A few years ago, the Rhode Island based group Clokworx dropped an impressive debut single, “Mental Flux”. Comprised of MCs Ams One and Phes One, along with their DJ, The Orator, they are dropping their follow up “Preservatives” b/w “Who’s That” and “Robots” featuring production by Celph Titled and D-Tension. A while back I caught up with Ams One at a show in Providence, where he and The Orator and other members of The Secret Service crew, including Sage Francis, AdeeM and Vocab, performed for a few hundred local fans. During the open mic session and between a few beers, me an Ams had a brief conversation.
Damage: Go ahead and introduce yourself
Ams One: Testing one, two. My name is Ams One and I’m from a group called Clokworx we’re just on some conscious hip hop type ish. Trying to bring it to the people. Trying to represent.
Want to talk about your influences
Your top 5 MCs?
Common, Special Ed, Rakim, KRS. Man, there’s so many.
How would you describe your groups style? Clokworx’s style?
I consider myself a well rounded MC. I can get complex. I can get poetical. I can get up in your ass with some lyrics.
Where do you get started? Battle rhymes? Writing?
I started out writing mostly battle rhymes. I was twelve years old when I wrote my first verse. Ever since then, I’ve been on. But yeah, I started out with battle rhymes because that’s what hiphop was then. Just who could get in whose ass the quickest. It was witty.
How do you feel about the reception to your releases with Clokworx?
Um, the single we dropped was “Mental Flux”. We dropped that in May of ’99. Actually, it might have been ’98. It got good reviews. It blew up. We hit the Top 40 on CMJ. Every review I read, the fuckin’ song was considered a classic. The reviews were so positive, it just boosted our confidence. Me and my partners, man. We’re scrubs from Rhode Island. We’re doing our thing regardless of if we’re gettin’ paid. We’re doing it just for the sport of it. Heads are sleeping right now. They think that Clokworx is dead. I like people to think that. They think we’re dead and then we come back with some ill shit and they feel the wrath of what we got. Know what I mean?
What about The Secret Service crew?
Secret Service is stronger than ever, man. We got One Verse, Sage Francis – Non Prophets, AOL My man, Products, Oktagon Supreme. These are all MCs who rhyme with soul and rhyme with heart and we’re gonna do it regardless. Whatever. It’s just gonna be a chain reaction.
What do you think about the New England scene? Are you active in Boston?
The New England scene as a whole? You know, Boston was kicking off about a year ago. I’ve taken off. Haven’t been up there. I’ve just been hiding out in my bat cave. I haven’t really been out. A year ago, Boston was representing. We were doing like ninety percent of our shows up there. I think the New England scene overall is decent. Real decent.
Do you find it a problem getting venues?
Nah, not at all. Maybe a little because we haven’t put out nothing new in a while. It’s not hard. My man Sage is always doing shows and hooking us up. My man Namour is always calling me to do shows. I just got a kid, I don’t know what his name is, but he’s from New Jersey. He called me up and was like, “Yo, Clokworx is my favorite shit!” Wants us to do a show. We’ll probably do that.
How does it make you feel to hear that?
Makes me feel good. How would it make you feel?
Validated? Ever have doubts that what you do might not go over?
You know what? I’m a perfectionist with whatever I write or record. I know I’m not gonna put out no wack shit.
Who’re you checking for now?
Planet Asia. Cali Agents shit. I always look for Last Emperor because I like his shit. Royce, the 5’9’s shit.
Where do you see Clokworx five or ten years down the line?
Rippin’. Still rippin’. Even if it’s these local bar shits. Man, I’m a still be rippin’. I’m a tell you. In my life, I’ve quit everything. I quit sports. I quit high school. Everything. But the one thing I stay true to is hiphop and writing music. Everything else I failed. I will not fail at this. I will do it until the day I die. Know what I mean?
What other shit do you write?
Pretty much write lyrics. It’s my outlet. A lot of verses I write I keep to myself, don’t say ’em. If I feel down, I’ll write a verse about how I’m feeling at the time. Might keep it to myself, I write for personal reasons.
So it doesn’t matter to you if it doesn’t get out? If people don’t hear it.
You know what? I can’t even front, I want it to get out. I feel like I got shit to say. I feel like if people took time to listen to what I’m saying. What my partner Phes One is saying. And what my little brother The Orator, the DJ, is saying and can really grasp it. They will feet it. There’s a lot of criticism in hiphop right now. You got these computer geeks who think they know hiphop. They live in the suburbs and try to get into hiphop over the internet. That’s bullshit! We get criticized a lot! That’s fine. That makes me a badder and meaner MC.
Do you feel like a lot of kids are doing it as like a research project? Like they talk like they remember when Black Moon’s first shit came out, but you know they didn’t.
Oh yeah. Shit like that. You got all these young kids coming up claiming to be old schoolers and they ain’t but eighteen years old. I don’t claim to be this cat …. this ’84 type cat … I’m twenty two now, y’all can do the math, but when I was seven the first tape i picked up was Nucleus.
Jam On It?
Jam On It, that was my shit. That was the first hiphop song I ever heard, i fell in love from then. I never studied it in my life. I’m more of a late eighties -early nineties generation crew. Special Ed, UMC’s, PRT. Shit like that. I never claimed to be anything I’m not. Just try to keep it true to myself and if I’m not, my music ain’t shit! That’s what i look at it as, music. I think musician would classify me better than an emcee.
Do you do live instrumental shit? Or would you consider…
Yes i definitely would consider that. I think there’s a lot for leniency working with a band and live instruments. I love the sampling art, i love the DJ aspect of it all, but working with a love band is something i could definitely get into.
[brief pause in the interview]
Ok so do you want to talk about that again, your first contact with the spiritual?
Yeah i’ll fill in on that. We’d like to get into some spiritual shit. A group that’s in our crew, One Verse, my man Vocab, we all represent for the most high, the supreme being. We feel that if people could really listen to our music and they could see that the things we’re saying could actually, maybe it’s just a fantasy of ours, but we could actually help people unite. Besides hiphop i’m really big into roots reggae. That’s been my inspiration for the past few years, aside from hiphop. And I actually met god through reggae, you know. And you can see it through our music. We’re well rounded cats. We can get up in your face with raw battle rhymes, on some spiritual stuff, themes, songs, concepts, stories, whatever man. It all comes from the heart. It all comes from an emotion or an experience.