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.
To be fair, there isn’t really anything on CLPPNG as grating and challenging as “Get Up,” but that song is a clear enough indicator that producers William Hutson and Jonathan Snipes are not making music for the faint of heart or tender of ear.
No beat moves along as planned or is constructed from the usual elements. The Moog pulse of “Story 2” starts jumping to double and triple time before you realize what hit you; “Dominoes” sounds like a crumbling robot trying to keep all its pieces connected as it lumbers forward, and “Taking Off” feels like the cycle of the boom-bap will never resolve even as MC Daveed Diggs speeds long ahead of it. And that’s not even mentioning the tracks that look back to Hutson and Snipes’ days as noise musicians.
Diggs, for his part, does strive to meet up to the high level of sonic daring at play here. That comes out most often in his delivery, dancing as he does all over the beat with whiplash-inducing brevity or playing around it simply because he can. Lyrically, he doesn’t offer up too many surprises, at least none that could possibly shock in our post-Odd Future days. But his verses—whether they are laying out a nightmare scenario of a bloodthirsty serial killer (“Body and Blood”) or using the title of “Dominoes” to explore the Rube Goldberg logic of our socio-cultural landscape—he does it with bitter wit and fangs bared.
This was, at least until two days ago, the most ambitious and powerful underground hip-hop album to be released this year. But leave it to Death Grips to drop a surprise record on us and steal the spotlight from their fellow Californians. We’ll have to wait before we find out which one stands the test of time, but for the moment, advantage: Clipping.