Sludgy blasts of audio slurps burst. Spiraling tinny echoes usher in electronic chirps. Pitter-patter beats dance around unapologetic verses. Slushy drums are immersed in static.
Released this July on Sub Pop Records, rapper Daveed Diggs and producers Jonathan Snipes and William Hutson’s newest album “CLPPNG” sounds like a collection of audio snippets strung together from a futuristic-dystopian alternate universe as opposed to your typical summer release.
With shrill and booming tracks like “Intro” and “Body & Blood” juxtaposed against spectral, electronic-experimental songs like “Work Work” and “Summertime,” one sees the sonic diversity that Clipping strives for in its production. Clipping’s MC, Diggs, furthers the album’s advancement on this most recent release by taking what made their debut project “midcity” so gripping — the hyper-lyrical story-telling, explicit imagery, intricate wordplay, gruesome descriptions and, at times, thought-provoking lines — and amplifying it to the max. Diggs improves his overall flow, becoming more technically proficient, speedy and complex.
Beyond the alarming ambience radiating from Clipping’s newest album, clarity can be found in what appears to be rampant chaos. In other words, “CLPPNG” is an example of what music reviewers call a concept album — a body of work that transcends music and incorporates elements of theme, motif and storyline to expand the meaning of the album. This conceptual element is achieved on the producing end with Snipes and Hutson, as the album cohesively blends a spectrum of ominous and sinister vibes, creating what the group likes to call, “party music for the club you wish you hadn’t gone to.”
The production sets up the canvas for what the project is going to be figuratively painted on, and so it really is in the lyrics where the magic happens.
On the most basic level, the listener follows an assortment of characters Diggs creates through a series of events in the self-created world of CLPPNG. With the groupings of tracks like “Tonight,” “Dream” and “Get Up,” the listener gets the feeling that a continuous story or collection of chronological events are present, not only due to the song titles but also the storylines and themes addressed on each song.
It should also be noted that Diggs never once uses the word “I,” emphasizing the fact that these are all characters suspended from actual reality. Each song often follows its own unique story arc and often functions like scenes from an overall screenplay, depicting everyday life in a destitute land, desolate of hope.
For example in the song “Story 2,” the main character, Mike Winfield (portrayed by Diggs) is walking home from his low-paying job, and he reflects on all of the “charred skeletons closeted begging to get out” of his house.
“He [pauses] … scared of airing out [his] thoughts, [and] he can taste it in his mouth the sulfur and bitter carbon — hearing all the burning bodies shout, but no. That was a full lifetime ago and nobody ever has to know.”
As he continues walking, he sees a suspicious Acura, dented on the left rear fender, that he barely recognizes. He keeps walking when suddenly ashes start raining from the sky. Frantically, he calls his babysitter, but when he gets no reply, he starts sprinting to his house, three blocks away. Right as he turns the corner onto his street an explosion goes off and he hears screams from his house. He walks toward his burning house with tears in his eyes, “letting the smoke take his breath” until someone knocks him down and he says, “Why won’t you just let me die.”
With this most recent release, the members of Clipping prove themselves to be incredibly masterful, individually, and as a group. This project was truly one of the most unique and refreshing albums out of all genres I’ve heard so far this year.