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Meet Clifford Hughes of RaneRaps in Inglewood

Today we’d like to introduce you to Clifford Hughes.

Clifford, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
My journey in music started when I first heard “When Doves Cry”. I was about 7 or 8 years old sitting in the second row of my mom’s Nissan Pathfinder and the radio was blaring a sound I had never heard before. I was captivated by the musicality: from the vocal harmonies ripe with falsetto to the vibrant synths – everything was just so ripe with emotion. From that day forward, I knew that I wanted to create the same sense of oomph in my own life and by fate, I’ve broken into music in a mighty way.

My journey in music started when I first heard “When Doves Cry”. I was about 7 or 8 years old sitting in the second row of my mom’s Nissan Pathfinder and the radio blared a sound I had never heard before. I was captivated by the musicality: from the vocal harmonies ripe with falsetto to the vibrant synths – everything brimmed with emotion. From that day forward, I knew that I wanted to create the same sense of oomph in my own life and by fate, I’ve broken into music in a mighty way.

My first foray into actually making music began in the 5th grade when I joined my school’s ensemble. There, I played the flute and learned to appreciate the hard work that goes into making something that not only pleases the self but for others. However, once I graduated from elementary, my passion for the flute waned and I picked up the bass, influenced by the classic rock that many of my friends listened to. Considering I went from a 99.9% black school the polar opposite, I will say that this influx of music was a culture shock at first. It was the first time that I heard bands like The Who, The Eagles, AC/DC and more and could learn about them from people who grew up on those acts. In fact, Led Zeppelin’s “Black Dog” was a song I used to blast with a good friend from middle school each time we’d hang out at his house. It was full of rage and some sort of reckless abandon. Anyways, much of the fashion of those eras aligned with Prince and reinforced who I knew I wanted to be: someone who was a sight to see but could play just as well as he looked. That being said, I felt trapped by pure instrumentation and the process of learning songs created by others. I needed to express myself and my story and it just so happened that I reunited with my best friend at that time.

My first foray into actually making music began in the 5th grade, when I joined my school’s ensemble. There, I played the flute and learned to appreciate the effort of making music that pleases the self and others. However, once I graduated from elementary, my passion for the flute waned and I picked up the bass, influenced by the music taste of my new friends. I went from a 99.9% black school to the polar opposite and this influx of music was a culture shock at first. I had never heard of bands like The Who, The Eagles, & AC/DC but I was hooked! In fact, Led Zeppelin’s “Black Dog” became a personal favorite and I’ve played it far too loud in the comforts of a friend’s home many a time. It’s a song full of rage and some sort of reckless abandon that energized me. Anyways, much of the fashion of those eras aligned with Prince and reinforced who I knew I wanted to be: someone who was a sight to see but could play just as well as he looked. That being said, I felt trapped by pure instrumentation and the process of learning to cover music. I needed to express myself and my story. Luckily, I reunited with my best friend, Keith.

As I was saying, I ran into my friend, Keith, who was playing with his school band at my church for youth Sunday. It was my second visit to church that day and boy was I disappointed I couldn’t be home playing my games. Nonetheless, I was there to accept a scholarship on behalf of my older sister and was pleasantly surprised to run into Keith. Naturally, we caught up and checked out each other’s MySpace pages. He showed me a few rap songs he made and I loved what I heard. So, I went home to listen to them again and I remember falling out of my seat laughing at a specific like he said: “shoot him in his foot, have him walking with a shell toe”. And I just knew I had to rap after that. Only issue was – I didn’t know how. I knew how to rhyme words but to make anything cohesive was beyond my pay grade. Even worse, my parents didn’t let me listen to much rap growing up due to the parental advisory warnings on every CD except the one I owned: Big Willie Style.

Keith was playing with his school band at my church for youth Sunday. It was my second visit to church that day and boy was I disappointed that I couldn’t be at home playing my games. Nonetheless, I had to accept a scholarship on behalf of my older sister. I was pleasantly surprised to run into Keith. Naturally, we caught up and checked out each other’s MySpace pages. He showed me a few rap songs he made and I loved what I heard. I listen to them again at home and I fell out of my seat laughing at the line: “shoot him in his foot, have him walking with a shell toe”. I knew I had to rap after that. Only issue was – I didn’t know how. I could rhyme words but to make anything cohesive was beyond my pay grade. Even worse, my parents didn’t let me listen to much rap growing up. Shout out to parental advisory warnings. So the only CD i owned was Big Willie Style.

So, Keith began to mentor me and show me the ropes on cadence, writing lyrics, and more. Soon I developed a solid foundation for what the genre was, could be, and acts I enjoyed listening to – notably the Cool Kids, Dom Kennedy, U-N-I, Pac Div, and OutKast. The Cool Kids were a young alternative duo, much like Keith and I, and validated our identity: being able to rap about Pokémon, wrestling, etc. and not needed to front like we’re the biggest crime lords in the world. Dom was an all-round likable personality and his mixtapes brought the best beats – whether originals or classics like It Was a Good Day – and his laid back flow put you in the zone. U-N-I & Pac Div made me think about the environment that surrounded me and the legacy I wanted to leave as a Black man. Lastly, Outkast’s music impressed me as much as Prince’s. Too, I fell in love with the drawl, fashion sense, and overall charisma of André 3000. He, Prince, & Rick James form the Holy Trinity of my musical foundation and expression.

Keith showed me the ropes on cadence, writing lyrics, and more. Soon, I developed a foundation for what the genre was, could be, and acts I enjoyed listening to – notably the Cool Kids, Dom Kennedy, U-N-I, Pac Div, and OutKast. The Cool Kids were a young alternative duo, much like Keith and I, and validated our identity: being able to rap about Pokémon, wrestling, and more without a need to front like we were crime lords. Dom was pure charisma over the best beats – whether originals or classics like It Was a Good Day – and his laid back flow put you in the zone. U-N-I & Pac Div made me consider the legacy I wanted to leave as a Black man. Lastly, Outkast’s music impressed me as much as Prince’s. And I couldn’t help but fall in love with the drawl, fashion sense, and overall charisma of André 3000. He, Prince, & Rick James form the Holy Trinity of my musical foundation and expression.

As Keith & I honed further our skills, we formed groups that grew with our talent and have collectively released two mixtapes and dozens of singles. In fact, we grew quite a local fanbase at City Honors (neighboring school of Inglewood High) for a song called “Liddo Red Wagon”. Listening to it today, I’d grow red in the face immediately but it’s the joy that it brought other people that offsets the quality of the song haha. But, high school truly set the course for the rest of my life. I’m a very stubborn person and once I make up my mind, it virtually never changes. To be a rapper as a career was one of those decisions and here I am several years later still in the thick of my pursuit.

As Keith & I honed our skills, we formed groups that grew with our talent. Collectively, we’ve released two mixtapes and dozens of singles. In fact, we grew quite a local fanbase at City Honors (neighboring school of Inglewood High) for a song called “Liddo Red Wagon”. Listening to it today, I’d grow red in the face immediately but the joy brought others offsets the quality of the song haha. High school set the course for the rest of my life. I’m a very stubborn person, so once I make up my mind, it virtually never changes. To be a rapper as a career was one of those decisions and here I am several years later still in the thick of my pursuit.

Since going to and graduating from college, I’ve endured many a struggle and enjoyed many a success in this industry. Nowadays, I’ve found it’s best for me to be a solo act where I can flourish on my own: sharing visceral truths over funky grooves, thrusting my hips for change in the world, and cementing a legacy that my future children will be proud of.

Has it been a smooth road?
As alluded to earlier, I’ve faced and continue to face many struggles in this industry.

Earlier in my career, it was a struggle to break from a collective to jumpstart my solo act. Having made music with my best friend for several years prior, I felt that I was betraying him and the rest of the collective by stepping out. However, the catalyst for leaving was growth in my identity: wanting to move past the less-substantive art I made when I was younger and also how I wanted the world to view me. I needed to tell my story on my own terms. It would take digging deep inside pull out hard truths, lose shame for my wounds, and outwardly embrace a newfound gender expression. I was tired of feeling stuck and I wanted the world to know exactly who Clifford Hughes was – at all costs.

Earlier in my career, it was a struggle to break from a collective to jumpstart my solo act. Having made music with my best friend for several years prior, I felt that I was betraying him and the rest of the collective by stepping out. However, the catalyst for leaving was growth in my identity: wanting to move past the less-substantive art I made when I was younger and also how I wanted the world to view me. I needed to tell my story on my own terms. It would take digging deep to pull out hard truths, losing shame for my wounds, and outwardly embracing a newfound gender expression. I was tired of feeling stuck and wanted the world to know exactly who Clifford Hughes was – at all costs.

The main obstacles I face today are: lack of respect due to my image, high costs of running a business, and losing those close to me.

Firstly, when people look at me, they don’t see a rapper. Or even a man confident enough to break the mold in appearance and music. I must be polarizing but do I care how people view me? No. It is annoying? Yes. My art and me as a person shouldn’t be treated any less important because of how I look. I suppose I’ll always fight an uphill battle in the rap arena but it motivates me to go that much harder. Besides when people do get past the look and listen to the music, no one can argue it isn’t *at least* on par with mainstream rappers deemed lyricists.

Secondly, as independent artists, my music business lives and dies by my dollar and my own hustle. I’ve learned a myriad of skills such as digital marketing and graphic design to cut costs because it’s not uncommon that I…
– spend upwards of $20/day marketing my music
– outfit myself with custom made clothing for hundreds at a time
– spend $2-3k on a music video after catering, costuming, paying for a videographer and more – not asking anyone involved to do more than show up, show up on time, and look lively.

Secondly, as an independent artist, my music business lives and dies by my dollar and my own hustle. Therefore, I’ve had to learn a myriad of skills such as digital marketing and graphic design to cut costs. To shed light on just why it’s so expensive operate without a label, I’ll share a bit about my expenditures. I commonly spend upwards of $5/day marketing a single on Instagram or $20/day running an entire sales funnel on Facebook. And if I’m driving traffic to a music video, I probably spent $2-3k to create that video. And that’s just the actual music itself. Custom clothing can run me hundreds of dollars a piece. But, when my aesthetic is cohesive and my brand is communicable, I reap the rewards of surpassing a lot of the competition.

Consequently, people understand they’re working with a true professional with actual objectives that need to be met. Hence, I’ve been rewarded with real growth not only in terms of streams, followers, and more vanity metrics but outside attention as far as labels, brand collaborations and more. So, even if I could get the thousands I’ve spent on music back and feel a bit more stable financially, I much prefer being well-paid in happiness and freedom to be myself.

Business partners take me seriously since I bring a vision, analytics, and bankroll to the table to realize my ideas. Fans take me seriously as I bring authenticity, top-tier music, and frankly just look put together. Hence, I’ve been rewarded with real growth not only in terms of streams, followers, and more vanity metrics but outside attention as far as labels, brand collaborations and more. So, even if I could get the thousands I’ve spent on music back and feel a bit more stable financially, I much prefer being well-paid in happiness and freedom to be myself. It’s getting me results.

Lastly, losing the people around me that I want to share my success with can and does terrorize me. I’m normally overly-optimistic to a fault, but there’s a lingering feeling that my life will become the cliché: rich and famous, yet lonely. I make music because it validates me and brings me joy, but I also hold the power to change the lives of other people. Sometimes the decisions I make push them away (especially romantically) as I’m relentlessly selfish about my success and will stop at nothing to have it. But, tragedies of life such as gang violence, terminal illness, and suicide claim the lives of those close to me too. I’ve known myself to live in a constant balance of high highs and low lows but I pray one day I can tip the scales in my favor. I deserve to celebrate my people as well as the plaques that represent the hard work I put into my dream. No one should have to choose.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with RaneRaps – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
I’m RaneRaps AKA Mr. Hot Jam and I make RapSoulFunk – music with a blend of unbridled charisma, infectious hooks and witty wordplay.

Over the years, I’ve managed to rack up quite a few notable achievements:
-For SXSW 2019, I was an official artist – a major milestone and even better, I had the chance to place in the A2IM & Vinyl Me, Please showcases, supporting a friend of mine, Ric Wilson as well as being a featured artist on iStandard’s Official SXSW showcase, Beats & Bars.
-Leading up to 2019, I enjoyed a momentous 2017 & 2018! My single, “All My Worries”, is featured on Spotify’s Fresh Finds Best of 2017 playlist, amassing over 250K plays, while my 2018 collaboration with Ric Wilson, “Sinner”, was featured on Spotify’s Fresh Finds and Lyrical Lemonade’s Hot 25 playlists, among others, breaking over 1M plays! To cap it off, Olympic snowboarder Stale Sandbech used my single, “Let’s Chill”, as the backdrop for his highlight reel!
– I was a SXSW 2019 official artist. I played in the A2IM & Vinyl Me, Please showcases, supporting a friend, Ric Wilson, and was featured at iStandard’s Official SXSW showcase, Beats & Bars.
– My 2018 collaboration with Ric, “Sinner”, broke over 1M plays!
– My single, “All My Worries”, is featured on Spotify’s Fresh Finds Best of 2017 playlist, amassing over 250K plays
– To cap it off, I placed a song with Olympian snowboarder, Stale Sandbech

All that considered, I’m most proud of building a brand that’s 100% based on authenticity and not just a front for the camera. My artist persona is literally me just not using my government name and those that know me on and off the stage can attest that I bring the SAME energy. Furthermore, I’ve been able to give my fans some of the darkest parts of my life journey and receive an immense outpour of support for owning my humanity. It empowers me knowing that there is no ceiling on my creative process and I am truly in control of my path.

What sets me apart… in the words of Reach Guinto at Lokels Only “In a hip-hop landscape that’s grown stale with formulaic presentations and cookie cutter personalities, RaneRaps is not just a breath of fresh air, he’s a whole gale force windstorm of it, a dynamic energy that’s addressing everyday woes as much as it is celebrating the joy of life itself. And such a balance is what’s void in hip-hop today. For a genre that’s drawn from the deep wells of soul, funk, jazz, and rock & roll, it’s concerning to see little traces to organic interpretations of any of them these days.

Yet, with the music of RaneRaps, he’s able to craft a bridge between generations and genres, channeling his musicality borne from a passion for live instrumentation and a fondness for showmen of the past like Rick James. Since when did you last see a rapper who can invoke the energy of various sounds and influences while packaging it in a sound and live act that lives merrily in its own brilliant truth?

And it’s this unabashed truth that is crucial to the very veins of hip-hop in its current state. The mainstream is in need of some creative resuscitation, let the bars of one RaneRaps restore and rejuvenate what’s been withering away, slumped and in need of a revival.”

Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
What I like best – Tacos Gavilan. My friends know I will drive out my way to go support those good people and order my Burrito Al Pastor, haha! But to illuminate a bit more, I’m super into food so of course, the offerings here have me on Cloud 9 oh so much as well as the amount of activities you can enjoy in a single day in LA. Just some years ago, I was living in the woods – so much the woods that I had a mother bear and cubs living outside of my apartment building. So, I’m blessed to be back here and able to live a full, enriching, and not so bear-alerted life. I often find myself at shows, enjoying the performances of other musicians (especially Anderson .Paak), at Dave & Buster’s trying to get their skeeball game to actually work, taking a bike ride down the coast until the goosebumps and beach breeze are too much to handle.

What I like best – Tacos Gavilan. My friends know I will drive out my way to go support those good people and order my Burrito Al Pastor, haha! But to illuminate a bit more, I’m super into food so LA’s offerings have me on Cloud 9 oh so much. Too, the endless activities you can enjoy this city make it superb. Just some years ago, I was living in the woods – so much the woods that I had a mother bear and cubs living outside of my apartment building. So, I’m blessed to be back here and able to live a full, enriching, and not so bear-alerted life. I often find myself at shows, enjoying the performances of other musicians (especially Anderson .Paak), at Dave & Buster’s trying to get their skeeball game to work for once, or riding a bike down the coast until the goosebumps and beach breeze are too much to handle. As wild as I am, I’m a simple man and these are the types of things that keep my grounded.

What I like least about LA… a few things. Firstly, the growing problem of gentrification (and the embedded racism in this city). I’ve become increasingly criminalized in my *own* neighborhood just at the mere presence of more white people moving into Inglewood. It’s actually really annoying not being able to leave my own house without the police staring me down, profiling me, and being overall despicable towards me.

Secondly, the cost of living is too damn high. I’ve deleted every apartment search app I’ve downloaded to preserve my mental health. Said not to be funny. Said to be brutally honest. I don’t make the most money and I don’t make the least but I shouldn’t need a Ph.D. to be able to afford an efficiency – studios of the miniature variety. I’d like to one day own a home and not lose sleep over a mortgage. That and be able to pay my mortgage while still being able to enjoy other activities. It’s rather unfortunate that there is little rent control in the city and the haves continue to enjoy the perks while the rest of us struggle.

Third, traffic is trash. Anything more than 5 miles and I really rather not attend the event lol. LA actually isn’t a big city. It’s just there are way too many people in the way of origin and destination – myself included. It’s sad I’m going to lose much of my life to sitting in a metal box due to too many cars being on the road. Public transportation is still in its infancy here and much of that is due to historical lobbying but the situation is wild. More buses, more trains, less cars = more life, word to Aubrey.

Fourthly, and this goes with my third point – everyone moving here to become “X” or “be in the industry”. The internet exists and it works for building your brand lol. We as a society have pushed this need for celebrity and LA being a hub to hypothetically launch an entertainment career has got the place overrun with people who actually have no talent, work ethic, strategy, or true goals for their vision. I’m tired of it lol. But, I’m not the only one so at least I can find community in said tiredness lol.

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH


Image Credit:

Jayden Becker
Patrick Manalo
Cheryl Faux

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