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Local hip-hop, folk duo Habit Forming debuts new single, ‘Rocks’

The song is one of many from their upcoming self-titled LP releasing Feb. 23

<p>Maggie Clifford (left) and Rayvon Rollins (right) are the two musicians behind Habit Forming, a genre-crossing and Gainesville-based band.</p>

Maggie Clifford (left) and Rayvon Rollins (right) are the two musicians behind Habit Forming, a genre-crossing and Gainesville-based band.

Habit Forming, a newly formed Gainesville-based musical duo, released its debut single “Rocks” Tuesday, a song filled with vivid lyrical imagery, passionate rapping and haunting piano chords. 

The duo’s genre — a blend of indie folk and rap music — makes way for an emotional song about the struggle of overcoming obstacles and the cathartic release of letting the past go. 

Habit Forming is the two-year-old passion project of two Gainesville musicians: 37-year-old Maggie Clifford and 34-year-old Rayvon Rollins, also known by his musical alias, “Purple Kloud.” 

Although both are seasoned musicians in their own rights, their musical journey together has only just begun. 

The pair first met after performing in 2022 at one of Bo Diddley Plaza’s local musician showcases. Their sets were back to back, and although they didn’t know each other, they each found themselves enthralled by the other’s sound.

“I couldn’t even eat because I was so focused in on her sound,” Rollins said. “It reminded me of Medieval bard type of music.”

After her set, Clifford later showed the same enthusiasm for Rollin’s performance. They connected through social media soon after, and the rest was history.

While working together, the pair quickly found they had a unique musical chemistry.

During the songwriting process, the two bounce rhythms and melodies off each other. The result is a refined musical project where one balances out the other. 

“Her songwriting setup of making a nice, catchy intro gives me enough to make the body move around with the raps,” Rollins said. “We want to sound good but we also want to be comfortable and balanced.”

The duo is signed with 4Bits Records, a new independent Gainesville record label that manages musicians such as The Housing Crisis and Austin Brockner. 

Brandon Telg, the duo’s manager who also set up the event where they met, said he’s found “lightning in a bottle.”

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“When I first heard they wrote songs together, I was so intrigued by the idea of what their vibes would merge to sound like,” Telg said. “I don’t really know what to compare it to, in a good way.”

After debating lots of names, ‘Habit Forming’  ended up coming to them after Clifford mentioned it in casual conversation. 

“[Our name] still has a very powerful connotation to think about something like music-making and music-listening as a habit that forms,” Clifford said. 

The band blends two genres that aren’t often heard together: folk and hip-hop. 

But for Habit Forming, the two genres have a lot more in common than at first glance. Both hip-hop and folk music are genres built on storytelling and conveying the human experience, Clifford said.

“I call hip-hop folk music because it’s music of the people,” she said. 

Rollins said the duo’s blend of songwriting styles allows them to add their own twist on the hip-hop tradition of sampling music. 

“We’re gonna add the hip-hop element of sampling, but we’re gonna sample ourselves because we’re musicians and we can actually play those notes,” Rollins said. “It was an effortless transition.”

Aside from music-making, both Clifford and Rollins play important roles in UF’s artistic realm. 

Clifford is a visiting faculty member in the Center For Arts in Medicine at UF. While she conducts education and research, she is also working on her doctoral dissertation on the meaning of climate change. 

Similarly, Rollins has held the role of Artist in Residence at UF Health Shands Hospital’s Arts in Medicine program since 2022. This program was designed to promote health and wellness at the hospital by using the arts. 

In this intimate role, Rollins sings, raps and plays guitar for the hospital’s patients and families. Clifford has also performed gigs at the hospital. 

“It is a very very intimate and special kind of work,” Clifford said. “You are playing for people often in some of the hardest times that they’re experiencing.”

Though bringing joy to patients through their work is a rewarding experience, but it is not always easy, they said. 

“You play for one person one day and next thing you know, they’re gone,” ]Rollins said. “We [the artists in residence] keep each other encouraged. It’s like this is our little family.”

When it comes to their new venture, the two credit Gainesville’s local music scene for keeping them afloat and look forward to whatever the future entails for their music. 

“The sky’s the limit,” Rollins said. “As long as our hearts are hungry and we are here on this Earth, there’s possibilities for a lot of stuff.”

The duo’s self-titled album, “Habit Forming,” will be released Feb. 23 on 4Bits Records. 

Contact Bonny Matejowsky at Follow her on X at @bonnymatejowsky

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Bonny Matejowsky

Bonny Matejowsky is a third-year journalism major and a Fall 2023 Avenue Reporter. When she’s not writing, you can find her thrifting or watching Twin Peaks.

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