I met Clyde Kelly on the first day of pre-term, Wharton’s 3-week long orientation. He wore sneakers, tan shorts, and a white tee-shirt. He was dressed for a beach day while the rest of his classmates were dressed like future corporate tycoons in their navy suits and mocha designer shoes. Just like my first impression of Kelly, Not Rich Yet, his debut album, stands out.
Kelly is a Tar Heel from North Carolina. While he pays the bills as a McKinsey consultant, his passion for music runs deep. He started writing music and poetry in his later teenage years. He first gravitated to music as an outlet to express himself and tangle with issues that he’s struggling with in his life. Much of the work in NRY is inspired by poems he wrote almost half a decade ago as he was dealing with a personal tragedy.
Students on campus have received him well. He performed at Voyeur nightclub during the White Party and during the recent Bermuda trip embarked on by many of the WG ‘18 class. Acknowledging Kelly’s talent, Dhruv Vasishtha (WG ‘18) quipped, “BCG has John Legend, McKinsey now has Clyde Kelly. Bain better start requesting mixtapes for their on campus interviews.”
Not Rich Yet (NRY) is a genre defying spectacle. CK raps over bouncy beats, he croons over soulful turns. Throughout, NRY is filled with tensions – the pursuit of love versus wealth, inner peace versus external chaos. The resolution to the tension in the album is the acceptance of life’s ups and downs through the optimistic view that “life is good, at least a lot of it” on the final track, “Summer Breeze.”
The first song on the album sets the tone by showcasing Kelly’s rap-singing style. The beat is mellow and allows him to transition smoothly between rapping the verses to singing the bridge and the hook. The song is a declaration of ownership. Ownership over one’s experiences, thoughts, and emotions.
No Question (feat. Makenna Brylee)
Kelly and Makenna Brylee, a singer from San Diego, CA, deftly tango over this cacophonous beat. Kelly owns this track as he flexes his rapping ability while Makenna peppers the track with her sultry vocals. The theme of the song is confidence and Kelly navigates the track confidently switching from rapping to singing and back again.
The album continues with a glossy sound on this track. While this is the only song that doesn’t totally feel like it fits into the narrative arc of the album, it does have the sound of a song that will be played in clubs, and it’s very easy to sing along to the hook.
Life in the City (feat. Showtime)
The tempo on this track is much more mellow than the prior two. Kelly is accompanied by Showtime, a college friend from Chapel Hill, NC, as they take us on a tour through a sonic landscape of night life in the city. Kelly focuses more on singing and melody, while Showtime provides a smooth flow that matches the slower paced beat. The track has a meandering sound as if the two artists recorded it driving around a southern city on a Sunday drive.
In the narrative arc of the album, Go is a change of pace. It’s more uptempo than the previous tracks and features more of Kelly’s rapping abilities. Kelly features dense wordplay and rhyme schemes over a percussive and relentless beat. In the middle of the track Kelly rhymes a sequence of onomatopoeic words. Because his flow is so tightly coupled with the beat, it’s hard to tell where the music ends and the artist begins.
On & On (feat. Rome Fortune)
We’re introduced to this track with a sample of a domestic argument between the characters portrayed by Jude Law and Natalie Portman from the 2004 movie Closer. Kelly returns to singing on this track after showing off his lyrical wizardry on the previous track. He’s joined on the track by Atlanta, GA rapper, Rome Fortune. Fortune’s raspy lyrics complements CK’s singing and amplifies the tension initiated with the sample from Closer. The track explores love and its challenges. Initially, I thought the track was about saving the beloved, but, when Fortune raps “help, help, help” to the pulsing beat of the instrumental, I realize it’s the singer that needs salvation. This is a haunting track that you can play over and over.
After, the domestic strife of On & On, we see Kelly turning to a new lover. Lucy Dreams is about turmoil and the drugs, physical and otherwise, that we turn to in these moments of distress. Kelly looks inward, exposing a different, darker mode where he embraces the selfishness he mentions on the previous track, then seduces his new lover with roses and falls deeper into her grip. The lingering electric guitar riffs add a unique feel to this track, accentuating the introspective, sad tone as Kelly uses his new muse to forget his inner demons.
This is the featured single on this album. It’s been featured on Gary Vaynerchuk’s video blog, DailyVee. It has 80,000 plays across Spotify and SoundCloud since its release in mid-July 2016, and is gaining popularity every day. It’s no mystery why it’s been so popular. The beat is hypnotic as Kelly challenges himself and the listener to continue to “make moves, and move major mountains.”
Super Chill (feat. Michael Christmas)
We’re introduced to this penultimate song with the hi-hat and the piano. Frenetic energy and quiet serenity. This is the strongest of the the feature tracks as Boston rapper, Michael Christmas, adds word play, humor, and a relaxed flow to this chilled out track. The theme of the track is about relaxation with the hustle a constant source of pressure in the back of Kelly’s mind.
Even though it’s the final cut on the album, Summer Breeze is the emotional core of this album. It’s about positivity, about releasing negativity, about self-acceptance. This track has a more folksy sound. You can imagine playing this in the middle of December in Philadelphia and you would feel like you were in Long Beach in June. It’s the perfect gift wrap on a cohesive and strong freshman effort from Clyde Kelly.