Sometimes artists are put into boxes by listeners, or record labels, and sometimes artists are put into boxes due to their own fears of what might happen if they were to do anything different from what they’re known for. Tarik NuClothes, who’s rapped under a variety of monikers over the past decade-plus, knows the latter can oftentimes be the hardest kid of box to break out of. When he created the club song “Bubble Shaker,” however, which has proven to be a huge hit on and been featured everywhere from Jersey Shore to FOX NFL Sunday, he managed to achieve this. This week RapReviews caught up with Tarik NuClothes to find out more about his most recent transformation, the mental hurdles he had to get over in order to make it happen, and the ways in which he’s maintained his long-term relationship with music.

Adam Bernard: Before we get to your music, I want to know how you ended up with the surname NuClothes?

Tarik NuClothes: Aw man, it’s a term that represents a lot of things, that’s the reason I dubbed myself that. I’ve gone through a few name changes throughout my career, but NuClothes is what I use to represent the new state in which I am in right now. A lot of people use the phoenix, that represents emerging from the ashes as a new person. I wanted to get that transformative type of feel, but with something that’s more contemporary, something that more people are gonna feel, that kids are gonna understand and get, and something that’s gonna stick. The whole NuClothes thing is, I have a whole new view on not only just the rap game and my approach to it, but life in general, and I think that’s the only way you can accept life because life is all about change. You always have to put on new clothes. You don’t ALWAYS have to put on new clothes, you can be dirty and dingy, I get that, too, I understand that, but the same way you wear new clothes every day is the same way you have to approach life; life is nothing but change, constant change. That’s just a bit behind NuClothes.

AB: Going a little deeper into this idea of constant change and reinvention; in what ways do you feel you’ve reinvented yourself, or put on new clothes metaphorically?

TN: It’s a really love-hate relationship with the music game where at first it’s beautiful, it’s pure, it’s new, then you start hitting some bumps in the road and then you don’t know what’s going on with it. Sometimes in that relationship you have to change yourself as opposed to trying to change the other person. That’s kinda how I was looking at it with the music. My history started out straight underground. I traveled around the country with Edo G, Aceyalone, Souls of Mischief. I was with a group called Masterminds back in the day. I got my own label (Third Earth Music) in 2002 and we had some greats on it, from Juggaknots to Pumpkinhead. Jean Grae put one album out through it. Then I went into the People’s Army, RBG movement. That was another metamorphosis, another aspect of music, looking at it a different way. Every time I was just trying to see music in a different way, understand it, because it’s so elusive, it’s like water. Now, as I’ve grown even more I have everything that’s made me, and this new approach is just kinda like I love you, but you know what, fuck you at the same time, but I love you. It’s me just going there and trying to explore new avenues. The one avenue I’d never really explored was making club music. How would it sound to make music just for clubs? Alright, let me try a track like that. How about making it about something that I really like? I really like female asses. I’ve been very well versed in that since I was a teenager, so I was like let me make a song about that. It was breaking myself out of boxes that before I was like “nah, I can’t do that,” thinking about what other people (would say), my other friends who rhyme and all that, but I broke out of that and it was the best thing I could have done. It was transformative. It was like therapy to be able to explore that. So that’s the way in which I feel I have new clothes and have reinvented myself.

AB: When you made the change to the dance/club vibe did you find it harder to find places to perform in NYC being that most underground hip-hop shows and events focus on the opposite?

TN: Yeah, definitely, because it’s New York. I already knew and accepted that when I (made the change) because New York is straight underground right now. I don’t have any issues performing a lot of my old stuff because I’m still connected with a lot of those groups, so I’ll rock that, but I know to really turn the party out I usually have to go outside of New York because that’s where they’re more acceptive of it. What I realized is I don’t mind that because New York crowds, they’ll stand there. They’ll like your music, but they’ll just stand there while you’re performing. You’ll be spitting your heart out like this is the best verse I’ve ever written, what the hell’s wrong with you? Then when you’re done sometimes they’ll just clap and it won’t be that responsive, but at the end of the show they’ll be like “yo, that touched me.” So I understand the vibe in New York. New York’s real critical, real like “who’s this dude,” so I accepted that and it’s not a thing for me. I can switch it up however I want to, so that’s why it’s been OK for me.

AB: You’ve definitely seen success with it because your song honoring the booty, “Bubble Shaker,” has at one time been the most viewed, most shared, and highest rated video on the viewer-generated charts on

UL: Yeah, it’s crazy. It baffles me and my people. It’s like, after all these years all I had to do was write a song about shakin asses and beautiful women shakin their butts and everyone loves it. It was really just accepting the reality of the situation and taking that chance to see it as another form of art. How I explain it is Steven King can write books about whatever he wants, and Tom Cruise or Will Smith can do any type of movies they want, and no one’s super judging them saying “aw man, you sold out on that last movie. Last movie you were a Wall Street trader and this one you’re alone on the planet shooting things.” It’s not like that in music. We have all these boxes and constraints and you’re not allowed to explore without being judged harshly. When I got over that and got through that and made that song… it was just like sometimes you have to give the people what they want so that eventually they’ll want what you have to give. It’s just been like that. I have so much music ready for people that they’re gonna be like whoa. It’s gonna have that club vibe and all that, but they’re gonna see that there’s a lot more going on and that’s what I’m excited about.

AB: When it comes to that you have the album Emperor’s NuClothes. If someone has only heard “Bubble Shaker” what can they expect when they play the rest of the album?

TN: Say you were hanging out with your boys, think of the movie The Hangover, or imagine you were hanging out for a whole week just partying, you have a week off from work and you’re like let’s go to Vegas and rock – that’s the vibe. I wanted to approach this like let’s have fun this time around because I have a lot of social raps, a lot of content driven raps, super deep raps, and sometimes it can be a little heavy for people. I know a lot of young kids and I understand their feedback and I take it to heart. A lot of times they just want to feel good because life is fuckin hard for them a lot. I took that to heart and I made some light, club, party music on this album and it was so much fun, man. Everyone who hears it is like “I have that joint on blast whenever I can,” “if I’m feeling down I play this.” That makes me feel good.

AB: Knowing that you have this huge repertoire in terms of music, why did you feel it was a better idea to put together a thematic album, like this is gonna be club music, rather than putting together an album that has a club joint, that has a conscious joint, that has a joint for the streets, etc.?

TN: That’s a great question because as an artist you try to figure out what’s the best way to put together a project that’s gonna reach the most people. I sat down thinking about that and I felt that I wanted to go all out in one specific direction in terms of vibe and feel. It’s not just all crazy shallow raps, there’s content in it, but the overall vibe of the tracks and the flows that I present maintain that club vibe, that party vibe, that uptempo feel that’s been real popular. I think it was the best thing for me to do that consistently throughout one album as opposed to trying to mix it because Tarik NuClothes, he’s a beast, he’s a totally different animal, and I’m lovin it right now.

AB: You’ve received song placements on Jersey Shore, FOX NFL Sunday and the movie She’s Out of My League. Is there any way you can quantifiably see how those placements have made an impact on your career?

TN: Money-wise, yes, and then just from all the people that I know, to people that I don’t know, who are hearing the song being played when a car drives by. I really didn’t hear that that much with the underground music that I did, but I hear it now and it’s a great feeling. I understand where music is right now because, the way I look at it, man, I have a lot of friends who do music and in the state of the world, just to get on that topic real quick, you look at the economy, you see what’s going on, and a lot of people are struggling. I’m not here to point fingers at any artist who do what they do, or make the type of music they make, because at the end of the day a lot of music, or I should say definitely in hip-hop, a lot of it has been driven by people who want to survive the economy and people are sometimes just trying to make ends meet and they make certain music that they think will be popular. I know I kind of got off track, but I definitely have seen the results that have made me feel that I’m doing the right thing.

AB: Your producer, John Costello, is from Phoenix, AZ. How did you, a Queens, NY, guy, link up with producer from Phoenix?

TN: {*laughs*} That is a good question. It’s all linked through Fervor Records. Jeff Freundlich, I went to school with him, the head honcho over at Fervor Records. We hadn’t been in contact for years, but a mutual friend who always liked the music that I was doing he was like “Jeff is doing stuff out in Phoenix with music and with royalties and songwriting credits, you should check him out.” I gave Jeff a ring, I sent him some music, and he was like “I need some music that sounds like THIS, can you do that?” I went to the studio, and that was where I really started to explore dabbling into different types of sounds and music. He was loving it, so he was like “let’s do some more stuff, I think you can go places with this.” The one thing he said was “I really like what you’re doing, your lyrics are crazy, but your beats, you need some hotter beats.” I was like just send me some beats. He sent me the first batch of beats and I was like DUDE. I always wondered how Guru could stick with Premier for so long and how CL Smooth stuck with Pete Rock. Even though they’re amazing, to stick with that one type of producer for so long, that’s a credit to that relationship. When I heard those beats (by Costello) it was like man, this dude is a genius. You could tell by his sound that he doesn’t just do hip-hop and that’s what got me. You heard all the instrumentation. You know he dabbles in all types of music, you can tell by the sound, so I knew I would be able to explore different types of songwriting with that type of sound. We developed a great musical marriage in that sense.

AB: Finally, with your affinity for fine clothing I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask if you have a favorite pair of kicks.

TN: Oooh, let’s see. Honestly, I have to say it would be the Jeremy Scott Adidas with the wing flaps. I know those are crazy, but I’ve never seen anyone wear them but Lil’ Wayne. I like them because they represent a lot, trying to lift off against gravity in these days and times. Those kicks are crazy. And I don’t know if you know the Greedy Genius line of sneakers, I think they’re based out of Japan, hey have these limited edition Woodstock 1969 joints… CRAZY!