Imagine waking up in a utopic world. Poverty and world hunger have been completely eradicated. Self-driving cars whiz through pristine streets. Planet Earth has been at peace for more than a decade, and a universal government has been established. A flute and saxophone playing, singer-songwriter and producer, with a voice that sounds like a John Legend, Kid Cudi, Frank Ocean hybrid, is one the most significant artists out. Alas, while we have a ways to go before we achieve world peace (fingers crossed for 2020), said dream artist does exist, and his name is Cautious Clay.
Less than a year ago, the Brooklyn based, Cleveland raised (shout out Cudi again) 24-year-old talent was working as a leasing agent marketer. Now? He’s accumulated more than one million plays on Soundcloud, is being hounded by major labels and has a rapidly expanding fan base that includes Zane Lowe of Beats 1. Clay’s buzz began with the release of his debut single, “Cold War,” back in September 2017, a minimalistic banger highlighting his lush, dynamic lead vocals, some powerful harmonics, and an addictive horn riff.
Clay followed up with an impressive debut project in February of this year; a six-song E.P. entitled Blood Type. The short project opens with swelling harmonies and bouncy tribal drums on the track “Silos,” as Clay switches effortlessly between falsettos and chest vocals. On “Joshua Tree,” Clay explores emotional isolation, explaining plainly, “Cause I, take fear in those who love me, low lighting with a gated entry… I don’t wanna be loved,” over a joyous instrumental, perhaps implying that he is beginning to understand and overcome these struggles. Clay’s voice sounds eerily similar to Cudi’s on track three, the title track, as he dives into subject matter similar to that of the song prior: “To the love of my life, I wish I was stable,” and the clever double entendre, “Yeah I’m type A, but you gotta be right, I must be lost.” On track four, “Juliet + Caesar,” mellow saxophones and some more vocal harmonies steal the show. Track five is Clay’s aforementioned debut single, “Cold War,” in which the singer critiques modern love: “Cause they only swipe right if you fuck for follows, welcome to the days of the broke and shallow.” The closing track, “Elsewhere,” takes on a more somber tone than the rest, featuring emotional acoustic guitars and a downcast yet catchy verse melody.
The Blood Type E.P. is a triumphant first at-bat for the talented multi-instrumentalist. Throughout the project, Clay displays an advanced grasp of vocal harmonics along with a knack for well-polished production that features a healthy mix of both live and electronic instruments. Clay opts for deep, cryptic lyricism, which sets him apart from most of his R&B contemporaries, many of whom settle for oversimplified and cliché lines. Musically, Clay excels on all fronts and has no apparent shortcomings; the sky is the limit for the young talent. Expect a “Cold War” music video soon and until then, enjoy this stripped-back acoustic version of the track.