Despite them killing it for the last decade, clipping. are still a relatively new group in a genre of music often seen as comparatively young itself. Hip-hop just like anything else has its tenets that are smartly followed by an overwhelming majority of its artists, but where others simply follow, clipping. lead. Incorporating an unorthodox, dense noise palate from producers Jonathan Snipes and William Hutson, rapper and lyricist Daveed Diggs is one of hip-hop’s most limber vocal gymnasts seemingly able to command time itself with his mastery of double- and triple-time rapping with flexible flows to deliver wordplay and rhyme schemes that should impress the most seasoned of performers. Not giving a single fuck about conventions or linear progression, it was anyone’s guess as to where they would go on their next record, which takes its title from the score of cult classic blaxploitation film Ganja & Hess.
Well, it’s almost Halloween, and it seems the LA trio saw fit to bask in a very specific type of darkness, corrupting it from the inside with their trademark storytelling and coarse approach. Although each song on There Existed an Addiction to Blood functions as its own separate vignette, the framing of the album can’t be ignored. From the first actual song which has a single piano note repeated throughout, to the last one which is 18 solid minutes of an actual piano burning, it’s like the purging of a cursed artifact in order to restore peace, a common trope in horror media. Violent actions set into motion by “Nothing is Safe” are ceased by “Piano Burning”, the crackling of the fire and gradual buckling of the instrument’s weighty wood and innards is cleansing and satisfying, bordering on ASMR-like, though you’d be forgiven for calling it profoundly pretentious on first listen.
Yes, clipping. have made a horrorcore album, but it wouldn’t be enough for them to tell story after story of serial killings and demons possessing people, driving them to do horrid acts. Many a knife drips with blood in hip-hop, so it’s up to the group to differentiate themselves from the pack, something achieved with relative ease given their evolving creativity and progression. It even affects the album art – are the shapes on the cover representative of matchsticks, the same ones mentioned in lyrics or perhaps the ones that help spark the flame against the doomed piano? Is it a punji pit suspended in the void awaiting the hapless, unknowing step of someone to fall into it? Is it just Pinhead’s haircut from the Hellraiser movies? This, like many things in clipping.‘s cinematic world, are open to interpretation, equal parts perturbed and curious.
Of course, they can’t eschew all the tenets of hip-hop – to do so would make them lack definition, and not necessarily in the good, avant-garde way. “La Mala Ordina” is clipping.‘s way of telling us they can roll with the grimiest, hard-bodied dudes in the game, and who are the grimiest, most hard-bodied dudes in the game right now? Griselda Gang surely. Elcamino and Benny the Butcher creep out of the shadows to rip shit up on this track inspired by ruthless drug gang torture. Think of a rap version of that scene from Scarface and you’re about halfway there. Somewhat conversely, “He Dead” can capture the other side of that conflict, watching those around you seemingly disappear with no explanation. It’s a deadly werewolf story with some allusory connections to police violence, particularly against black communities (‘Cause they don’t think you matter/ They want to take your power/ And make you even lesser/ And add you to their number‘). The production all over this album often starts hollow, but fills with off-putting waves of static and noise, screams, mechanical creaks, and percussive claps among many other tones. There Existed an Addiction to Blood sounds like it’s placed in perpetual nighttime when the dark sky itself threatens to swallow you whole.
Where this album really shines is on “Run For Your Life”, a stunner of a story-driven track that shines brightly among other great story-driven tracks. There’s hardly any music – it’s almost all city street ambiance coloring in the lines under Diggs’ narrative rapping. A passing car bumping some trunk-knocking production with a window down syncs up neatly with his voice and gives the track its only rhythm for most of the song, accented by labored breathing from our protagonist as he runs from an unnamed woman that’s all about handling her business. Portrayed by Hypnotize Minds rapper and Three 6 Mafia affiliate La Chat, she pursues our, uh… hero, who wronged her and now capital punishment must be rendered upon this man’s ass. A haunting chant of ‘you ain’t scared, is ya?‘ from the hip-hop veteran stands out in the hook. He navigates the streets avoiding lights, ducks down dark alleys, hides in soggy garbage dumpsters, all told in vivid detail with the lyrics. When La Chat‘s verse starts at the end of the track, we learn that she caught her prey and what transpires… isn’t pretty. The song goes to great lengths to immerse a listener, going as far as to give La Chat a subtle, rumbling beat to rhyme over marking that transition to her viewpoint from inside her car, or perhaps her head where the bass mimics her boosted adrenaline and high blood pressure from the thrill of the kill.
clipping. have never been a group to skimp on the details and this rivals Splendor & Misery as a multifaceted piece, almost akin to an audiobook with how much time and effort is devoted to little grimy things that help paint a picture in your mind. The more vivid your imagination is to transcribe all you hear, the sicker the image, but also the truer the image. It’s not enough to be violent or crass – though it is effective – there has to be something to say. Subtext drips with commentary on racial violence, police brutality, drugs, inequality, and more in songs like “Nothing is Safe” and “He Dead” that harness a particular helplessness and despondency of people that are seemingly hunted by those in power, in numbers, or both. At face value, it’s a harrowing gonzo-esque expose of fantastic violence that skirts the line of reality enough to be profoundly unnerving. Below the surface… well, not much changes except how much you might relate to certain themes that get a shallow burial by the music itself.
There Existed an Addiction to Blood rests at the intersection of WorldStar and LiveLeak. There’s a real dirty sense of voyeurism with the violence on here, where one knows they should avert their eyes, but there’s qualities to it that make it both impossible to ignore and enriching to experience. clipping. have given – nah, gifted – us a horrorcore album for the Jordan Peele generation. Unsettling, smart, and visceral, it’s clear that Diggs and crew can really, truly adapt their harsh sound to complement any story or setting. No matter whatever’s next for them – Spaghetti western? Cyberpunk noir? – you can expect them to absolutely kill it, harder than the numerous vivisected and bloodied victims in this album.