A few years back, my former colleague Mitch Kastoff sent me a link to a music video by YG. I ignored the title and just watched. Within the first few seconds, I did a double-take, left my house and took an eye exam to make sure I wasn’t seeing things. Not actually but I was surprised.
Will Claye, fresh off winning a silver medal in the triple jump and a bronze medal in the long jump in London, not only stood alongside one of the top up-and-coming rappers but he had his own verse and a “featuring Will Claye” in the song title.
You can check out the dope music video above. It’s got more than 41 million views on Youtube. Track heads can appreciate lines like “Could’ve switched occupations / Jumped on the track just for vacations.”
So with Citius Mag celebrating Music Week, I shot Claye a text message to see if we could catch up for a couple minutes. We put track and field aside about how the YG music video came together and what’s in store for his musical career:
Chris Chavez: First thing’s first. How’d you get in touch with YG and how did that song come together?
Will Claye: Man, we had mutual friends in L.A. and so one night we just linked up and became friends. It’s just one of those things where you meet someone and things click. We had pretty similar backgrounds but he was raised in L.A. and I’m from Arizona. I was telling him about how my boy is a producer and his name is Mitch. I was telling him how he was pretty good and we could maybe collaborate to do a song together. So he invited me to the studio. I flew out from Florida to L.A. for about a day. Mitch was with me. I played him some of my boy’s beats. YG fell in love with one of the tracks and just went in there and started recording. I was like “Oh shoot. This is really happening. We’re recording right now.” He kind of just led the way. I put my few bars and add my touch to it with some track references. YG took the song and ran with it. It ended up being one of his biggest songs that he’s ever put out and it was my first song that I ever put out. That was historical.
CC: One day? That’s all it took?
WC: Not even a day. One night. We recorded it in just a couple hours.
CC: How long did it take to come up with your verse?
WC: I wrote my verse that night. I was just thinking about things that I had going on. I was back from London and so I mentioned how I was flying all over the place. I talked about how I tried to build a foundation for my family and friends so they could make a living and things like that. YG did the same thing. The way he rapped on there and the chorus that he had, that’s how he was living at the time. We put it out there and it was a hit.
CC: It came naturally. So I’m guessing the music video was another day and a totally different shoot?
WC: He called me one day and said, “Hey man, we’re shooting the video this weekend. Can you make it?” I was in Florida again and was like “Uhhhh…yeah. If we’re shooting a video I have to make it.” Mitch and I jumped on a flight and shot that video in a whole day. It was mostly YG’s people but it was cool being around all of them and having fun. It wasn’t scripted. We were just all having a good time together.
CC: Did you hold onto your medals the entire time?
WC: (Laughs) I had them around my neck so it was all good. I wasn’t worried about anyone trying to take them. Everyone cherished them. It was cool. No one was snatching my chain.
CC: Has hip-hop always been part of your escape from athletics or have you found a way to balance both before?
WC: I’ve been recording music since i was 10 or 11 years old. Me and my friends would record songs off our radio. You know how back in the day you could put the tape in there and record. We were doing that when we were kids. Even when I got to high school, I would record songs for my football team and drop everyone’s name in there. I’ve always been making music but it was always something for me and my boys. It never got out to the masses. I’m very critical of myself. At the time, I was kind of scared. I don’t know how people would take it. As of lately, I feel like that the music that I’m making can be impactful in someone else’s life and bring love and joy. Music is a very powerful thing. It can people feel so many different types of ways. From the place that I’m at in my life, I want it to be a positive impact and be able to help people.
Now is the time for me to put out more music. This off-season, I recorded a whole album after the Olympics.
CC: What’s the timeline looking like on that?
WC: It’s going to come out soon. Very soon. It’s done on my end. Other people are working on things on other ends but it’s going to come out really soon.
CC: From your experience with YG, did it give you some more insight into the commercial side of the business industry? You’re not doing this full-time since you still have track going on but what did you learn about it for the future.
WC: I see it pretty similar to track. It’s a business. At the same time, there’s a fun side. In track, we compete. For them, when they get to go out and perform at concerts, that’s fun. There’s business involved but there’s not much of a difference. I mean I was definitely exposed to a lot of different things from YG telling me. But there was always a correlation between that and track.
CC: We saw the two medals in the last music video. You added another one in Rio with a silver in the triple jump. That’s going to be featured in the next one, right?
WC: Nah! I didn’t bust out the medals for the new video. I kept those out.
CC: Who can we expect on the new album? Will YG be on it?
WC: Nah. I’ve got a song with my boy Mitch. I’ve got a song with Taylor Bennett (Chance the Rapper’s little brother). I’ve got a couple other people on there. It’s my best music that I’ve put out.
CC: Chance the Rapper’s younger brother is just one degree of separation from Chance. Is there someone who you would really want to work with?
WC: I want to work with Erykah Badu. I want to work with Pharrell. I want to work with Andre 3000. I want to work with Kendrick Lamar.
CC: Those would all be huge.
WC: Yeah…I want to work with Dr. Dre. That would be huuuuuge.
CC: Who else in track can rap?
WC: Omar Craddock. (bursts out laughing) We would freestyle in our living room in Florida sometimes when we were bored.
CC: Who thinks they can rap but they can’t?
WC: That’s a good one! Uh…Tony McQuay. He thinks he can rap but it’s not working
CC: I’m sure you may have thought about this since it’s a fairly common question within the rap game. Give me your top five rappers dead or alive.
WC: Top five. Alright, you have to go Tupac. You have to go Biggie. Kendrick Lamar. Oh man..I’ve got to say Lauryn Hill. She’s one of them for me. The fifth? Hmmm…after Lauryn Hill…damn…that’s tough.
CC: Once you put Tupac and Biggie on there, we’re just working with three spots.
WC: Yeah and we’re talking real rappers. I would like to say…Ah…Jay-Z.
CC: Jay-Z over Nas, Kanye, Eminem and others?
WC: Eminem is dope. He’s top 10. But those are all dope rappers for sure.