Artist of the Month: clipping.

by Dustin

clppng

At one point in the late months of 2014 someone linked me to clipping.’s release from a year earlier, midcity. One thing lead to another and… Well, I ended up binge listening to every scrap of material the hip-hop trio could offer. What I learned swiftly is that clipping. really isn’t your usual rap act even though the lyrical subject matter can seem familiar. In fact, they probably couldn’t be further from the norm.

If you’ve heard a single clipping. song in your life then you will know exactly what I mean. Let’s start with the production. That sexy, sexy production. William Hutson and Jonathan Snipes create some of the most abrasive (in all the right ways) and noisy instrumentals I’ve ever heard, yet they remain pleasing to the ears; moreover, I find their production to be incredibly atmospheric. My favorite example of this is the song Story 2. Though Daveed Diggs lyrics are rich with story-telling goodness, Hutson and Snipes’ production turn the song into a beautifully anxious and emotionally draining listening experience.

Seriously, did you just listen to that song? If you have to take a moment to let your heart rate come back down I wouldn’t blame you.

I should probably talk about Daveed Diggs now that I’ve mentioned him. Fun fact, he’s recently won a Grammy for some of his musical theatre work. Talented guy, and he’s also a pretty fantastic rapper. I would say that his greatest strength is his ability to lay thick descriptions in his writing effortlessly. As I mentioned earlier, Story 2 does showcase this, but it’s a pretty standard part of Diggs’ style. Take for instance the horrorcore flavored track from CLPPNG, Body & Blood (note: the video I’ve just linked to is most definitely not safe for work, you have been warned). He verbally paints a picture of the murderous female lead’s physical appearance and behaviors without forcing anything into the verse. It’s just lovely.

Well, as lovely as you can get when talking about a cannibalistic female serial killer, but that’s a discussion for another day.

Another thing about clipping. that I respect is their versatility within their own sound. On one hand, they’re masters of the ultra-abrasive tracks that are perhaps not so accessible. Intro is one of these songs. It’s loud, and it wants to permanently damage your eardrums to the point that you develop tinnitus (I say this with love, the sound is great). On the other hand, clipping. has put out songs like Summertime which are ridiculously smooth given the production style.

As a side, if you just listened to Summertime and don’t want to be cruising around in August with your windows down, I don’t know what to say. I know the subject matter isn’t happy, but you can still leave if you don’t agree with me. Seriously, there’s nothing more for you here because we will never agree on anything.

Just kidding I love you.

Allow me to issue a personal challenge to anyone who reads this article: listen to a clipping. project in full. I expect that the sound wont click with every single person that checks out their music, and that’s certainly okay. For those who end up enjoying the sound though (such as myself), you’ll find yourself pleasantly addicted to one of the most unique acts currently in hip-hop.

Here, listen to guns.up. Don’t even try to figure out what’s happening, just let it hit you. Just accept it.

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A Reflection on Definitive Jux

by Dustin

In February of 2009 El-P would take to the internet to announce the permanent hiatus of Definitive Jux. A label which he co-founded after a falling out with Rawkus Records, where he previously was signed as a member of Company Flow. Definitive Jux would quickly establish itself as a powerhouse in the independent hip-hop world through many critically acclaimed releases at the start of the millennium.

Definitive Jux had an extensive discography over eleven years of operation. Today, in a celebration of life (in the loosest sense), we will take a look at four of the most important releases from the label. These are not necessarily the best records to come from El-P’s underground giant, but those which had a special significance.

thecoldvein

Cannibal Ox – The Cold Vein

According to a barely comprehensible letter written by Vast Aire about his beef with El-P in 2009, Cannibal Ox were not officially signed to Definitive Jux when The Cold Vein was released (though the validity of this statement can definitely be brought into question); however, it was the album that established the label as a major player in independent hip-hop.

It pushed boundaries in terms of production and vocal deliveries. The Cold Vein sold more than the label had predicted (over 60,000 copies as of 2012) and ended up being widely regarded as an underground classic, making it the foundational record in the Definitive Jux discography.

The greatest shame is that Cannibal Ox would go on to never release another album on the label. The group spiraled into dysfunction between 2002 and 2003, and eventually dropped from Definitive Jux. Vordul Mega began struggling with mental health and substance abuse issues, and Vast Aire began lashing out at members of Definitive Jux for various reasons (many of which were proven to be false) until sometime in 2011.

The group finally self-released their sophomore album fifteen years after The Cold Vein, yet it ultimately fell short.

Labordays

Aesop Rock – Labor Days

The Cold Vein was the album that really started it all, but Aesop Rock’s Labor Days would be the release that proved El-P’s label would not be a one hit wonder. Boasting gritty alternative-New York style production by Aesop Rock and longtime collaborator Blockhead, the concept album about America’s working class would far exceed label expectations.

One single from the album, Daylight, would be such a hit that it spawned an extended play sharing the same name the following year. Labor Days was the album that kept momentum rolling for the label, and pushed them forward into a string of critically acclaimed albums from multiple artists through the early 2000s.

Perhaps as importantly, this was Aesop Rock’s full length debut on Definitive Jux. Even though his final album release on the label would come in 2007, Aesop was perhaps one of the most prominent members on the Definitive Jux roster. Where Cannibal Ox would slow to a stop following their debut, Aesop Rock continued to put out quality releases on the label that sold respectably.

Illsleepwhenyouredead

El-P – I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead

I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead‘s release was an important transitional moment for El-P’s sound, but also for Definitive Jux. Unfortunately it would mark the beginning of the end for the label. I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead would ultimately spawn the final run of releases from big name artists in the New York collective. Aesop Rock, Rob Sonic, and Cage would all also contribute one final album a piece. Along with a few small scale albums and regional releases (often shared with other independent labels), these would be the last albums of Definitive Jux.

I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead was also co-founder and figurehead, El-P’s, final album on the label. Even though it didn’t set Definitive Jux up for success like The Cold Vein, propel the label forward like Labor Days, or mark the end of an era like King of Hearts, I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead serves as an important part of the label’s time line.

Kingofhearts

Camu Tao – King of Hearts

Though Camu Tao’s King of Hearts was not up to the same standard of quality as I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead, it is arguably the most important release in the Defintive Jux catalog. This would be the final release for the label, but more importantly the final release for Camu Tao. Having passed away after a battle with cancer, this album would be a sampler of unfinished snippets cleaned up by El-P following Camu’s death.

To put it politely, the album is incredibly rough; however, behind the roughness it seemed as if he was onto something with the sound. The amount of genre blending on the King of Hearts album is almost overwhelming. There are moments that sound electronic, hip-hop, and there even seems to be a significant amount of alternative rock influence.

As unfortunate as the circumstances were leading up to its release, King of Hearts serves as a fantastic bookend to the Definitive Jux era. Even in its unfinished state the album encompassed everything the label encouraged: it was innovate, off-kilter, and didn’t try to follow anyone’s lead.