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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Apu Rambles: Prof is a Pretty Decent Rapper, and I Usually Hate New Things.

by Apu

ProfPress-1-Credit-BlueG-Productions-news

I feel like fucking rambling. I need to distract myself. I would apologize in advance for making such a long post but honestly there’s nobody out there who’s going to read anything posted on this site ever in my or Dustin’s lifetime (note from Dustin: this may or may not be true, but I refuse to comment on the matter).

I’ve been listening to a lot of Prof lately. Dustin introduced me to his music about 4 of 5 months ago. If I remember correctly it was because of some lyrics I was writing. I was writing (and still write) about hijinks that I encounter while inebriated and upon showing Dustin a portion of a verse, he told me I was a lot like Prof, and even that my old rap name was reminiscent of Prof’s rap name. I had no idea who he was talking about so he sent me the “Bar Breaker” video

Needless to say, I was intrigued. This shit was nearly exactly what I was writing, except it was a lot less rhymey and a lot better. The jokes were funnier, the personality shone more, and it was more fun. I think my shit’s more cynical though, so that may be it. But whatever. I liked it more than anything I was writing. I told Dustin that I like it. Of course, I’m the type who takes forever to actually listen to the album of an artist I haven’t heard of before. Dustin can attest to how long it took me to finally sit and give a listen to the Run The Jewels albums and I obviously loved them like everybody else who listens to RTJ, so I don’t know why I don’t change. But I don’t, so instead, I just looked for another song to listen to. I saw “Ghost” and saw a familiar name: Tech N9ne. I clicked on it.

I listen to it and I’m really impressed by Prof at this point. In my completely unprofessional and unimportant opinion, Prof left Tech in the dust after burying him. Tech’s verse is cool, sure, but Prof’s flow was more creative (as opposed to the very challenging but somewhat increasingly basic “let me put every syllable on the drum” flow that Tech used on this song…Tech please don’t send someone to kill me please), Prof sounded threatening at points but would say something like “I roll deep, even got my grandma here” to make you chuckle (and the shit wasn’t even pace-breaking or anything, it was totally seamless), his delivery was more engaging…I felt like I had to listen to more. I see in the related videos column a song called “Animal” and click on it. Next thing I know I’m listening to some club song that sounds like it belongs in 2005.
I was a little taken aback, because those other two songs were a lot more lyrical-miracle let-me-show-off-ish. Then here comes this weird club song that sounds like it was written in half an hour. But I as I was listening I couldn’t help but nod my head and really fucking like that harmonizing he did behind “I’m an animal, what they call me? I’m an animal” on the hook. And the video had me really entertained too. The beginning of the first verse when he puts his arm around the girl with a turkey baster in his hand, then takes some of the girl’s drink then walks away from her, was a highlight for me.

A few days later, I decided to listen to more of Prof’s music. I searched “Prof” in the Youtube search bar (because obviously that’s an important detail in this story) and click on the first new thumbnail that interests me because I’m a dumb fuck with a short attention span and the intellect of a hamster after drinking vodka from that suspension tube generally full of fluid that hamster cages have in them. It ended up being “Peep Show.”

I was immediately feeling the production. I’ve always liked dark clown rap beats. I search for them on Youtube all the time and come back disappointed because nearly every beat on Youtube fucking sucks. From the way it opened up I was really interested. Then it goes from that demented circus tent to him walking around picking his teeth with pink headphones on looking like Charlie Brown’s older brother. I had fun watching the video. By this point I came to realize that Prof is much more a guy who makes music to have some goddamn fun, unlike so many rappers nowadays who are trying to come up with a winning formula or just make contrived emotional songs that end up coming off as empty, then get pissed off when the shit doesn’t work so they go on Twitter to rant and force us as listeners to worry about their respective mental health. And I was cool with that, because I was enjoying myself listening to him.

About 3 and a half months go by after my week of listening to those 4 songs. I never really got into Prof beyond them because I had a bunch of shit happen. But about 2 or 3 weeks ago (fuck time, right? Who the fuck knows how long it’s been since 5 minutes ago? [wait…]) I decided to start listening to him again. I checked out Kaiser Von Powderhorn 2, which had “Animal” on it. It was a pretty short project, I think the Bandcamp description says all the Kaiser Von Powderhorns are EPs. I found that I really, really liked “Rules” and “Figured Out” aside from just “Animal.” “Figured Out” impressed me in particular. It was pretty clear that Prof can sing based off the songs that I had heard, but I didn’t think he could pull of an entire track the way he did that. I thought the project was cool.

That was nothing compared to when I listened to Liability though. It was way more than just an album that’s full of songs meant to elicit a chuckle or two. It definitely looked that way on the first half of the album. “Galore,” “King,” “Standout,” and “Far Out” are all just fun rap songs, and even though they were all very enjoyable I was afraid this would run thin by the end of the album. But when “I Had Sex In The 90’s” came on, I appreciated when he decided to sing throughout the track for the most part. It changed the feel of the album a bit and showed that Prof didn’t have just one thing to offer through the entire thing.

Then fucking “Motel.”

Fucking hell.

This little fucking white guy just made a blues song with this shit. And it is good. Really fucking good. His singing blew my mind…I wouldn’t say it’s because it’s so amazing, but more because I was NOT expecting it. Don’t get me wrong, the singing is pretty fucking great. Better than the singing that comes out of guys like Yelawolf, who is praised for the country element he’s adding to his music. Mainly because with Yelawolf you can tell the vocals are touched the fuck up more than – wait no I’m not going to make a pedophilia joke. Prof proved that his vocals aren’t touched at all on Sway In The Morning. That shit’s all real. It’s awesome.

He continued the singing on “Love Like Mine” which is definitely something I’m playing when I fuck. Same with “Mob” and “Apeshit” actually. Those songs get me fucking hype. Play the shit at the gym. Guaranteed to make you look like Terry Crews Euro Training. Waka’s verse is fire too, I never thought I’d hear him rap like that.

So yeah. Liability is a fucking great album. I haven’t been excited about an album like this in a long time. After this I checked King Gampo, which was entertaining too. Not on the same level as Liability though, which I was actually relieved for because it means that Prof focused on getting better as time went on. I want to see that still happening. I really, really enjoyed “Gampo,” “Peep Show” as you already know, and “Need Your Love” which sounds like Prof’s remake of “I Just Died In Your Arms Tonight” by Cutting Crew (a song I like). But what really caught my attention on this album was “Karma.” I swear, Prof’s singing is fucking great. The way he layers his vocals on this song is great. I haven’t really listened to Prof’s other projects in full but I have heard a few songs off Camp Gampo, which are different than what he started doing around the time of Kaiser Von Powderhorn 2. It actually sounded more on the level of what I’m writing now, which makes me hope I can improve the way Prof did. He started singing a lot more, which I think really helped him come into his own. It allowed him to use his voice differently which helped give it a completely new dimension of charisma.

For the longest time, I thought that rappers/singers didn’t get any better than Krizz Kaliko. I mean, the motherfucker is probably why I enjoy Tech’s music as much as I do. I pay attention to even his background vocals and ad-libs on Tech’s music. Listen to the very last hook of Tech’s “Paint A Dark Picture.” Pay attention to Krizz singing out the last words of each line of the hook. Tell me that shit doesn’t give you chills. And that’s just fucking background vocals. Who the fuck else could do what the fuck he did on “Withdrawals”? “Little Pills”? “Bipolar”?

Then I find this Prof asshole. I go from thinking Krizz is the only one who would put “Dancing With Myself,” “Kali Baby,” “Can’t Be The Only One,” “Wannabe,” and “Unstable” on the same album and make it sound like they all fucking belong together to hearingLiability which pulls off “Bar Breaker,” “Ghost,” “Motel,” and “Mob.” I don’t even know if I could classify Prof as a rapper/singer because he screams hip hop in his overall demeanor and personality in the music, as opposed to Krizz who is a lot more ambiguous in the genre he does. And the thing is, I don’t think I can really compare the two as far as who I like more. Prof generally makes a lot more fun, ignorant music and seems to do the “I choose to be happy” thing; ignoring his pain and burying it beneath smiles, jokes, and alcohol. Krizz makes fun music as well, but he connects with me mainly when he wears his heart on his sleeve and bears it all. Krizz is a better rapper and singer technically, but Prof oozes character 100% of the time, and it’s much stronger character than most rappers besides guys like Em, Luda, Busta, or Red (and occasionally he exceeds the character that they show). So I don’t know. What I do know is I just had something really fucking shitty happen, and I’m probably gonna need to listen to both Prof and Krizz for the foreseeable future.

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.