Rapper Vincent Clouse, aka 1-natVson-1, traveled a long way before he settled on his mission: to reboot stripped-down, classic hip-hop with a spiritual message and a boom-bap beat.
On the day he was born in West Hollywood, the hospital gave him a T-shirt printed with the phrase "Born to Be a Star." But as the child of a mother who was almost always at work, he soon felt like he was born to scramble.
“I was in the streets immediately. By four or five, I was already out hustling,” he says. “But I was knocking on people’s doors: 'Can I pull your weeds? Can I take out your garbage?'”
His mother worked in the maintenance department at the Plaza Hotel in downtown L.A. There, as a kid, he met Michael Jackson and MC Hammer — and Hollywood stardom seemed like it might be attainable.
But in 1997, when he was ten years old, he moved to Junction City, Kansas, to stay with his sister, who had married a soldier stationed at Fort Riley. His mother fell onto hard times and soon joined them there.
Eventually, Clouse started a family of his own. That fell apart in 2011, when he was arrested for possession of cannabis with intent to sell and sent to Hutchison Correctional Facility.
“It was tough, man,” he recalls. “The day they took me was the day before my son’s third birthday. They did me real raw.”
When he got out, in 2015, he was sent to a transitional home in Wichita. There he became involved with the NAACP and got work as a union electrician. While he liked the job, he lost patience with his co-workers. After suffering through several violent police incidents, he was done with the state. “I said, ‘I just can’t do Kansas anymore. You guys are racist,’” he recalls.
So he finished parole, gained custody of his son, and in 2016 moved to Denver, where he threw himself into music. He started pounding the pavement, meeting people in the industry and doing what he could to get on big bills at venues.
His most recent project was Turn Up Tuesdays, a showcase at Herman's Hideaway for up-and-coming rappers. Part of his work nurturing the Denver hip-hop scene, he explains, is bringing the community strong business connections.
“It’s not about our unity we have amongst each other,” he says. “We need actual lines to corporate interest. It’s my duty to go in that space.”
Still, he’s less concerned about making money than he is with making music that can change the world. He just needs access to the industry to spread it.
His new track with MC Vivid Scientific, “Sol,” produced by Buttah Cookiez, is part of a six-song project called Interstellar Pastries. Each song on the album is named after a different astrological body: “Luna,” “Jupiter,” “Saturn,” “Mercury” and so on.
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“The themes of each song have to deal with that,” notes Clouse. “During 'Sol,' you’ll hear a lot of references to ancient, esoteric knowledge in regards to the sun.”
As he tells it, the album is part of a resurgence of narrative-driven hip-hop poetry, a deviation from the club music that so many of Denver artists are releasing. He's part of a budding movement of political, spiritual rappers, he explains.
“There is a time in hip-hop right now...we’re not out in the streets and hyping and running and jumping around,” he says. “It’s music you can listen to that has depth lyrically, yet also tells a story or flexes a muscle. It’s a display of lyricism, predominantly.”
Listen to more from 1-natvson-1 at his SoundCloud page.