The Providence-born SIN released his The Third Lifetime EP almost four months after his friend's death and dedicated it to Clayton's memory.
The song "Black" provides listeners a glimpse of their bond and SIN's pain as he recites:
You was like my brother/ Used to be at every show/Thought I saw you in the crowd buggin' at my last one/I just shed a tear/Hopefully, my last one/Words from a shattered heart walking with a glass one.
The two were very close. Not only was black the color both wore and Johnny Walker what both drank when they went out together, it exemplified their solidarity.
"I think when he was alive, it was more of a unity type of thing with me and him," SIN reflected. "After he passed, I see it more as a color that really represents him and who he was and what he was all about. Just because it has dark tint doesn't mean it has a dark personality. Black means Kemar Clayton to me."
And though SIN admits to losing out on some confidence that Clayton provided him musically, the activity of this past year secured the rapper's understanding of his audience and their acceptance of him.
"I realized that a lot of people just really appreciated my craft and what I do," said SIN. "Through that whole year span, people were constantly bumping The Third Lifetime and just keep me on the notice that it was still in rotation."
Quiet for most of last year, the rapper focused more on performances, opening up for acts such as Asher Roth and Ab-Soul as well as with fellow South Florida acts Vurn, Will Brennan, J. Nics, and QuESt. The latter, SIN formed a friendship with, built on a foundation of respect and admiration for one another.
"That's one of the most purest dudes that you could just meet and know that he means well all around," SIN explained. "There is no flaw in that dude as far as, you know, like a funny style dude." The two have shared the stage multiple times at Green Room, Revolution, and Bardot as both headlining and opening acts. More recently they took part in the first of two cyphers for the final Brown Bag Wednesday.
But it was another local rapper whom SIN has paid homage to as an inspiration since high school and refers to as a big brother, Chief Tone.
"I can call Chief and Chief will come in a heartbeat, no matter where he is," SIN said. "It's definitely about loyalty and respect with me and him."
So after Chief Tone declared his retirement from rap last year, SIN took it upon himself to take action to make sure that wouldn't happen.
"When Chief actually went on Twitter and he was like, 'Oh, I'm going to call it quits,'" SIN remembered, "I really had to call him, went to the studio, he came to the studio where I was at, had an emotional talk with him there, and now Chief is working on a new project. I can't let him stop rapping, because that was my fuel. He kept me going. I just can't let him stop, because things aren't working out for him."
Accompanied by his northeastern tone and style, SIN's latest release, A Toast To You, is a 12-track project complete with lessons on rapper's misguiding their listeners and stories of the women he lays with at the end of the night. On the album, he is assisted by QuESt as the lone feature.
Maybe the biggest sign that the rapper is continuing to push forward personally is the lack of mention of Clayton's name in this project.
"Through time, I realized that he was going to be with me regardless of wherever I go," said SIN. "But if I do happen to catch a glimpse of him and his family there, I know that it's just him subconsciously."
Since Clayton's death, two men, Jamal Smith and Quinton Lythgoe, have been arrested and charged with first-degree murder with a firearm and robbery with a firearm.
And even though Clayton is unable to be at SIN's every show anymore, it does not mean he is not around.
"I'll have a dream where I see him break in a room in a room like, 'Yo, what up?'" said SIN. "You know, sit down next to him like, 'What up, man?' Everything's cool. But, they're dreams. You know what I'm saying? So, it is what it is."
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
All-access pass to top stories, events and offers around town.