Release Date: Sep 9, 2016
Record label: Sub Pop Records
Los Angeles-based noise-rap trio clipping. have come a remarkably long way since Jonathan Snipes (formerly of irony-killing duo Captain Ahab) and William Hutson (aka noise-drone artist Rale) established it as a remix project in 2009. Since the addition of MC Daveed Diggs (also of True Neutral Crew, along with Signor Benedick the Moor and Deathbomb Arc founder Brian Kinsman), the group self-released 2013's well-received mixtape Midcity before signing with Sub Pop for their full-length debut, 2014's CLPPNG.
The opening track on Splendor & Misery carefully lays down a very specific scene: echoing vocals reverberate, evoking the vast emptiness of space, deftly building tension and atmosphere. And then the next one completely blows it up. Rapper – and now Grammy/Tony winner – Daveed Diggs spits rapid-fire exposition with startling urgency over the vacuous ambience.
Any conversation about experimental hip-hop that doesn't involve clipping. in its discourse is a waste of your time. Fusing the kind of power electronics that seem more native to DIY basement shows in New York than on a hip-hop record on Sub Pop, with Daveed Diggs' blistering rhythms, the LA collective embrace an experimentation that major indie labels are often void of, and a sparseness that most experimental hip-hop records are often void of.
LA-based hip-hop group Clipping. reared from the starting gate an unwieldy beast, crafting some of the harshest rap music of the early 2010s. The moniker alone reveals their machine worship, named for the distortion produced when an audio signal maxes out the amplifier. The trio—comprised of William Hutson, Jonathan Snipes, and Daveed Diggs—holds pedigrees in domains well outside hip-hop: Hutson and Snipes have composed for film, and Diggs starred in revolutionary Broadway production Hamilton.
The musical accomplishments that all three members of clipping. have celebrated since releasing their 2014 Sub Pop debut couldn't have provided a better foundation from which to build Splendor & Misery: MC Daveed Diggs was lauded for the dual role of Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson in the musical Hamilton, earning himself both a Grammy and Tony award this year for its Broadway run; producer Jonathan Snipes took to scoring films; while fellow beatsmith William Hutson completed a Ph. D in Theatre and Performance Studies with a dissertation on experimental music.
Experimental L.A. rap group Clipping.‘s latest LP is technically impressive, narratively consistent and sonically cohesive, but in terms of its title ingredients it leans a bit too far towards the misery without quite enough splendor. It would be hard to find an album in 2016 more ambitious than Clipping.'s Splendor & Misery. It's a high concept project, but think of it less like the recent work of Kendrick Lamar and more like a sci-fi horror film (think Moon or Event Horizon) with heavy racial implications.
If there’s an animating principle that runs through all of clipping.’s work to date, it’s a willingness to challenge expectations at every turn. To recap, in the past, the L.A. rap trio have swapped out low-end—a traditional pillar of hip-hop’s sound—for high-pitched noise. They once created a drum track entirely from recordings of gunshots.
Daveed Diggs of clipping. is probably the only person to both front a noise-rap group and be an acclaimed Broadway actor (prove me wrong MC Ride). Since their debut album, Diggs has starred as Thomas Jefferson in Hamilton, the Broadway hip-hop musical about the American 'founding father' Alexander Hamillton featuring only actors of colour. If you haven't been paying attention, said musical has been somewhat of a smash with the play receiving basically every award it is possible to win with Diggs himself winning both a Grammy and a Tony award while playwright Lin Manuel-Miranda was given the MacArthur 'Genius' grant.