Photo: Mason Mills
Clockwork DJ released Super Beats Tape in 2022.
Garrett Uddin, known locally and globally as Clockwork DJ (or DJ Clockwork, or to fans and friends, simply Clock), is feeling – how do we say this delicately? – under the weather. He spoke at an Art Academy of Cincinnati event the previous evening and then DJ’ed the afterparty, where there was an open bar. Hence the oppressive weight of the…weather.
That weight is almost immediately lifted once Clock begins talking animatedly about the past four years and how his career and life have taken a turn that he could never have predicted, all because of his best friend’s death. The Cincinnati native/New York City resident beams while discussing his newest recording project, Super Beats Tape
, and his confidence overflows as he details plans for a future that didn’t seem at all bright in September 2018.
“I’m gifted at a lot of things that people don’t know,” says Clock. “I want to start using those other gifts.”
In the 2000s, Clock’s local profile as a rising young DJ exploded into the national and international consciousness when local hip hop promoter Sean Herron introduced Clock to his new signing, a teenage rapper named Mac Miller. Miller’s first studio album, 2011’s Blue Slide Park
, became the first independently-distributed album to debut in the top slot on the Billboard 200 album chart in over a decade and a half.
For the subsequent nine years, Clock was Miller’s official DJ and became one of his closest friends, accompanying him in the studio and providing the soundtrack for every tour.
“I spent nine years on the road with Mac, like, this is my brother,” says Clock. “People who understand touring understand how quick you can develop a family with someone.”
Things came to a tragic halt when Miller died of an accidental overdose in 2018; three men were subsequently arrested for providing Miller with prescription medication that was laced with fentanyl. Clock’s world was suddenly in shambles; Miller hadn’t toured in months because he was recording the songs that ultimately comprised his posthumous album, Circles, and Clock was looking forward to the payday of hitting the road to promote the new release. That payday never materialized.
“It was fucked up when he passed, I’ll be honest,” says Clock. “It was a lightning bolt to the heart. I had to figure out what I was going to do. Keep DJing? The problem was I had promised Mac would never DJ for another artist, ever, and I wanted to stick by that. So I had to recalibrate my whole way of thinking.”
Clock knew he would never stop making and presenting music, so production and straight DJ gigs were still in play, but his immediate concern was paying the bills (“I live in New York City,” he says. “Things aren’t cheap.”).
His friend Shyvonne Sanganoo had previously tried to enlist his services as a teaching artist for a non-profit organization in New York called Urban Arts Partnership, and he made vague promises to check out their facilities but never followed through on them. In the immediate aftermath of Miller’s death, Clock ran into Sanganoo, ironically at The House of Yes club in New York, and she quickly chastised him for his inaction.
“She gave me this whole speech, and I said, ‘I’m gonna come check you out on Monday,’ and she was like, ‘No you ain’t. I don’t believe you,’” Clock recalls with a laugh. “I ended up going, though, on Monday. She gave me the whole tour and I talked to all the supervisors. I ended up taking the teaching artist position and that changed my life forever.”
“I never got a natural high in my life before teaching those kids. I’m not a teacher, I don’t have kids, I’m not around kids. To go into a classroom in New York City – the mecca of hip hop – and teach DJing to kids in Harlem and they love every minute of it, that is crazy fulfilling, man,” Clock says. “There are kids that graduated and are pursuing DJ careers because of the class I taught. I’ve never felt anything like that in my life.”
Clock has also been busy in the studio. Last year, he put together Remixxed
, a reimagined compilation of Miller’s tunes to celebrate what would have been the rapper’s 29th birthday. And this year, Clock dropped his debut solo studio album, a beats release titled Super Beats Tape
, an 8-bit videogame soundtrack exhibiting his production skills and musical intuition.
“Super Beats Tape
is a project that’s been stemming for two or three years,” says Clock. “It was a bunch of beats I’d been making that maybe I’d sent to an artist and they didn’t use them or beats I made that weren’t being used for anything. So I was doing this cleaning session on my computer and I was like, ‘Yo, I have so many beats. If I put out a beats tape, it will show my production side in addition to being something people can go listen to.’”
“People always had a liking for my production because it’s unique, so it came from years of production and being ignored,” Clock continues. “I was like, ‘Fuck it, let me do my own thing.’”
In addition to Clock’s teaching artist work at Urban Arts, he secured a consulting gig with a high school affiliated with UA, which has led to more teaching opportunities for students interested in DJing and music production. UA also has a relationship with several jails in New York, and Clock has signed up for that option as well.
“I haven’t done it yet, but I’m the only one on the list because none of the other teachers want to do it,” he says with a laugh. “I’m like, ‘Let me in there.’”
The only thing that slowed Clock’s recent progress was the COVID quarantine, and even that wasn’t a major issue. After getting through that time with, as he describes it, “music and a lot of weed,” he continued his personal reinvention and is venturing down new paths this year. He’s just dropped his contribution to the NFT milieu with a five-track remix package titled 5for5
through Limewire, which has rebranded as an NFT marketplace, and he’s at work on what he calls his “DJ Khalid-type album,” with a lot of features from his many musical friends.
Clock also is in the midst of creating a second volume of Remixxed
as a tribute to Miller. While some might wonder if listening to Miller’s catalog might trigger bouts of grief, Clock sees it as a labor of love.
“I’m making the mix, I’m hearing his voice and I’m excited about it. I’m hearing how things are shaping up, like, ‘This is about to be fire,’ and in that moment, I’m just being creative,” says Clock. “I might hear a certain line where I was in the studio when he recorded it and it might hit a little differently. Those are moments when I pause the music and it hits me, like, ‘Bro is really gone. We used to do some crazy shit.’”
In some ways, Clock says he feels like being the caretaker for Miller’s legacy is part of his purpose going forward. He also acknowledges that between that and the energy he’s devoted to reblazing his career trail, he hasn’t had many opportunities to truly mourn the loss of his best friend.
“When he passed, I cried, but I was in a stuck position,” says Clock. “It’s been weird. I’ve tried to accept it, but I might not even know how to accept it. I might not know how to grieve. I just try to stay creative and be super grateful for the time I did have with him.”
Part of that gratitude extends to Miller’s fanbase, who have defended Clock against any number of internet trolls.
“Shout out to the Macheads, because I know they’ll be reading this,” says Clock. “They’ve always had my back whenever anybody posts something negative. I’ve done DJ gigs where I’ll play a set of Mac’s music, and people will come up and say, ‘Man, you never hear Mac in clubs. Thanks for playing that.’ Sometimes they’ll recognize me, but a lot of times, they just tell me how Mac changed their lives and how much he meant to them, and I just say, ‘Me too. Rest in peace, Mac. Blessings.’”
“If I have the platform to keep my friend’s legacy alive, I will,” Clock continues. “I’d want him to do that for me, you know? I just want to keep his name fresh.”
To learn more about Clockwork DJ and his upcoming projects, visit gotclockwork.com.
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