Release Date: Jun 10, 2014
Record label: Sub Pop
Genre(s): Rap, Avant-Garde, Pop/Rock, Underground Rap, Left-Field Hip-Hop, Noise
Head here to submit your own review of this album. The publicity surrounding LA-based rap group Clipping. has made it clear that they think the basic "rap" label suits them just fine. And it's a nice thought to get behind, that the group is simply contributing to a scene in which they've been paying the most attention, because it does away with all the unjustified stratification that unfolds from loaded terms like "experimental" and "abstract".
Here’s a simple challenge for any listeners unsure if they can handle the music of Clipping. Find a stream of the L.A. trio’s Sub Pop debut, dial up the track “Get Up.” If you can make it through all two-and-a-half minutes of hip hop where the only music is the familiar screech and cadence of an alarm clock, you are ready. If it prompts you to scramble for the veritable snooze button…you might want to move on to calmer waters.
Death Grips were mentioned in the same breath as L.A.‘s clipping. so often around the time of the latter’s 2013 debut Midcity, you’d be forgiven thinking they were two sides of the same coin. True, both – as well as Ratking, another frequent comparison – employed severe production, pseudo-psychopath flows and lagoons of spit, reeling off hoarse complaints and injecting gravel, shards of broken glass and abrasive experiments into their industrial/punk hip-hop noises.
“The name refers to a specific type of distortion in digital audio, wherein the tops and bottoms of a waveform are cut or ‘clipped’ off, introducing harmonics — it’s a pretty nasty, unpleasant distortion and the first thing you learn in audio work is to avoid clipping at all costs. Ironically, we’re very meticulous about avoiding clipping in our recordings.”– Jonathan Snipes, clipping. The above quote is clipping.
The balance that comes with applying pressure towards challenging genre boundaries is, of course, hard to get right. LA troupe clipping. aren’t exactly concerned with getting this balance “right”, they’re more intent on trying to bend these norms to their own means. Second record, ‘CLPPNG’, darkens the hues of hip hop without coming across as corny.
Although the second album by clipping. is one of the most singular-sounding things likely to be released this year, there’s nothing inherently bleeding-edge NOW about its sound. Rapid-fire West Coast rapping, as served up here by Daveed Diggs, could plausibly date from any year of the last 25 or so; resolve-testing tones and anti-musical digital distortion, which is presumably referenced in this LA three-piece’s name, are tricks about as old as the CD format, thus of a comparable vintage.
This unpredictable LA hip-hop trio caught Sub Pop’s attention with 2013’s ‘Midcity’ album; its successor is a series of sonic bombs awaiting detonation. Pairing Daveed Diggs’ vocals with schizophrenic noise from musicians William Hutson and Jonathan Snipes, ‘CLPPNG’ begins with 60 seconds of feedback and a noise explosion by way of introduction to Diggs’ hyper-fast rapping over building-site beats. The industrial clanging of ‘Body & Blood’ samples a drill and depicts a bloodthirsty woman who “has her own set of power tools”.
Darkness, in lyrics and musical modes, is a topic that is brought up constantly in album reviews. Just this year we’ve had the crushing ramblings of Sun Kil Moon, the gritty gang life soundtrack of Freddie Gibbs and Madlib, and La Dispute’s devastating poetry. For all the gloom cloaking those albums, light still shimmered through. Benji’s closer “Ben’s My Friend” was near whimsical, Gibbs had an ode to his favorite restaurant between stories of robberies, and La Dispute’s spoken word attack could be just as life-affirming as it was terrifying.
Los Angeles trio clipping. are a collaboration between rapper Daveed Diggs and producers Jonathan Snipes and William Hutson. Snipes is a sound designer, film composer, and experimental musician who records glitchy, snarky pop-deconstructionist noise music under the name Captain Ahab; he and Hutson are in the noise band Unnecessary Surgery, and co-created the score for the recent documentary Room 237.
Innovations in hip-hop have a long history of tending toward abrasive sounds, from the call-to-arms sirens of Bomb Squad's production on early Public Enemy albums to the pseudo-industrial squall of Kanye West's controversially caustic Yeezus album. L.A. trio clipping takes this fondness for harsh sounds to the next level with CLPPNG, a strange hybrid of noise frequencies, brutally dark beats, and MC Daveed Diggs' unhinged, often ugly lyrical flow.
Innovation and vitality aren’t always the same thing. Let’s get the lazy Death Grips comparison over with by way of analogy: these bands sound little alike other than the noise-hop baton-tagging, but have a similar composition – two white guys from the weirdo underground on production, one unheard-of black guy with a distant underground rap history. The difference, disregarding their barely-comparable aesthetics, is the compulsive legitimacy and artistic integrity of Death Grips, their being-so and not-being-able-to-be-otherwise (as you've probably heard, they’ve released half an album and broken up in the last few weeks) – whereas Clipping seem to take what they do as a science more than an art.
No one likes a bandwagon, of course, but if anything it’s a surprise that there aren’t more contemporary acts out there following the example of Death Grips and Yeezus, chaining up hip-hop and subjecting it to exquisite tortures. Back in the day, the likes of Sensational, Def Jux and Dälek almost made noise-rap into a movement. As a niche goes, though, it’s curiously unpopulated, perhaps because if hip-hop’s your thing, there are far easier ways to make a dollar.