clipping. are a rap trio like no other. Noise music artist William Hutson and film score composer Jonathan Snipes are in charge of production, creating a sound that borrows more from musique concrète than it does LA hip-hop. Stage actor Daveed Diggs handles vocal duties, depicting varying scenes of street life and weaving them together effortlessly.
The group wrote and recorded their debut, midcity, in February 2013, releasing it independently via bandcamp. The record garnered more attention than they had anticipated, earning them a record deal with Sub-Pop within five months of its release. The intro track to their follow-up album, CLPPNG, is more aggressive than any on midcity: Diggs spits machine-gun raps atop a screech and blast of static that can’t be considered a beat by even the loosest definition.
Lead single ‘Body and Blood’ is marginally more accessible. A harsh kickdrum underlines the pleasant little S&M infused ditty: a fetishist’s fantasy about a murderous, narcotics-wielding dominatrix. In short, it’s the sort of track that you might expect Marilyn Manson to “get crunk” to.
Lyrically, clipping. follow many of the tropes commonly associated with hip-hop. Violent crime is a pervasive theme, the aim of which is almost always to get money. Diggs’ lyrics are by no means wordy, but his third-person observations are adeptly stitched together, to create self-contained stories rife with references to the giants: from Biggie and Tupac, to Kanye and Lil Wayne.
CLPPNG contains enough tales of sex, drugs, and crime to make Skins look like Question Time in comparison. Tracks such as ‘Body and Blood’ and ‘Tonight’ veer dangerously close to the misogyny often associated with the genre. However, they are saved by the alpha female characters within. For every man who says “she thick and wish they could bang” there’s the feminist reminder that “she don’t need you for shit”. Gangsta Boo’s verse in ‘Tonight’ cuts down the sex-crazed lead male trying to find a “ho” “who’s fucking tonight”, by specifying that any sexual encounter will be on her terms: she is “looking for a victim”. This “female empowerment” (in which the women are as ruthless and successful, if not more so, than the men) is epitomised in a standout track titled ‘Work Work’ (the closest clipping. could come to writing a summer bbq tune) featuring Cocc Pistol Cree, whose rags-to-riches story overpowering her counterpart’s attempts to impress her, and as a result, he winds up dead and irrelevant.
In the middle of the album, there is a slight lull. The sombre and relatively ambient ‘Dream’ leads into ‘Get Up’, and the beat of ‘Get Up’, formed from the ring of an alarm, loses its novelty after multiple listens, although the track is salvaged somewhat by Diggs’ Twista-esque cadence.
The album ends with a harsh noise mix, crafted from disjointed samples of the entire album, by noise artist Tom Erbe. Between this and the closing track for midcity (a ten-minute Steve Reich homage consisting of the phrase “get money” layered on repeat), it seems that clipping. refuse to conclude their albums in a tidy and pleasing manner.
The progress from midcity to CLPPNG is best displayed on tracks ‘Or Die’ and “Inside Out”, both of which see Hutson and Snipes fine tuning their noise abilities with industrial beats composed of whirrs and crunches. Whilst the noise and hip-hop aspects tended to clash on midcity, CLPPNG is a much more cohesive effort, blending the genres of noise music and hip-hop without sacrificing the aggression of either.
CLPPNG will be released on Sub-Pop on 10th June 2014