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Band Hip Hop Avant-garde

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The album cover is nothing but a heap of spliced audio tape. Could be from a cassette, could be from a reel-to-reel, but you may have seen these mountains on the side of a highway or on an off ramp. In its present state, they cannot be played without knowledge of how to restore it to its normal state, but when you do, it will still sound abnormal. They will, without question, sound like audio clippings. You will not hear the music properly.

Enter Clipping.

It would be hard to come up with a description of what would make up “adventurous hip-hop” in 2013, since even the worst songs are adventurous in their own way. But Clipping are a group who can easily be called one of the more adventurous, because on the musical side, they sample experimental, avant-garde, and noise, and a lot of times not rhythmically. When Chuck D. once said “Bring The Noise”, a generation felt that meant bringing in hard rock and heavy metal influences. Clipping goes beyond that, and Midcity is one of the more adventurous hip-hop albums I’ve heard ever, and it’s successfully created because of how it was constructed. Since half of the songs have no centered sense of rhythm, you have to base the tempo on what the rapper conveys. When you have MC’s who will incorporate different styles and techniques within the same verse, you just have to use your instincts and go for the best, but how does that work in a music that is often defined by the rhythm? You have to be open. Seriously open, as the backing tracks are often times nothing more than noise, machines, and who knows what else. There is a reason for the sonic insanity, and listeners who aren’t used to these types of sounds may immediately toss this out and go “complete garbage”. However, the adventure comes from the stories they tell, and even without drums, you’re pulled in by what they say. It’s not about parties, drinking, or getting lost in a club, there’s actual content you can grip on, and that feel goes on for about two tracks.

Now, when the group does create a rhythm track, it may not come off like “normal”, but then again hip-hop is still abnormal to many people. It comes off electronic, industrial, even cold sounding, and everything sounds… I don’t know if foreign would be the right word but it’s distant, it’s unfamiliar. These sounds aren’t meant to be heard behind someone rapping, but then you realize you’ve entered Clipping’s world, and that reveals a few more things about our own world than we realized. As if by magic, a track or two will have something that sounds… funky? Hell yeah, it’s incredibly funky and yet the sounds behind it are exactly the same as what opened the album, just twisted into something new.

With Midcity, the lack of familiar beats, basslines, and samples almost forces the listener to pay attention to what is being said, not relying on a nostalgic and familiar groove to carry you through. You can’t hear these and act like these are your favorite jams, because they’re not. Or at least not in its present state. The rhythm can come through in the method of speech, but when the noise turns into a pulse, and the pulse into a groove, you may be disturbed by how natural it comes off. It holds true to the hip-hop theory that anything can be turned into music, that anything can be turned into a groove. Some may think this is the most disturbing sounds of all, but this is nothing different from some of OFWGKTA’s work, or some of Soul-Junk’s hip-hop tracks over the years. Clipping are much more open to the possibility of possibilities, and aren’t ashamed to admit it. Could these songs be turned into something funkier with outside producers and remixers? One could argue and say yes, but these are perfect as is. If De La Soul Is Dead will forever be the album someone found in the garbage, Midcity is the album found on the highway after days, if not weeks, of taking in the changing weather conditions and cars that passed over it. Distorted and unknown, may one find beauty in Clipping’s perceived unfamiliarity. - John Book


Have you ever listened to B L A C K I E or Death Grips and found it too abrasive, especially vocally? Well, that’s OK, because Los Angeles outfit Clipping are here to blow out you eardrums with harsh noise and more straightforward vocals. Their new project Midcity is equal parts distorted insanity and pretty goddamn solid rhymes. Frontman Daveed Diggs has the technical, double-time stuff down (and then some) and he flows effortlessly atop over-driven synths and drums. This is as raw as boom-bap gets, y’all, and if any of this has intrigued you, just hit play below and enjoy. - Potholes in my blog


"Extraordinary" is a frequently deployed epithet, one that has been devalued from over-use, but after listening to new LA rap trio Clipping and their debut album Midcity, there is little choice but to use it, and use it a lot. Maybe we haven't listened to enough of the kind of experimental electronica or extreme art-noise they write about over at the Wire, but we're guessing that, even if we had, we'd still respond to most of the tracks on Midcity with a series of exclamatory acronyms, principal among which would be "OMG!"

Midcity is an album of OMG moments, of strange, intense eruptions whose provenance is unclear. Is that a recording from inside a firestorm, or a fax machine being tortured at slow speed? Prepare to wince as a series of high-frequency sounds like a dentist's drill run amok and assail your ears. Expect the sort of shrill thrills you imagine could function as incidental soundtrack music for a documentary about abattoirs or might conceivably be the work of a young band intent on twisting industrial metal into brutal new shapes. With rapping on top. If you liked Death Grips, you'll love Clipping. Then again, if you're one of those disappointed souls who believed Kevin Shields didn't go far enough on the new My Bloody Valentine album, Midcity might be more the avant-garde apocalypse you were after.

They're not your regular hip-hop crew. We hesitate to say genre tourists but it would appear that they don't come from the ghetto and that their relationship to the culture is distant, mediated, hence the stylised version of the form on offer here (not a criticism, by the way). Jonathan Snipes is part of a "ravesploitation" duo called Captain Ahab as well as a "sound designer" specialising in electro-acoustic music and musique concrète and composer for film and theatre, while William Hutson makes noise music under the name Rale and is working on a PhD in performance studies at UCLA. It is left to MC Daveed Diggs to plug us into the lyrical current, but even when he's keeping it real it feels like an intellectual exercise, although we prefer it when he's being polemical and not promoting "pussy". Overall, the effect is purgative. They call themselves Amerikka's Most Wanted on their Bandcamp, but it could just as easily say Enema of the State.

Intro is an appropriately condensed version of what's in store, with torrents of words interspersed by the sound of amplified static. Loud is like Dif Juz, Def Jux and Def Jam all at once. The mention of "chicks" strikes the only sour note because Clipping excite as an anti-sex – anti-everything, really – cabal, a secret sect of cerebral, celibate nihilists, raining down their missives from atop the Hollywood hills. Even the staccato, single-syllable titles – Get.It, Bout.That – with those clipped/clipping dots seem designed to reflect their uptight, neurotic vision. Guns.Up is astonishing, like being buried under an avalanche of scree, or sucked through a blizzard, backwards. By Story, you're thinking, "This is a rather unusual sound palette." Amazing noises come and go, like a series of random musical non sequiturs. By the time you get to Outro and its 10-minute loop of "give money, give money, give money ..." you'll either feel exhilarated and cleansed, or be begging for mercy. But you'll feel something, and that doesn't happen every day, even at New Band of the Day. Extraordinary. - The Guardian


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Still working on that hot first release.

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