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Saint Petersburg, Florida, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2012

Saint Petersburg, Florida, United States
Established on Jan, 2012
Band Alternative Hip Hop




"Meet The Real Clash"

Sometimes, seeing a local act perform without having any expectations beforehand pays off. On very rare occasions, you’re left reeling, struck by a sense of revelation — the feeling that you’re witnessing fresh uncharted talent that could blow up and out of the scene at any moment.

That’s how I felt when I discovered The Real Clash. I’d stopped to hear them out of curiosity: Just how good could a hip-hop ensemble from St. Petersburg College actually be?

I was captivated within the first few minutes.

The instrumentalists were focused and locked in tight. They knew how to step back and let things breathe while the two verse-trading emcees and sultry-voiced vocalist took the spotlight, and when to step in and turn the mix and energy up. The nine-piece held it down like pros in a way that seemed effortless, demonstrating the sort of easy chemistry and dynamic stage presence that some veteran bands still have trouble achieving, and brimmed with an infectious exuberance and upbeat vigor that filled the room.

I had to find out more.

The Real Clash grew out of SPC’s two-year Music Industry Recording Arts (MIRA) program, which is dedicated to delivering real-world training to its students, all within a collaborative environment.

Lead instructor and department administrator Mark Matthews designed the program from scratch more than six years ago, drawing from a wellspring of experience writing music for film and TV in LA. He’s made a point of only hiring educators with professional credibility.

“Not to put academics down, because they can teach you how to play and how to be a good musician, but it’s hard for somebody who’s never been out there to teach you how to make a living as a musician,” Matthews asserts.

MIRA students gain relevant skills and insight generally missing from bigger pricier schools like Full Sail, not to mention free access to three versatile state-of-the-art audio production suites/classrooms.

“These students need to know what they’re up against when they get out there. And every single person we have on staff has ‘made a noise for money.’”

MIRA courses are organized so that students from all three “specialty tracks” (performance, composition and production) are required to work with students in contrasting tracks, using what they’ve learned about technology and recording to collaborate on live campus showcases and MIRA compilation CDs issued at each semester’s end. Students learn how to manage projects in both live and studio settings, how to seek out the right people to get desired results (which means enlisting help from artists outside their specialty), and how to be successful when working with people they may not know or like.

“Once you get to Tech 4, the last semester of the program, you’ve worked with, if not everyone there, then alongside them, and you’ve grown and evolved together,” explains The Real Clash’s frontman/lyricist Rashad “Shadcore” Harrell. This means that most of the Real Clash members had already established working relationships before they were approached to join the ensemble co-founded by Rashad and fellow MIRA producer/lyricist Jay “Jay Acolyte” Wilson.

The twosome originally planned to follow the school’s already-existing model for rock and jazz ensembles: establish the curriculum for hip-hop, then pass the torch to a new group after a semester. But they wanted to write their own material. “That’s what made us different from the jump,” says Rashad. “All the other ensembles do covers; we wanted to do original compositions.”

They also wanted to enlist real instrumentalists. “I always felt like there was something more that could happen from having a live band behind you. The energy is just different,” Jay stresses, and Rashad agrees. “It’s just more electrifying with those live acoustic sounds coming from behind your ears. And there’s so much more you can do on the fly.”

They didn’t want just anybody to sign up, however, so they brainstormed a wish list of potential candidates and began reaching out. Everyone they contacted came on board, and the lineup has remained almost the same to this day, with the exception of recently added keyboardist Jordan Walker.

Months later, they’d written, played and recorded some first-rate material, delivered buzz-worthy performances around the SPC campus, and were trying to figure out what to do once the semester was done and credit earned. Their creativity was still flowing, chemistry swiftly growing, everyone was having a good time, so why quit?

“You will be doing yourself a disservice if you cut it off after this semester is over,” Rashad remembers Matthews saying after he saw the ensemble perform at a campus event. “You should take it outside of these four walls.” Matthews’ encouragement solidified the band’s decision to make The Real Clash a full-fledged (off-campus) group.

“The Real Clash are representative of our goal — to teach the kids how to band together,” Matthews explains. “What I really love about it, and the payoff for me, is that they did it themselves. We provided the forum, we provided the room for them to rehearse, and we provide a mentor, in their case [SPC instructor and La Lucha bassist] Alejandro Areñas. But they wrote all their own material, they worked at it, perfected it, and brought it out to the public, and the public likes it. What’s more perfect than that?”

A few members of The Real Clash are still enrolled in the MIRA program, others have graduated and juggle full-time jobs, internships, other bands, solo careers, family. But as Rashad puts it, “Everyone makes the time for this because we all really enjoy playing together. There’s no egos, nobody stepping on each others’ toes … we realize there’s enough room for everyone to get their shine. And when that happens, the whole group shines.

“One thing we couldn’t predict was how the chemistry was going to flow. We all knew each other’s work just from being in the program. But you don’t know until you get together and see, if it’s going to work,” says Rashad, “But it works so good, it gels so good.”

The name, originally The Real Clash of the Titans (for the SPC mascot), mostly represents a clash of styles. “But not in a bad way, or in a way that doesn’t work; it’s going against what you might expect,” Rashad says. This includes diving into other genres — funk, reggae, Latin, rock, R&B — to get to the Real Clash’s eclectic sound. “Jay came up with a tagline we’ve adopted. ‘This is hip-hop redefined.’ That’s how I approach composing something new and whenever we talk about the live performance, I think, how can we redefine the status quo?”

This includes tearing down stereotypes about what, exactly, hip-hop is. Rashad isn’t trying to work a message into every song, but he recognizes the power his words can have and uses them as wisely as possible. “Just being the way I was raised, I’m gonna try to say something substantial, something that could enrich your life, enrich your thinking, make you a better person or make you want to pay it forward or say something nice or encouraging to the next person. As a lyricist, I’m going to try to say that as creatively as possible. I hate it when you can predict what an artist is gonna rhyme.”

Lyrics are thought-provoking and intelligent but not always serious; trademark set-closing track “Effigy” comments on hip-hop clichés, posturing, and staying true to yourself no matter what your background. The chorus — “This what hip-hop looks like, thought it was all thugged out like Suge Knight? All I need is a beat and a good mic, putting stereotypes to bed like, ‘Good Night!’” — seems to sum it up perfectly. “It’s definitely about trying to make people think something different,” Jay says.

The group is diverse in background and age (from 21-year-old guitarist Andrew Roden to 44-year-old drummer Mark Vance), but that diversity — and their easygoing camaraderie — helps them complement each other’s strengths. Rashad takes command of the crowd as soon as he steps to the stage, all bluster and punchlines, while Jay brings the more deliberate flowing, laid-back creeper attack. Eliana Blanchard is the soaring vocal anchor and hype gal in their midst, not to mention an eye-catching stunner with flowing hair and a 100-watt smile. Jordan adds sonic layering, texturing and grooves, while Mark trades off drumming and percussive duties with Travis Young, also a beat-boxing whiz. Bassist Taylor Gilchrist covers the low-end frequencies, DJ Rollin Covell complements the rhythm section with digi turntable scratches, sound effects, and audio samples, and Roden adds rocking guitar riffs and searing solos.

The band is currently a dozen tracks deep on a debut album for 2014, but haven’t set a concrete release date yet. They have a title, however: Clash Wednesday. “That’s the day that we practice; we get together on Wednesdays and make the magic happen,” Rashad explains.

The Real Clash has played several off-campus gigs since their first this past April. While the biggest one so far — opening for Method Mad and Redman at Cuban Club last month — wasn’t quite what any of them expected (the set was cut short and they were only able to play three songs), they all seemed to take something from the experience. Plus, they were exposed to a new appreciative audience and got to unleash a brand new track, “The Kraken,” that got everyone’s attention.

“Looking back at the video, I see us performing and lights flashing.” Rashad says optimistically. “Everyone was trying to get a shot of us. I just thought that was pretty cool.”

Listen to "Embrace" at and download the track for a donation, with all funds to go to the Typhoon Haiyan relief fund. - Creative Loafing Tampa by Leilani Polk

"The Real Clash: The newest, funkiest faces in Tampa Bay hip hop"

"Clash" is sort of a misnomer when considering St. Petersburg's eight-member funk/hip hop ensemble The Real Clash. If anything, it's a harmonious gathering of local music prodigies creating a groove-heavy yet still insightful listening experience.

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Eight members sound cumbersome until you realize they're a live band with two emcees and a vocalist who can jam about anything — even monkey dung.

"I'll never forget that song," said Travis "Big T" Young, 23, the band's drummer, as he started to nod his head to an imagined beat and emcee Rashad "Shadcore" Harrell, 38, hummed the rhythm they'd improvised at a show where they'd taken suggestions for topics from the crowd.

"I don't want it / I don't need it / If it ain't funky like monkey dung," sang vocalist Eliana "Voxx" Blanchard, 22, the only lady in the group, as her bandmates joined in to reenact the jam.

This is how the sausage is made for The Real Clash. Someone introduces a starting point, a bass line or lyrics, and it takes off from there. Everyone becomes a co-writer.

Not bad for a group that met in a course at St. Petersburg College's two-year Music Industry Recording Arts Program. Each member was recruited to be part of the collective to compose original music and stage a performance as a final project. After their performance, their professors encourage them to keep it going.

More than two years later, the class is over, but the band is not. Their debut album, Clash Wednesday, is expected to be released this year, and they're piling up local live performances, establishing a foothold in the local music scene.

"We've recorded about 11 tracks," said Jay "Jay Acolyte" Wilson, 35, emcee and official cat-herder for the group. "Once we put the finishing touches on those, we'll only have a couple more to go."

From rocking the stage at St. Pete's Whigfest to an upcoming gig at Tropical Heatwave, local promoters have recognized the rare find that is the Real Clash. Sonically pleasing without being repetitive or loop heavy, their stock-in-trade is fun, mostly positive and thought-provoking lyrics.

"I love that this band is positive," said Jordan "J-Walk" Walker, 23, who plays keyboards. "I grew up in the church and I was sort of used to hearing these kinds of things there, and they are all about the positive lyrics. I think that's why we gel together so well."

With so much of rap geared toward sex, hot bodies, money and drugs, Harrell said their change of pace is filling the void for hip-hop fans.

"We're not into that kind of crap," said Andrew "AR-15" Roden, 21, who plays guitar. "I don't want to be uber-philosophical, but art at times has to be an elevation of culture, using the best abilities of man to communicate."

The message: Hip-hop isn't one thing, it's all things. The Real Clash has even started wearing and selling shirts with the slogan "This is what hip-hop looks like" with arrows pointing up at the wearer's face.

Blanchard is one of those faces you don't often see in hip- hop, a pixie belter with some funky undertones in clean voice.

"It definitely draws attention when I'm the only girl on stage, but these guys are like my brothers," said Blanchard.

As Harrell added, "It doesn't hurt that she's good-looking either."

Marketing projects aside, music is still the main focus for the band, which got its original name, The Real Clash of the Titans, by playing on the St. Pete College mascot, Titans, and the film title.

One of their funkiest hits and the band's favorite to perform is The Kraken, a song with a unique birth and a rock-inspired groove. Harrell said he came up with the song after seeing a friend's sonogram, where the baby looked like she was putting up the rock symbol. He hummed it for his musicians, who took it from there. The build of the song is accentuated by the addition of the band's live DJ.

"I guess I should probably see that movie, huh?" laughed Rollin "DJ Rollin" Covell, 27, the group's producer and DJ. "I've just been dropping the sample (Liam Neeson yelling "Release the Kraken!") but I've never seen the movie."

The admission started a round of giggles that seem like a permanent part of the Real Clash's vibe. Their music might be fun because they have fun making it. It's difficult in large groups for each member to shine, but they somehow make the dynamic work.

"When people first heard us they were like, 'Uh, that's a weird band,' " said Taylor "Wolfspyda" Gilchrist, 23, who plays bass. But it's a notion quickly dismissed once the crowd is having fun, he added.

Most all the members are in other bands or solo ventures, with the Real Clash getting the time they can allot outside of their 9-to-5s, families and other commitments. Still they dream of taking it all the way. In five years, their hopes include being three albums deep, touring overseas contracting with a big festival tour or maybe even opening for The Roots.

For now, they keep playing shows and trying to finish their album.

"I think we all want to break new ground musically," Roden said. "Once we can do this full time, we'll be great." - Tampa Bay Times

"Best Hip-Hop Ensemble"

Spawned last year by SPC’s MIRA program, the instrumentally driven hip-hop ensemble has been taking Tampa Bay by storm, regularly gigging on both sides of the Bay at venues ranging from Crowbar and Curtis Hixon Park to Ruby’s Elixir and the Local 662. They also opened for Redman and Method Man when the two elder rap stars hit Tampa in November, not to mention earning slots to play Whigfest and Tropical Heatwave this spring. We can’t wait to hear their debut LP. - Creative Loafing

"The Real Clash hip-hop group gets real about domestic violence"

You don't have to take this

You say he's going to change, but I got news for you

You're caught in his matrix

You can't tell between make believe and the truth

When Rashad Harrell wrote those lyrics eight years ago, a close friend was living the nightmare of domestic violence.

Harrell watched helplessly as his friend's boyfriend abused her and isolated her from her family and friends. His talks encouraging her to leave the boyfriend fell on deaf ears.

"I felt like, 'Wow, if only she knew her worth,' " he said.

Unable to reach his friend, Harrell did the next best thing he knew: express the painful experiences of his friend living with a batterer and his having to watch from the sidelines in a song, Sign Language.

Today, Harrell's friend is alive and well, and no longer in an abusive relationship. But domestic violence continues to be a national epidemic impacting every race, gender and socioeconomic class.

With October serving as Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Harrell and his group, the Real Clash, will perform Sign Language during the WFTS-Ch. 28 seventh annual "Taking Action Against Domestic Violence" broadcast on Thursday.

"I don't even like hip-hop and I'm totally in love with this group and what they're doing," said Lissette Campos, WFTS director of community affairs. "They write songs to empower women — to hold up healthy relationships instead of romanticizing the dysfunctional ones."

• • •

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, a woman is assaulted or beaten every nine seconds in the United States and on average nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner. And one in three women and one in four men have been victims of some form of physical violence by an intimate partner within their lifetime, the organization says.

For some, it may seem odd for a hip-hop group to take up such a serious cause. But the Real Clash is not the typical hip-hop band.

Formed three years ago while members were taking a class in St. Petersburg College's Music Industry Recording Arts Program, the group consists of seven members who all play their own instruments. The group quickly developed a strong local and regional fan base after its founding, and has opened for fellow hip-hop artists Method Man and Redman, and played at Gasparilla. Its first full-length album, Clash Wednesday, is set to debut this month.

• • •

The description "hip-hop band" may be a misnomer as the group blends old school funk, soul, R&B, jazz and pop.

The group's foremost mission is to make good music. But along the way, it's changing the preconceived notions of what hip-hop means and what it sounds like, said Harrell, the band's chief lyricist.

"I can't tell you how many times people come up to us and say, 'I didn't like hip-hop, but I like your music,' " he said.

When Harrell approached the group about recording Sign Language, band members were immediately on board, said founder and drummer Jay Wilson.

"Everybody in our group has a humbling experience that's made them socially conscious," he said.

• • •

The band recently performed Sign Language at a community event at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg as part of WFTS's campaign

For keyboardist Jordan Walker, the song made him more aware of how domestic violence also hurts friends and family of the victim.

"First time I heard (the lyrics), it opened my eyes to that situation," he said. "Seeing that point of view was easy."

The song especially is for those who have tried to express their concern to victims of domestic violence only to be shut down or ignored. Harrell said a message that can't be communicated in conversation often gets through via music.

"It's not only a good song, it's radio-worthy," he said. "It may make you feel uncomfortable, but it will make you think."

The goal of Sign Language is to "give hope" to domestic violence victims and their loved ones, Wilson said.

"(The song should) make them aware that there's a bright light at the end of the tunnel," he said.

Contact Kenya Woodard at - Tampa Bay Times

"Hear One Group’s Hip-Hop Inspired Fight Against Domestic Violence (Audio)"

They go by the Real Clash and they are one of the many groups using the platform of Hip-Hop music to raise awareness about an issue that affects millions of people around the world. Based in St. Petersburg, Florida, the Real Clash have taken charge in the fight against domestic violence, penning and performing a song called “Sign Language.” The song’s gut-wrenching lyrics were written by group member Rashad Harrell in response to the experience of his close friend, herself a victim of domestic abuse. Since writing the song, the Real Clash has grown to include seven members, each of whom plays an instrument and have opened up for big-name Hip-Hop acts like Method Man & Redman.

October continues to be a big month for the crew, as they gear up do release their debut album, Clash Wednesday, in the coming days. Furthermore, October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and according to a report in the Tampa Bay Times, “a woman is assaulted or beaten every nine seconds in the United States and on average nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner,” based on statistics from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Now, in support of the cause, the Real Clash has made “Sign Language” available for $1, with a portion of all contributions going to Community Action Stops Abuse (CASA) of St. Petersburg. Check out the song below, and consider buying a copy to support the victims of domestic abuse, whether physical, verbal, or emotional. - Ambrosia For Heads


This record is a 3 year-long culmination of long days and even longer nights of writing, recording, financing, promotion, mixing and mastering. Clash Wednesday is here for the masses. Please enjoy as everyone else has been ever since it's release. Thank you for the love and support. We are forever grateful.


released January 8, 2016 

Recorded by J. Ack at MIRA Studios, SPC, St. Petersburg 
Additional recording by Dan Byers at Rock Garden Recording 
Mixed and Mastered by Dan Hetzel, Tampa, FL 

Trk. 2, mixed by Mike Major at Mike's Mix Room, Dunedin, FL. 

Trk. 7, mixed by J. Ack at Dexter's Lab, Tarpon Springs, FL and mastered by Dave Greenberg for Sonopod, St. Petersburg, FL 

Trk. 9, recorded, mixed and mastered by Dave Swick at Paradise Recording, Largo, FL



TRC (formerly "The Real Clash") received 2014’s Best of the Bay award in Creative Loafing in the Hip-Hop Ensemble category. This accolade comes shortly after securing the cover shot of an issue in the same periodical along with a mention in the Tampa Bay Times’ Ultimate Local Music Guide in addition to a live showcase on Tampa’s local talk show, Studio 10. TRC has been performing together, original compositions with all live instrumentation, for a little over 3 years a sound defined as eclectic and soulful while delivering a positive message. Most recognize their origins as being student members of a classroom-based collective, each handpicked by one of the founders to be an addition to St. Petersburg College’s Music Industry Recording Arts curriculum that ended up being more than that. The goal of the group is to revolutionize the hip-hop world with fresh sounds and positive messages that cause the listener to think beyond the music. The band further strives to change the perception of the hip-hop community from that of thugs, violence and the denigration of women to that of a culture of educated, socially conscious and spiritually enlightened. TRC competed in an annual contest winning a spot on Okeechobee Music Festival in March 2017.

Band Members