It’s all one stage after all. Hip-hop can be theatrical in its renditions and seamlessly woven into the fabric of high performance art. America is still drunk from the punch of hip-hop might in Broadway shows like Hamilton. The genre frequently lends all-star talent to theater as in Mos Def’s highly critically acclaimed performance in the Off-Broadway play, Topdog/Underdog, replacing the likes of Don Cheadle. Let’s not forget about rappers from Will Smith to Common finding success on the big screen. Underground artists are no exception and have always reflected the art community at-large with its’ own treasure of artists aspiring to make the acting leap. The argument can be made about who is reflecting who. However, nothing can change the old adage of ‘as above, so below’ and at 51, Harlem born artist, C Vegus, aka Clark Harris has crossed over like Iverson.
The nerves are out and the heat is on. Harris will tell you, the transition to acting came at a price, at a time where high anxieties were a norm, hip-hop a dietary staple, and diversifying his bonds was very necessary. In a recent interview with Black Freq Sheets, Harris explained, “You could hear the paper and my heart beat 10 blocks away. After I read, they said thank you and I went to my van, grabbed the jack Daniels out the glove box, took a nice swig and said “WTF did I just do?” What he did was start a ball rolling through infinity that neither he nor the people in that room knew from which it came or where it would go.
Almost 6 years ago, that first audition of Dark Horseman saw Marine veteran and New York native, Clark Harris, shaking like leaf in the rain, but this was an interesting challenge to an artist with such a unique set of skills. At the pressure of his co-worker, Harris had gone to the audition on a fluke and to his surprise was selected as understudy but ended up on stage, as an 80 year old ex-slave no less! Talk about taking the leap! Harris transformed those nerves into elderly shakes and was intoxicated by the familiar roar of the crowd and a little pre-show Crown Royal and after his performance debut, he’d officially traded his microphone for an earpiece and perhaps an even bigger stage.
“At the end of the show, I lost my mind and decided this is what I’m supposed to do! I still shake, but it’s different,” says Harris.
It is far from unusual for artists to switch bags on us. This is what good artists do for the soul. Thing is, lots of rappers often turn actors and suck hard. No need for a list of the ones that blow dirt all over the screen. What is the difference between the ones that do and the ones that eh? There are plenty of techniques to learn, but you can’t teach talent and Harris has heaps. “Before acting, I was performing on stages throughout the states. Hip Hop!!! A diehard fan, I grew up on it on the streets of Harlem.” Those states included Tennessee where C Vegus and his partner gained a reputation for bringing the boom to music venues and even sports’ bars.
As imagined, balancing two loves is never easy but it helps to have a preference. “There are plenty of times where I had to decided, but acting always came out on TOP!” Harris chuckled. “Nothing can compare. It’s all I want to do,” he insists.
His fans haven’t seemed much bothered by this choice. Especially when Harris has managed to spin his acting bug into roles on hip-hop infused shows like FX’s Atlanta in the premiere season. In Atlanta, Harris appeared alongside lead character, Donald Glover as a wary, witty pawn broker. These roles stand in stark contrast to his role in the Classical Theatre of Harlem’s 2014 Off-Broadway production of “Romeo & Juliet.”
Additionally, Harris has regaled audiences in many plays, films, and the occasional commercial. His IMDB page rivals his peers and that’s without a co-career in hip-hop. Oh make no mistake, C Vegus lives and breathes in Clark Harris and even if he stars with some of his influences like Don, Denzel, or Deniro, he insist that the hip-hop will have to stop… at least for now. Two arts apparently can’t exist in the same space at the same time and to the bereavement of his fans, Harris has announced his last album will release April 2017 with the first single, ‘Ol Tate.’ Stay tuned for the upcoming video premiering on The Black Freq Sheets.
Rappers want to act and actors want to rap. This probably isn’t going to change anytime soon. The good ones do it with seamless transitions that make us wonder if they aren’t super heroes or aliens from another planet. Every once in a while, we’re able to witness the gradual transformation of artists in their visits here with us, even if they make home on another earth. Harlem is as outer space as any other place and rapper slash actor, C Vegus, excuse me, Clark Harris, is something like a phenomenon.
Stay up to date on the movement at www.clarkaharris.com and look forward to appearances on great shows like FX’s Atlanta, American Murder on LMN, Still the King on CMT, American Black Film Festival award winning Service To Man, and many more.