Updated: Mar 6
Full disclosure: I may not be the most qualified to speak on the subject of hip-hop music. Having grown up with a family who listened to mostly country music, and growing up with hard rock and heavy metal music, hip-hop has not been super high on my list. This may be as close to the genre as I ever get in my reviews, but if that’s the case, stopping at clipping. is not the worst thing I could do.
The group formed in 2009, with rapper Daveed Diggs and co-producers William Hutson and Jonathan Snipes. What began as a remix project turned into a full-fledged outfit with original music. 2013 saw their self-released debut, Midcity. A year later, the three were signed to Sub Pop Records and put out CLPPNG, which features one of my personal favorite songs of theirs, the visceral “Body and Blood.” After two consecutive Hugo Award nominations for their second studio album Splendor and Misery and their single from said album, “The Deep,” the Los Angeles trio has their third studio LP, There Existed an Addiction to Blood.
All of the hallmarks of clipping. are on display here. Diggs’ rapid-fire delivery is sharp, and his gruesome lyrics make for deep cuts against the cacophony of musique concrete employed by Hutson and Snipes. The violence of the music is never gratuitous, even if the lyrics get downright brutal. Each move is calculated, every beat is intentional, and every line is precise. Even for someone who doesn’t listen to much hip-hop, there’s a hell of a lot to enjoy with clipping.
The intro track puts the delivery of Diggs’ words front and center, and at no point here or in any other track does it get slurred, mumbled, or otherwise unclear. Not to say that he wasn’t before, but with this and the first full track “Nothing is Safe,” it is clear that Diggs is out for blood. The piano is haunting, like it came right from a movie score. Turns out, it more or less did, as the band mentioned that the instrumental was an homage to John Carpenter and his legendary film scores. It’s easy to get lost in it, even as Diggs’ lyrics stalk along and jab right when they need to. Things take a turn for a more droning, melancholy sound on “He Dead,” which features a chorus sung by Ed Balloon. The organ added to the final chorus makes for a drab ending to this track, as it bleeds into the first interlude “Haunting.” In it, a woman discusses, on tape, a literal haunting that she eventually connects to something satanic going on.
“La Mala Ordina” has one of my favorite one-liners I’ve ever heard in any genre: “Victim skin stretched across the wall, call it body art.” With The Rita providing their signature harsh noise style to the production, and rappers Benny the Butcher and El Camino lending verses to the track, the Mafia-inspired work is another strong showing, as the track distorts more and more until its conclusion. “Club Down” is a jarring production, but with impeccable delivery by Diggs and guest Sarah Bernat. The line “shitting Faberge eggs” caught me off-guard the first time through, but again, it’s a great one-liner. The next interlude, “Prophecy,” is mostly white noise, as it gives way to “Run For Your Life,” featuring a braggadocious guest spot from La Chat. In it, the femme fatale is front and center, as Diggs raps about the danger of his female counterpart (“Don’t you know that she ain’t ‘fraid to shoot? / You fucked up and she’s comin’ for you). La Chat’s solo verse goes for the jugular, as she evokes imagery of feeding corpses to pigs and chainsawing chest cavities, among other atrocities.
“The Show” takes the concept of a dark web red room and goes absolutely tell-all with it. No detail is too minute, as the torture is fired off in second-person perspective, as is much of this album’s lyrics, letting the listener feel every second of the brutality from their eardrum to their toes. “Possession” is sampling The Return of Count Yorga, a 1971 vampire flick, before the intro for “All In Your Head” gets directly in your face. The religious imagery conjured, between psalms, hymnals, and the Lord’s Prayer, is blasphemous as can be, as guests Robyn Hood and Counterfeit Madison take the listener to church, albeit kicking and screaming and possibly hog-tied.
“Blood of the Fang” samples 1973’s Ganja and Hess, with said sample giving us the album’s title, as Diggs celebrates his culture, while critiquing and probing the Black Lives Matter movement. Hopeful as he may be for the future, some of Diggs’ lyrics indicate that he is far from satisfied with how racism and prejudice are being handled in modern times. “Story 7” is an entire concept all its own, as love affairs, police brutality, and werewolves are all rolled into one song, which itself is linked to another remix that clipping. did previously. It’s a lot to unpack, but don’t let a lack of familiarity deter you, this is a strong, jarring track. “Attunement” is downright terrifying, its samples adding to the atmosphere of this song about a man on the brink of suicide.
Closing the album is “Piano Burning,” and it’s literally the sound of a piano burning. Avant-garde artist Annea Lockwood does the honors for the actual writing, though sonically, well, it’s at least truth in advertising.
Final experimental piece aside, this is a tight, compelling album full of great production values and delivery. If nothing else, this, and anything else that clipping. has done, could be a bridge or gateway for those not in tune with hip-hop to ease into things. The brutality of the lyrics rivals a lot of extreme metal, the delivery is right up there with the biggest names of rappers, and the samples and production are chilling, atmospheric, and nasty. Give this a spin, get yourself a taste of There Existed an Addiction to Blood, even if you aren’t a hip-hop junkie.