The singer sat down with Popdust to talk about his upcoming debut album
It's easy to connect with Cautious Clay's music.
Texturized and diaphanous, it can snap with precision alongside quippy surf-rock guitars ("Cheesin") or float effortlessly above reverberating R&B instrumentals ("Sidewinder").
It's clear from the first few moments talking with him that 27-year-old Josh Karpeh is completely unaware of how talented he is. Just three years ago, Karpeh worked in real estate and loosely balanced his creative pursuits with his day job. But as of 2020, he's been praised by The New Yorker, credited and sampled by Taylor Swift, contributed music to the Insecure soundtrack, and maintained a steady creative relationship with John Mayer, all while he averages around two-million monthly listeners on Spotify.
Even with these accolades, Karpeh won't go as far as to say that he's made it. "I'm hopeful," he told me.
His two latest singles, "Agreeable" and "Dying in the Subtlety," which dropped spontaneously on Wednesday, are the most concise tracks in Karpeh's discography thus far. Both tracks are groovy and tightly synchronized, relying less on the polymath's signature lush R&B layering and more on slick guitar work.
The music video for "Dying in the Subtlety" even finds Karpeh shredding a quick solo like a bonafide rockstar. Both tracks are also his most focused and most pronounced in their statements. "If you're taking my side, I don't wanna know why," he croons on "Agreeable."
In an age of unlimited access to information, "Agreeable" lightly toys with the balancing act that comes with being well informed and too informed with the wrong information, and Karpeh describes "Dying in the Subtlety" as a frustrated "meditation" on misunderstandings of strangers, a dilemma that is no doubt exacerbated by our current political climate.
"It's like when you meet your friend's parents, and then you're walking on eggshells because you don't know what the social dynamics of the situation are," said the 27-year-old. "I think it stresses a lot of people out. Being in an environment where you can't get a read on someone. But being in discomfort is a part of growth, I've learned to deal with it just by making music."
Popdust: Agreeable" seems to really speak on this balancing act that comes with being well informed and overly informed. Tell me a little bit more about what it means for you to be in-the-know in 2020.
CC: It really just comes down to empathy and being able to listen and not take things personally. Information is so flooded and unreliable now. So it's all about leading with compassion.
I'm not saying that in an ignorant way–like that if someone says something f**ked up to you, you should just turn the other cheek–that's not what I'm saying. What I'm saying is that people need to collectively have more compassion.
There are so many needles to thread in the context of humanity right now, socially. Nothing's gonna get done unless there is a reckoning with people's ability to be compassionate and open. Otherwise, it's kinda at a standstill.
Lyrics like "If you're on my side, I don't wanna know why" stick out especially. What is your limit when it comes to absorbing information or engaging in those hard conversations? Because there isn't a lot of compassion a lot of the time.
It's a utility thing. The information that I want to intake should have some sort of utility to bettering society and humanity, and that's where I draw the line. If it's a truly informative and enriching discussion, with no one flouting their judgment, then there is an earnest conversation to be had. That's just where I draw the line personally.
Cautious Clay - Dying in the Subtlety www.youtube.com
These sentiments all kinda line up with what I've come to see from you as an artist in that your energy seems freeform. You kinda do what you want. You roll out records how you want–like you just dropped your new single on a Wednesday, which I feel is unusual.
I really do try to be on my own and freeform. There definitely wasn't a concrete reason for that, I kinda just thought Wednesday would be a nice [release date]. I just try not to overthink it. It's pretty much up to me.
It sounds like you're learning a lot really quickly. Both of these singles are so laden with specific themes. Is the rest of your debut album as thematic?
As an artist and a musician, I think that my identity is strongly linked to relationships and personal development, and self-care. The main lesson that I'm sort of trying to convey with this album is dealing with the aspect of cautious optimism.
I'm not lacking hope, but you can't give up. I think we have to bring each other up and bring that type of energy to the forefront of culture. That's my goal with this album.
I'm curious if there was a moment then when you realized: "I gotta bring a different energy with this one."
I don't know. I've always tried to come differently in some ways as Cautious Clay. I kinda always knew that I'd go in this direction, but I didn't know necessarily how it would sound.
You've released a bunch of projects up to this point though, what made you decide that this next one should be your debut?
I always wanted to put out a full length but I wouldn't put this out if I didn't have anything to say. I could just put out bangers or whatever, but I also want them to be meaningful. There's so much music that sounds good today but that doesn't have a nourishing quality to it, and that's kinda my M.O., so I feel like there's no better time than right now.
Dying in the Subtlety
New releases from Baby Smoove, Yung Baby Tate & more
Many of you are waking up to a good amount of mainstream releases this morning. With new releases from YUNGBLUD and Shawn Mendes, pop fans are having a good day today.
"After The Rain" – Yung Baby Tate<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="7cf66c3c1e1c304ba3a7385dc7152511"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KeR0GRHiOdM?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>Yung Baby Tate is through with comparisons. The ATL emcee and vocalist finally released her <em>After the Rain </em>EP today, her mother's birthday (the legendary Dionne Farris). It's her first release on Issa Rae's Raedio label, which she was signed to earlier this year. </p><p>The braggadocious EP is filled with both audacious bubble-gum rhymes and brooding soulful crooning. Building off the versatile momentum of last year's confident debut, <em>Girls</em>, Tate has begun to distance herself from the Nicki Minaj comparisons that overshadowed her last project. </p><p>Her honeyed voice glides on "Baecation" and cracks like a whip on melodic trap offerings like "Bounce." Overall, it's her charisma that gives the project its distinctive flair. "Oh damn, I just outdid b*tches again," she snaps on "Rainbow Cadillac." "If they wasn't hating so hard, we probably could've been friends." </p>
"Waiting to Die" – Working on Dying<iframe src="https://embed.spotify.com/?uri=spotify:album:2SbgyrDcbsPnuBEeg2amNK" id="3b0cb" frameborder="0" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="cf438e0b18496e0264a98dca40a6a295" expand="1" height="480" width="100%"></iframe><p>The debut project from the platinum-selling production collective Working on Dying, <em>Waiting to Die</em> is a haunting collection of woozy instrumentals and quippy rhymes from indie emcees like Key!, Robb Banks, Lucki, and Father.</p><p>The project is an all-consuming experience. Tracks like "Cedric Benson" and "Loose Screw" are muddied and fast-paced, building on the collective's signature "tread" subgenre. Meanwhile, tracks like "Off the Lead" and "FYB" find newcomers Hula and Lancey Foux casually slinking alongside a distorted gurgle of synths and high hats. WOD's debut will scratch the itch for anyone who loved their grimy work on <em>Eternal Atake</em>.<br></p>
"Belair Baby 2" – LBS Kee'vin<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="57762b0729001b95cfdfd02db25c8fb8"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/RV4EtSiI1_s?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>LBS Kee'vin's melodic spitfire has earned him a significant amount of buzz in 2020. In January, the Florida emcee <a href="https://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/hip-hop/8548072/florida-rapper-lbs-keevin-signs-visionary-records" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">signed with Visionary Records</a>, which had just announced a massive partnership with Sony Music. LBS then started cranking out work in 2020, releasing <em>Belair Baby</em> earlier this year, only to quickly follow up with its sequel today. </p><p>With features from 42 Dugg, Juicy J, <a href="https://www.popdust.com/interview-2647880210.html" target="_self">and Luh Kel</a>, <em>Belair Baby 2</em> is a captivating ride that rolls along with confidence. Kee'vin bounces hand-in-hand with Dugg's choppy flow on "Shining," before exhaling a turbulent freestyle on "John Doe" and howling with earnestness on "Toxic" and "Mixed Emotions." Kee'vin covers a lot of melodic ground in the project's half-hour runtime, and it makes for a captivating listen.</p>
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