Review Summary: A stepping stone to perhaps something much larger.
In their earlier, full length, sophomore effort to come out this year in the form of 'CLPPNG'
, the trio successfully and effectively showed the world some of their best assets. It was an ambitious effort that didn't lend itself to the typical hip-hop aesthetic known by many, but instead took an entirely different approach altogether with their use of abrasive, often jarring beats ('Get Up', 'Body & Blood') and dissonant electronics ('Intro', 'Or Die'). However, what ended up being the most impressive aspect was how Clipping managed to bring everything together and still
make the entire experience catchy and relatively accessible; it wasn't perfect, but it definitely showcased potential. And as if it couldn't get any better, 4 months later Clipping once again refine their best qualities whilst resolving most of their faults with Something they don't know/Mouth EP
Encompassed within these two tracks are ideas, vast and expansive. Run time barely exceeds 11 minutes, yet it's difficult to predict anything, be it vocals, production or even who raps the next verse. For instance, a total 5 guest rappers, all with very different vocal qualities, feature on this EP. This not only provides a lot to work with, but it certainly gives an array of variety throughout, from Signor Benedick The Moor's ridiculous and eclectic verse to Nocando's more subtle, collected verse on the opener. Lead rapper, Daveed Diggs particularly demonstrates superb rapping capabilities, showcasing his technicality and progressive dynamic range, like on the last verse of the same track. Furthermore, these verses are topfull with witty and skilful lyricism and wordplay. Each rapper talks about an independent story but all adding unique touches of finesse where appropriate, such as "she sells Cialis by the seaside out of the sixth floor balcony apartment" - based on the rhyme "she sells sea shells on the sea shore". Their approach isn't solely limited to referenced wordplay; they're sometimes a little more quirky in nature, such as "If the skeletons in your closet are having a quinceanera, then it's probably time to open the fuck up" and really exemplifies vibrancy and personality this way. Despite the different mood and groove these verses portray, they inter-twine together well, sustaining balance and cohesion within the context of the song.
What perhaps ends up being the most striking feature is fittingly the production. If there's anything we learnt from their past efforts it's that Clipping are fearless when it comes to how they approach production but this certainly pushes the boundaries more than anything before it. The louder, more abrasive track, 'Mouth', uses loud lo-fi static that's manipulated for a beat layered with faint white noise and drums that crescendo for each verse. It's a tad formulaic by Clipping's standards, but nevertherless done well. 'Something They Don't Know', on the other hand, is brimming with everything Clipping are capable of. 24 samples are used throughout, which range from a rather haunting piano sequence, glittering harp melodies and a strange Old Dirty Bastard vocal snippet. On the surface, they don't seem compatible in the slightest but they're somehow used exquisitely to suit the tone. The latter, for example, is played seemingly out of the blue and then all of a sudden becomes the beat to DJ scratchings by Baseck; it works stupendously well and the attention to detail is extremely pleasant.
With so many new amendments to their sound, the biggest, underlying flaw in their LPs frustratingly remain. At this point, it's difficult to justify some of the hooks they have written in their discography, with most being more cringeworthy than anything else. How was it even possible to improve in so many areas but stagnate in this one? Both tracks suffer from having hooks that play too many times and pale in comparison to the aesthetics surrounding it. Granted, the hook on 'Something They Don't Know' is tolerable and actually quite catchy initially, but lacks any form of longevity. The hook on 'Mouth', on the other hand, is absolutely abysmal. It feels utterly out of place and temporarily slows the pace of the song significantly on every occurrence. Additionally, it's hardly bearable with Daveed stressing and elongating the word "real" to such lengths that it's simply horrendous. You could say that this isn't too much of a negative trait because the music doesn't centre around the hook but when they're so frequent and so integrated in these two songs, it's hard to just brush off and ignore.
All nitpicking aside, the strengths undeniably outweigh any negatives. The EP overall just has so much to offer, from a general musical standpoint and by Clipping's own standards. It's a satisfying culmination of all of Clipping's assets and what they've been building to achieve since their first few EPs. The experimental and industrial hip-hop scene is quickly expanding to new heights and with rising scene, there needs to be a figurehead; a landmark that preserves to be the near definition of the genre. Clipping aren't necessarily there yet, but they're undoubtedly getting close.