an intro and being in the back just vibzing, I don’t think many people know but I got that from Big Tigger on Rap City.
Obviously, I switched up the whole thing; Hardest Bars was a originally a talk show with me and my guy, Bar 4 Bar, where every week we rated the top five tunes that we thought were the littest in order and highlighted the bars. That was from 2011, so by 2018, it wasn’t hitting as much as it once did. I had to switch it up somehow and we’ve just been going ever since. Season four kicked off about six weeks ago, so far we’ve had internationals, a cypher, a few good up-and-comers and we have a whole lot more to come.
Shanté: I was going through it earlier and the people you guys were rating so early on in their career have gone on to be the greats like Stormzy, which was 8 years ago. You’ve been able to move with the times which is definitely cool to see. With Hardest Bars and you in particular, it seems very personal. Was that what you wanted to do when you first set out? To give a voice and a platform to people that might have needed an extra push, who you thought were sick?
Joey: 2011 was a time where, obviously from school days, everyone thought they could rap. The difference with me is that my family was in music, I had a studio in my house. We had man who could come make tapes and all sorts of things like that. By the time I left school, I was working with my cousin, Corey Johnson. He’s got a studio in South Bermondsey called Digital Holdings. I’ve always been around music and me and my friends used to rap so it’s coming from a place of knowing what it’s like to be a rapper and not really have much to go off, just kind of like creating your own vibes.
Same with Bar 4 Bar, he was a rapper as well. And there was just like a kind of like, how can I explain it? It was like a glass ceiling of where you could get get to. I mean, all the platforms, none of them were really from South. Linkup TV, Rashid is from North West. GRM, Posty, is from East and Jamal, SBTV is from West.
If you go through season one and two, most of the people on there you’ll recognize their names or you’ll see them now doing great, great things. I’ve always tried to help people from the bottom that I believe in, and still believe in, to get that leverage to do their thing.
Do Freestyle Artists Get Put In A Box?
Shanté: Not controversial, but a bit of a controversial question I wanted to ask was on the stereotype of people who deliver back to back great freestyles often puts them into a box; they’re a good freestyle artist but when it’s time to release official singles, projects, bodies of work, they might not always see the same sort of love. Do you feel like there’s any like particular reason why certain artists might face this sort of issue?
Joey: Are there any artists in particular that you can name because I can’t really think of one that’s like a freestyle platform wh*re that can’t make music ’cause more time, freestyle platforms want you because you’re popping.
Shanté: Let me change the question. It’s not that they can’t do it, I think it just how they may be perceived from the outside looking in, that it’s more of a struggle to transition.
Joey: More time, I feel like they’ve come up at a certain point where everyone is accepting of a certain type of music. So maybe when they’ve come out, they’ve buss with a certain type of freestyle, because it’s got a certain sound. Obviously, these trends come up and come down.
That freestyle will probably live on to do well, because it came out in a certain era. But now, when they’re trying to make music like that freestyle, that times gone. It’s not going to connect like that.
Then obviously, they’ve got to find themselves again. That’s why you probably see them releasing bare tunes and it seems like it’s not hitting. Then they think alright cool, I did well with a freestyle so let me go back and try that again, then it turns into a cycle, of just trying to find that thing of theirs again, but because they’re doing it in the limelight, it looks like they’re not hitting.
Has the Landscape of what a Freestyle is Changed?
Joey: From the beginning, freestyling was just spinning off the top of your head, just making up things on the spot. It’s evolved from there. When ‘Warm Up Sessions’ was popping, old school ‘Behind Barz’, ‘Daily Duppy’, they weren’t off the top of the head.
Freestyles have always been a range of topics that you’re rapping about, that doesn’t have a title. So nowadays, it’s like, people want the same extreme, the essence of spitting off the top of the dome, talking about the chair and the flipping fork that’s next to them. But now, it’s ranging on different topics, and you ain’t heard it before.
“Nowadays, Freestyle Platforms Only Get Big Names On For Views”
Audience Speaker 1: I’ve stopped doing music. I felt like I was talented enough but I didn’t know what I had to do in order to get in front of these platforms faces. For example Hazey, he done that Black Box freestyle and then caught every platform’s attention. I feel like it’s a bit unfair to have to wait for an artist to have that viral moment. That’s why Jamal was respected because he proper sat down and picked out the people he thought were talented instead of the people that just had a buss.
Joey: My platform isn’t about clout, because you can look at all the people on there, even the Middleborough Cypher we just done, half of them, even all of them I guarantee no one really know and that freestyle was lit.
Half of the cyphers this season you’ll see people from different countries you don’t know. Go back through seasons 1,2,3, there’s going to be a few artists that you wouldn’t have heard of. My thing isn’t clout, it’s that you need to be working. I mean, God help helps those that help themselves. You can’t go and find someone in their bedroom make the music, they need to be active. They need to be putting out music, putting out videos, they need networking or doing whatever. This is the entertainment business, you need to be entertain the fans that you do have.
I mean, there are a lot of artists that don’t even get caught on the net. I’ve got talent shows, one’s every other month in Boxpark where it’s just a grassroot artists that no one has probably ever heard of. I’m sure some people would have seen the Instagram Live shows that I used to do. We believe in up in the up and comers, more than just getting the guy that can give us the top streams and views.
Nelson: That actually leads on to another question. How do you find the balance between people that are known and are not?
Joey: The balance for me is easy, because I concentrate on the up-and-coming. Many people don’t know this, but there was an interview on Link Up TV with Giggs and Shabz and I happened to be there. Giggs knows a couple of my family members so when that interview was done, he was like “let me chat to you quickly“.
He pulled me to the side and we were chatting about some other things then he was like, “oh, yeah, by the way, I want to do a HB freestyle“. I was like “oh, cool, you’re free to do one whenever you want to. And he was like “cool, let’s do it now.” And then we just went and done it.
It’s not a thing where I’m running down a big guy “so yes, I need you on my platform”. In all honesty, they don’t need the platform but at the same time, if they want to come and bless it, it’s doing my platform even better because it’s gonna make a lot more of the up and comers see that the platform is there for them. These are relationships that are organically built.
Audience Speaker 2: Madame Molly, is this the beginning of you putting on even more female rappers you rate this season?
Joey: One of the first females I had on the platform was Shaybo. We’ve had Miss La Familia, Bryn, Sha Simone. I’ve been doing it butI do it very carefully.
When the Shaybo freestyle dropped it went crazy for her and she’s done so well since and the love has always been there. But I know that because of the scene we have, when a female is put on the platform and they deliver, the whole place goes wild. So each season, we like to keep key females so that the spotlight is on them more so when she stands out, she really stands out. There’s plenty more females to come.
Audience Speaker 3: Mixtape Madness tried to launch a female only platform called ‘Succession Freestyles‘. We want to genuinely hear ideas, because we as a platform do want to do more to empower female rappers, give them more of a pedestal, as it were, but we don’t want to do it in a way where like we did with the Succession Freestyles where it doesn’t hit the mark in the way that it’s supposed to.
Joey: Yeah, I saw that show and it was sick! But you know, I know the girls like competing with the mandem and they want to do their own thing and you know, they they just want to be respected as rappers, I don’t even think female rappers like to be just cornered off in a female rapper box.
This is why it works for me to put them on the same platform that the mandem are on, to show that they are levels with them and or even better than them. A lot of the times I think if you listen to my intros, when I’m introducing a female, that’s the basis of what I always go on by.