I listen to A LOT of albums in one sitting. Most don’t make it past the third song, but every once in a while there’s one that so obviously shines through that I let it ride. The other day, in the midst of spinning 11 albums, the one that was head and shoulders above the rest was Chris Clay’s mixtape, The Christening. After reading up on him I found out he’s from Minnesota, which has one of the best hip-hop scenes in the country, but he moved away from it for the sunnier skies of California. Wanting to know more, I gave him a shout and not only did I find out everything behind the move, and his music, I received quite the education in the legal marijuana distribution business as Clay worked at a dispensary for nearly a full year. Minnesota, Music and Mary Jane – now that’s a holy trinity a lot of us can get down with.

Adam Bernard: You’re from Minnesota, but you recently moved to California. With Minnesota having such a great hip-hop scene with Rhymesayers and Doomtree and a bunch of other fantastic crews, why did you make that move?

Chris Clay: To work in the medicinal marijuana distribution business, (but) right now I’m hardcore pursuing a career in hip-hop entertainment. I already had the position (at the dispensary) when I moved out here. My man from Minneapolis, his girlfriend is from San Diego and they had recently moved back there and had a family business that was going on and had a couple positions open. My man kicked the door open for me. I just came down. I didn’t really have much going on up in Minnesota anyways as far as everything else, so it was like I had an epiphany, it was time for me to make that move and that opportunity for me was right there. I became a budtender, which is a real job. I was getting straight paychecks with taxes taken out of them. That was my gig for like nine months.

AB: Budtender may be the coolest title ever.

CC: And the coolest job ever. I learned so much I became like a weed connoisseur and everything was all legit. It was crazy.

AB: Do you think we’re on our way to legalization?

CC: Certainly. It’s gonna take a little while, but California, it was on the bill just a few months back. It didn’t pass, but I’m pretty sure the next time around it’ll pass. It’s gonna take a little while for the rest of the country to jump on, but before you know it the whole country is gonna be smoking pot legally.

AB: As someone who’s seen the inside, what are some of the things the public isn’t expecting when it comes to legal weed?

CC: The government wants to tax it and make money on it, but there are so many skeptics in this country that are closed minded and only see it as straight dope and don’t even know the real effects. People knock it before they even try it. It’s the same old story, everybody has their own opinion about things. That’s gonna be the hardest part, getting those nonbelievers and people that are closed minded about it to convert, but it’s gonna be to a point where it’s common for everybody to purchase and use (marijuana) for recreation. That’ll be the next step. Honestly, I already feel like behind closed doors everybody smokes weed.

AB: If tax happens, The Luniz “I Got 5 on It” is gonna have to be changed to “I Got $5.75 on It.”

CC: Exactly! {*laughs*} That’s exactly what it’ll be. You gotta throw that extra tax on it.

AB: What else has changed for you since you moved to California?

CC: That opened the door. When I got the job in the dispensary that’s actually how I met the CEO of MIM, the label I’m signed to. He was a patient of mine. I slid him one of my old mixtapes, Sotafied, which was the last one I recorded before I moved. Before he even got home he turned around and drove back to the shop and hollered at me. I feel like it was fate that me and him met. We got so much in common and we just link it so well that it just took off form there. We started recording and putting together projects, traveling, doing shows. Everything started popping off.

AB: Going back a little bit, 2007 was a terrible year for you. You were released from your record contract and you your girlfriend of five years tragically passed away.

CC: That was one of the main things that made me have that epiphany to hit the road. That was definitely the hardest part of my life thus far. I fell back from making music in general.

AB: How do you think your two year break from music helped shape you as a man and an artist?

CC: It all has become a part of who I am. It was a growth process. I matured a lot and I evolved into not only the artist that I am, but the man that I am. At the end of the day you have to understand whatever you go through makes you stronger. I just feel like that made me evolve totally, made me who I am; Chris Clay, with the whole artistry and my whole self as a human being and a man.

AB: Now you’re hitting listeners with The Christening. How do you feel that title is indicative of what the album represents?

CC: That’s the mixtape, actually. The title is really, a lot of people can see that and take it the wrong way. I’ve been getting asked if I’m a gospel rapper or if this is Christian rap. What it really is is my friend threw it out there to me and I thought about it. What stood out was the Chris in it and making it something that’s catchy with my name. When I actually looked up the word and saw what it means the third definition of Christening is the act or instance of naming or dedicating something new. I was like damn, that shit just melted in my head like this is it. This is something new, this whole MIM thing. I had just signed a deal at that time and everything was flowing and new and fresh and I’m just like this is the dedication of everything new, it’s all starting right here with this project, The Christening. This is it.

AB: How is the Chris Clay on this album different from the Chris Clay of 2006 who released The Passion of the Chris?

CC: {*laughs*} Oh my gosh, I still cringe at times when I listen to that. I was such a young boy and influenced and letting (those influences) take over what I was doing as an artist instead of me being me and doing my thing as an artist. At the time I was young and dumb and thought I knew everything. I thought I was tough, a tough guy, but I went through so much in-between that span this is a whole new, mature, me, not only as far as subject matter goes, but the main thing is my lyricism. The level of quality of the lyrics is just through the roof in my eyes.

AB: The Christening has industry beats. Are you working on a project with original production right now?

CC: Yeah. A couple weeks ago I released an EP, the first of an EP series. That’s the main thing right now. It’s on iTunes, Amazon. It’s all original. That’s my heart and soul right now, (it’s titled) FTW. It’s the first of a series that’s probably going to be a trilogy. This is all stuff that’s leading up to the debut album. I’m just trying to promote and develop more of a buzz and be heard a little more and showcase my skill and worth.

AB: Now, the EPs are gonna be a good trilogy, like the first three Star Wars movies, not a bad trilogy, like the most recent three, right?

CC: Yeah yeah, not the ones that get crappy by the time you get to the last one. My thing is always being better. I won’t release music. I got music that people will never hear. I won’t release it unless I feel it’s a step up from the last thing I recorded.

AB: You are Mr. SixFiftyOne, a nickname that’s derived from your hometown’s area code. Not to make myself feel too old, but did you grow up in the Kirby Puckett era, or the Torii Hunter era?

CC: Actually, I was born in a year when the Twins won the World Series (1987), so I got highlights of Kirby Puckett. I’m a diehard Kirby Puckett fan because of who he is, but I didn’t really get to watch him, I was such a kid. I remember Torii Hunter vividly. I still go hard with the Vikes, too. The Twins do better than the Vikes do. The Vikes looked pretty bad this year.

AB: Has Brett Favre sent you any texts of his genitals?

CC: {*laughs*} I did the joint “Purp N Yellow,” I was trying to get it to the Vikes, but nah Brett Favre didn’t hit me with no sexual texts. Someone told me that he was lacking size in the picture.

AB: I’ve heard that, too, but I’m not about to go doing a Google Image Search for it.

CC: I’m not searching for it either. I’ll just take their word.

AB: What are you most excited about career-wise in 2011?

CC: Getting out and entertaining more, doing shows. I love to record, and I love for people to hear my music on disc, but my main thing is being on stage and entertaining. I just want to get out and be seen and be heard and watched and entertain. That’s my main thing.

AB: Did you have any other new year’s resolutions, or is that your only one?

CC: I started my new year’s resolution early. I’m a big dude, so I’ve been hitting the gym. I’ve dropped 15 pounds and I’m eating a little better. I haven’t really dropping any of my bad habits, though. I’m still smoking and drinking like a motherfucker, that ain’t changed.