Review Summary: A bold leap toward making experimental hip-hop both accessible and flat out fun.
There is a certain darkness that permeates modern hip-hop in bolder ways than we’ve previously been aware of. Production techniques as well as lyricism seem to be moving in a direction past the decadence and materialism that defined the genre and into an aesthetic that is fascinatingly bleak. It is a true mirror for a culture that is spiraling slowly out of control. Some of hip-hop’s most iconic musicians feed this darkness in ways they may not even fully understand. One need only turn on their local rap radio station to understand the state in which hip-hop culture has evolved. Artists like L.A.’s Clipping understand this darkness and choose to harness it in new and interesting ways while still retaining a classic hip-hop vibe in their lyrics. The marriage of the two separates Clipping from the likes of a group like Death Grips who take a more experimental approach to both the vocal qualities and the production.
Clipping’s sophomore LP CLPPNG
sees them firing on all cylinders once more. The production is as outlandish as ever but also strangely more accessible than on Midcity
. The melodies forged in many of these tracks are catchy as *** and wouldn’t be out of place in the current club scene. Lead single “Work Work” and the next track “Summertime” are both bouncy and danceable, with the former boasting a powerful bass groove and the latter incorporating many unique samples into the mix. “Body and Blood” is set against a backdrop of textured fuzz and pounding drum.
The lyricism by Daveed Diggs on these tracks is often fun and always clever. Whether it’s his chants of “Kill somethin’ girl. Kill somethin’ girl. Eat somethin’ girl. Eat somethin’ girl,” on “Body and Blood” or his hushed whispers on “Dream,” Diggs knows how to hold your attention from the moment he gets behind the mic. Some might complain that Diggs doesn't really have much new to say among all of the other noteworthy emcees in hip-hop right now, but damn can this man spit. The opening bars on "Intro," like so many others on the album, hit with such velocity and force that it's hard to get wrapped up in the lack of fresh perspective. Diggs adds an energy and playfulness to these tracks that make them a joy to listen to.
It is rare that any group can take such unorthodox samples and make them, not only interesting, but also captivating. A clarinet sample on “Taking Off” provides the perfect elevation from being merely a solid track to an exceptional one. The only instrumental used on “Get Up” is of a looping alarm clock sounding beneath Diggs’ relentless raps and R&B guest vocalist Mariel Jacoda’s harmonious singing. It is remarkable how well it works in the mix, creating a minimalistic approach that sets the perfect tempo for the vocals. “Story 2” is an outstanding exercise in rhythm and progression and serves a sequel to “Story” off Midcity
. The way in which the synth-line feeds off of Digs’ impeccable flow creates an atmosphere that builds to a crescendo of climactic proportions before the track derails into an abrupt silence. “William’s Mix” ends the album in a torrent of noisy samples that paint the perfect picture of what these guys are all about. The only weak link in the album is the track “Tonight” with its cringe-worthy auto tuned chorus of “Who ***in’ tonight?”. And the guest raps from Gangsta Boo don’t do the song any favors. The song seems to be more satirical of the state of modern hip-hop's rave culture and it speaks to the same darkness that currently pervades rap airwaves.
embraces conventional hip-hop tropes with a flair for instrumental experimentation and manages to emerge as the most immediate album of its kind since The Money Store
. One of Clipping’s most admirable qualities is that they are less about self indulgence in their experimentation and more about making the experience as entertaining as possible for the listener. Thus the result provides a satisfaction beyond the fact that the music is “different” for the sake of being different. You could jam this album in almost any setting and under just about any circumstance. Put simply, CLPPNG
is experimentation done right, taking a bold leap toward making experimental hip-hop both accessible and flat out fun.