Clifton Harrison ('08)

Hip Hop Artist (Clif Soulo)

When his college football career ended with the discontinuation of the program, Clifton Harrison decided to complete his degree and to continue his career as a hip hop artist.  Performing as Clif Soulo, he sees the impact of his SMC education in his music and in his life.



Name: Clifton Harrison
Name/Nickname at SMC: Clif
Major: Communication

Year of Graduation: 2008
Hometown: Oakland, CA


What is one of your fondest memories of SMC?  

Three-a-day football practices during the summer before I actually had to do any schoolwork. It was the first time in my life that I was able to concentrate on my passion and nothing else. Really difficult, but I loved every minute of it.

Of the Communication Department?

That’s difficult, but honestly, I would have to say working on my Senior Thesis. The topic that I chose was very personal to me, and the assignment was the biggest challenge I’ve faced academically. Completing that was one of the most fulfilling things I’ve ever done.

What do you miss about SMC/college?

I miss the ability to be immersed in an environment of learning on a regular basis. I have always worked, but now that I have graduated, I don’t have a place I can go where I can discuss lots of different topics with people. I also miss going to the late night snack time at the dining hall. Always came through in the clutch. Ha.

What was the biggest transformation you experienced at SMC?  

The biggest transformation was my going from a place mentally where I felt I knew everything to realizing I truly knew nothing. That happened in my Intro to Communication class. We did an activity where you had to analyze the story and determine whether it was about a man or a woman. It really challenged the stereotypes that we apply to people and, on a deeper level, it challenged me to be open minded. I could say I got into that situation (a Communication class) by accident, but I believe everything happens for a reason. I came into Saint Mary’s majoring in Business Administration. After falling asleep in Microeconomics, I knew I had to change my major to something that would really capture my interest. Communication did that for me.

All-time favorite class?  

Probably Oral communication. (Intro to Sociology was a close second.)
Oral Communication [now called Argument and Advocacy] was the one class that had the biggest effect on me. I broke my fear of speaking in public. That has helped me personally, musically, academically, and professionally.

Some of the tools I learned in Oral and Interpersonal Communication have helped me to understand colleagues at work.

Talk about your music career.  Not all musicians have college degrees.  Why do you? Has it helped?  Has it changed anything?  

Prior to music and aside from football, I had already determined that I wanted to pursue higher education. That being said, the degree, and the overall college experience has been a big help musically. It further developed my ability to understand how people communicate and the different ways people listen. Especially important was Oral Communication, as it gave me the confidence to perform my music in front of people.

"I think my degree does change  – and will continue to change – perceptions of what a hip hop artist is like. On the surface, one may only see a rapper from Oakland. But once you listen to the music, or talk to me personally, you begin to see the different layers (such as being college-educated, a father, a husband, an activist, a Chinese food lover, etc.)."

What are you working on now?  What's the best part of your current gig?  What's the worst part?

Currently I am working on a new project entitled Royal Rebels as well as a few other projects. The best part of making music is being able to express myself. And the fact that people like it helps too. I would say more than the “worst” part, the part of making music that is most challenging is the fact that I cannot do it 24/7. There’s nothing more frustrating than being at my day job and having all this creative energy that I have to ignore until I clock out. That’s pretty rough.

Other than music, what is your life about?  

Before music and anything else, I am a father and a husband. And then a godfather, uncle, brother, son. So my life is about my family, my friends. I would like to think that I am a good, caring, honest person, but describing myself is always weird because I'm kind of biased. Part of who I am definitely came from SMC  because that was my place of learning for four years as I made the transition from a young teen to a man.

What's your advice for current SMC students?

Make as many connections and experiences outside of the classroom as possible because essays and seminar readings are only half of the education. Follow your dreams. And if you are going to drink (underage or not), do not drive. It’s NEVER okay.

Anything else?

Treat everyone as your brother or sister because we are all connected. Peace and Love.