An ICONoclast is someone who challenges traditional concepts, principles and conventional ways of thinking. Whether it’s calling Ludacris to collaborate with Fall Out Boy, being a member in a rock group, producing records for Rick Ross or lending his vocals to an Afrojack song, these are just a few examples of what makes Clinton Sparks an ICONoclast – someone who has built his career around defying tradition.
“Puff Daddy publicly said ‘Clinton Sparks influences cultures.’ Kanye and Beyoncé both commented that I sound good on my songs. Everybody from Akon to T.I. to Ludacris to Jermaine Dupri to Rodney Jerkins offered me record deals. These were the catalysts for me to pursue a true solo career.” At first blush, such comments might scan as typical industry braggadocio—another artist trading on known names to up his own profile. To level this accusation at the multifaceted Clinton Sparks, however, is to miss the mark by the widest of margins. These words speak not to hubris but to dichotomy—a grudging star whose own talents won’t let him shirk the spotlight any longer.
The casual observer might balk and point to Clinton’s atypical arrival –lowered through the roof by helicopter– for a DJ gig at the Palms Casino. But the flamboyant carriage and flashy ensembles mask a humble, introspective, startlingly relatable human figure. “I never fit in; I never knew how to fit in,” Sparks recalls. “I grew up in neighborhoods where I didn’t belong—my best friend was my bedroom radio and my father left when I was four or five years old. That heartache of feeling abandoned still plays into my songwriting today.” Sparks talks candidly of his past, but not glibly, making no effort to conceal the pain he’s received. His broken home birthed a wayward childhood described best by fellow Bostonian Mark Wahlberg in Scorcese’s The Departed: “Many, many, many departures from normative behavior.”
But Clinton cleaned up his act and channeled his knack for chicanery into productivity. He befriended Eminem by promising the then-obscure rapper high visibility on a fictitious Internet radio program. The ruse likewise lured Common, Wu-Tang Clan, Mobb Deep, and many others to a studio Clinton had rigged up in his mother’s Boston basement. He’d have the MCs drop exclusive verses over his own beats, which he’d then parlay into sought-after mixtapes. Insatiable demand eventually forced Clinton to form the world’s largest urban ecommerce site, MixUnit.com. His hustle was ceaseless; each week, he’d DJ live on four radio stations in four different states. Still on the periphery of public consciousness, Clinton Sparks was molding himself into an entertainment tour de force: equal parts DJ, dancer, writer, singer, beatboxer, personality, and producer.
Fast forward to the present. Gone are the memories of misspent youth, replaced by well-earned accolades: a 2012 Grammy nomination for production on Lady Gaga’s Born This Way album; a four-year stint as a music correspondent for E! News; a BMI Songwriter’s Award for “Shut it Down” with Pitbull and Akon; tracks with Beyoncé, The Game, Diddy, Fall Out Boy, LMFAO, Big Sean, Mike Posner, T-Pain, Far East Movement, Trey Songs, and Ne-Yo; his current hit single “Gold Rush,” featuring 2 Chainz, Macklemore, and D.A., off his forthcoming solo debut on Photo Finish Records, ICONoclast.
“Gold Rush” stampeded through pop culture. FOX featured the songs on the massively popular So You Think you Can Dance and X Factor. NBC followed suit on its singing competition show And the Winner Is. And, not to be outdone, the WWE has proclaimed “Gold Rush” the official anthem for its 2013 SummerSlam Pay-Per-View.
Anthemic is apropos for ICONoclast. It’s a star-crusted affair, featuring “everyone from Snoop Dogg to Ty Dolla $ign, to T.I.,” Clinton asserts. “My theory is this: you don’t want to eat the same meals every day or put on the same outfit every day. You’re not in the same moods. So why would I keep making the same music every day? To me, there are no genres, no formats, no rules. It’s either good or it’s not.”
ICONoclast is the work of a modern master guised as the schoolyard scamp. The EP embraces touchstones such as Queen, Teddy Riley, Weezer, and Maroon 5, but recombines them as unmistakably Clinton. While the influences are impressive, so too are Clinton’s smash singles. “UV Love” is a left-of-center scorcher featuring T.I. over terse, funky guitar riffs – and Clinton’s angsty vocals smack of Billie Joe Armstrong. Ultimately, “UV Love” surprises with its uplift and mesmerizing hook. Also worth noting is the suffusive marching band beat and proliferating chorus of the unexpected club hit “Geronimo,” featuring T-Pain, Sage The Gemini, and Ty Dolla $ign.
Clinton’s ambitious debut might defy categorization, but it’s categorically entertaining. And that’s, as always, Clinton’s aim: “When I had a party growing up, I would invite people from different social circles and make them be cool with each other; otherwise they would never speak. I just wanted people to enjoy a good time and each other and maybe be exposed to something new. And I became that guy in the music business. But now, I want something more. I want listeners to understand that they’re finally catching up to the way I’ve thought my entire life. I want them to say, ‘That dude’s a visionary. He gets it.’” Fret not Clinton, listeners will catch up, and catch on—when they get familiar with ICONoclast.