'Crazy life' for Conant alum and hip-hop/rap artist TooSmooth

 
 
Posted6/9/2015 5:30 AM
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  • Hip-hop/rap artist TooSmooth, whose real name is William McClam, poses by a Chicago squad car while at the Warner Bros. movie studio. McClam, a former Schaumburg resident and graduate of Conant High School, writes music for movies in Hollywood.

    Hip-hop/rap artist TooSmooth, whose real name is William McClam, poses by a Chicago squad car while at the Warner Bros. movie studio. McClam, a former Schaumburg resident and graduate of Conant High School, writes music for movies in Hollywood. courtesy of TooSmooth

  • Hip-hop/rap artist TooSmooth, right, poses with Grammy winning music producer Ricky Kej at a Grammy party in February, 2015.

    Hip-hop/rap artist TooSmooth, right, poses with Grammy winning music producer Ricky Kej at a Grammy party in February, 2015. courtesy of TooSmooth

  • Hip-hop/rap artist TooSmooth had the inspirational words of his track coach at Conant High School tattooed on his chest. The second sentence of the tattoo, "Don't chase dreams. Ride right beside them," are lyrics from his first song. "It's there to remind me how far I've come," he said.

    Hip-hop/rap artist TooSmooth had the inspirational words of his track coach at Conant High School tattooed on his chest. The second sentence of the tattoo, "Don't chase dreams. Ride right beside them," are lyrics from his first song. "It's there to remind me how far I've come," he said. courtesy of TooSmooth

Hip-hop/rap artist TooSmooth (real name William McClam) took the inspirational words of his Conant High School track coach to heart.

He also tattooed them across his chest.

"Let your first race be your worst race" were the uplifting words Conant coach John Powers said to the teenage McClam after he had run poorly in a track meet. McClam had just moved to Schaumburg from a rough neighborhood on Chicago's South Side and was struggling to believe in himself.

"He said, 'You don't have to worry about that life (in Chicago) anymore. You can be anything you want to be,'" McClam said. "It's been with me, and my music has taken off ever since."

McClam, 22, now lives in Los Angeles and is writing music for Hollywood movie studios, including Warner Bros. and Paramount Pictures. He's also working on two new albums, both due out next year, and is toying with the idea of launching a sports agency business on the side.

"Everything, this is meant to happen," McClam said. "It's a crazy life."

After graduating early from Conant and receiving a music scholarship to Full Sail University in Florida, McClam started writing and recording songs while learning everything he could about the music business. He launched his own publishing company, Lights Out Entertainment.

"I was trying to be ahead of what everyone else was doing," he said. "I wanted to be able to write the song, produce the song, distribute the song ... because I know if I didn't do it, no one else would. I'm not the type of person to wait around for someone else to help me out."

His first single, "About You," was made using a keyboard and a laptop in his home office. It got picked up by MTV, Spotify and a radio station in the United Kingdom. It also was among 300 songs on the 2014 Grammy Award ballot for Best Rap Song. While the song didn't end up being a finalist, people in the industry took note.

Last year, after Warner Bros. executives heard his song "Future Dreams" -- his biggest single to date -- they flew McClam to California to talk about some music licensing opportunities. McClam ended up moving to California last September "with 52 songs and big dreams," he said.

Those dreams are coming true.

McClam is regularly asked to write original music for specific movie scenes, or sometimes he submits his pre-written songs. None of his music has appeared in movies yet, and he's contractually prohibited from talking about the movies he's writing for. He said it's a long process.

However, he did share that he was asked by Universal Studios to write a song for a party scene in "Furious Seven," and they gave him the dialogue as inspiration. His song wasn't chosen, but he said it was fun to write music and get an early look at part of the script for such a big movie.

"My songwriting is storytelling in the first place. And a movie is basically a moving story," he said. "That makes my style blossom more. I can run with my imagination."

TooSmooth also hopes to start doing more live performances. At a show he did this spring, famed producer Harmony Samuels -- who has worked with artists like Ne-Yo, Ariana Grande and Jennifer Lopez -- encouraged him to keep doing what he's doing.

That includes work on an album of love songs, called "Be Mine," and another record called "Promise Land." Some of the songs from these upcoming albums are among those he's pitching to movie studios.

"(The album) is a whole bunch about staying focused, and continuing what you believe in, until you get to the promised land," he said. "I'm trying to get to that peak of what my life and career should be. To me, California is the promised land."

-- Jamie Sotonoff

• Dann Gire and Jamie Sotonoff are always looking for people from the suburbs who are now working in showbiz. If you know of someone who would make an interesting feature, email them at dgire@dailyherald.com and jsotonoff@dailyherald.com.

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