Story • Jake Krez
Photos • Frankie Skrapka
Before we could start the interview, Clinton stopped everything.
Reaching for his fanny pack, he carefully unzipped the pouch and began ruffling through it. “Hold on, let me get my rap swag on real fast,” he said with a laugh. A moment later, Clinton Sandifer became ShowYouSuck, complete with gold chain, tooth cap and ring to match. The moment is somewhat representative of the Bellwood native’s career in music thus far: pervasively authentic, with self-aware humor sprinkled throughout.
To be sure, the 32-year-old multi-faceted artist has proved staying power in one of the country’s most talented and competitive music scenes over the course of the last decade. Since emerging amongst underground rock shows, he’s since dabbled in trap, coasted on some 80s vibes and come full circle with his latest collaborative project with The Hood Internet: Air Credits. The feel of the city might change season to season and year to year, but one consistent in Chicago has been the endearing raps of ShowYouSuck.
Over the years, ShowYouSuck has ridden the continual waves of the local scene while remaining a relevant and relatable without having to kowtow to trends or bow down for a big-time feature. Instead, he’s tread the water from rock to Kanye-affiliated Treated Crew to local label Closed Sessions and back again without losing sight of why he fell in love with any one vertical in the first place. Like a character from one of his beloved video games or that he illustrates in an Air Credits verse, Sandifer has assembled the pieces over the years to operate as an individual without cause for concern in regards to his creative output.
His latest endeavor is at once a distinct break from the music we’ve come to expect from him and a furtherance of the environment he’s created for himself through witty lyricism and a perpetually upbeat attitude. A well-documented fan of nerdcore, movies and Friday Night Tykes, all are a relevant source of inspiration throughout the duo’s initial offerings. Explaining the concept further, Sandifer describes creating the songs in a manner similar to world-building techniques utilized by writers of epics like ‘Game of Thrones’. It’s a strategy and a concept that at once allows for infinite possibilities and a loose structure to work off of.
“Basically what it is me taking my love for things like B-Movies, sci-fi, shit like that and also figuring out a way to make a social commentary with my music. So that way the world that we’re building through Air Credits definitely mimics things that we’re going through now, that’s what it’s for. A lot of shit that I am talking about it is about Chicago shit specifically.”
As with most projects for ShowYouSuck, the pairing with well-regarded mash-up duo The Hood Internet (STV SLV aka Steve Reidell) is one that just, well, kind of made sense.
“It’s 100% me and Steve doing what we want to do 100% of the time. Full-on doing whatever we want to do and Omega Virus was the first showing of that in terms of us figuring out what formats people will allow us to force them into you know?”
The group has moved quickly. Around the time of their initial formation they threw a small set at Beauty Bar in the city’s Ukranian Village neighborhood. Despite a relatively small crowd of twenty or thirty mostly friends and longtime supporters stood in attendance on a Sunday night, Air Credits came ready to go with a full custom-built lighting backdrop. While the lights may have been a bit much for the crowd assembled, it spoke to the big things in their immediate future.
Since joining forces, Air Credits has released one project, Broadcasted late last year which followed an inital double-sided single debut earlier in 2016. Since then, they’ve been busy on the road with consistent dates both in town and across the country that have upped their profile dramatically. With a stage presence that merges the swagger of rap with the intensity and self-assuredness of hardcore rock, Show is the preferred maestro for their futuristic rap battle. Meanwhile they’ve also been working on a forthcoming project that’s certain to be met with an added wave of anticipation.
While Air Credits has been a decided slam dunk for Show over the course of the last year, it’s also allowed an added clarity to the music he continues to create under his solo moniker. Whereas before all ideas had to be channeled into a singular outlet or put to the side for a more suitable project, he can now focus specific energies into proper platforms.
“I’ve got more solo shit and please believe Air Credits has helped my solo shit. It takes the weight away from the solo shit because I can go sort of on my artist list I can look at the checklist: lyrical, fun, whatever,” explained Show. “I can check a lot of those or other ones with Air Credits and then my solo space is even more open.”
Piece of mind is a recurring theme lately for ShowYouSuck. At this point in his life, he’s beginning to realize a lifelong dream of existing as a full-time artist. Perched on the Northside in an apartment he shares with fiancee and fellow artist Lili K, he’s blocks from the beach and seemingly never without a creative outlet or somewhere to flex his artistry. During the week he spends free time riding the red line to Pilsen to work in close friend Floyd’s metal and wood-working studio, other days he interviews fellow artists at festivals for Consequence of Sound or works on his upcoming JBTV show.
The best part of it all? He’s accomplished it all by being wholly himself.
That much is obvious from our time together for a quick interview at the end of August. Sitting at the wine bar counter of an Edgewater Mariano’s eating gelato, he seemed very much in his element, content in his corner of the city, on the verge of another short tour run. As an artist that has never sacrificed himself for forward progress, things are moving along just fine as of late. If pizza parties were a consistent theme of ShowYouSuck’s early career, his latest chapter is a decidedly welcome evolution in his somewhat autobiographical story-arc that sets a premium on the simple things in life.
He explains it best in his latest single, “Cool”, rapping: “Ya get free clothes at shows and sometimes free food too, and damnit that’s cool/Rappin is cool/We can watch the same TV shows all day while we’re in the same room, and damnit that’s cool/My boo is cool.”