Arts and Entertainment

clipping. Is a Deadly Threat on “Visions of Bodies Being Burned”

Review of clipping.’s fantastic fourth studio album, “Visions of Bodies Being Burned.”

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Murder, paranoia, femme fatales, apocalypse, and Cthulu are just some of the images commonplace in the blood red back alley world that hip-hop group clipping. crafted on their latest album “Visions of Bodies Being Burned.” The uncompromising production accents the terror of lead rapper Daveed Diggs’ stories with door-knocking sounds, shots of distortion, spacious ambiance, and shrill, chiming tones. The vignettes on “Visions” are soaked in blood, suspense, and darkness in the best possible way, and once you get past the potentially off-putting subject matter, you’ll be rewarded with one of the most cohesive and entertaining releases of the year.

clipping. is a California hip-hop group consisting of rapper Daveed Diggs and producers Johnathon Snipes and William Hutson. Though he is best known for his role as Thomas Jefferson/Lafayette in “Hamilton,” Diggs has rapping skills that reach new heights over Hutson and Snipes’s unorthodox production. Diggs cites West Coast pop-rap subgenres Hyphy and G-Funk as some of his greatest influences, hence his ability to write a good hook and a catchy flow. He even references Hyphy legend E-40 multiple times on “Visions” as a token of his respect. Hutson and Snipes have extensive experience crafting film scores, which manifests in their ability to create a harrowing atmosphere through just a few synths. Producing stellar work since their debut album “Midcity” (2013), clipping. has continued to redefine the limits of hip-hop ever since. Their previous album, “There Existed An Addiction to Blood” (2018), marked their first foray into horrorcore and is an excellent companion piece to “Visions.”

“Visions” starts on a high note with its first track “Intro.” The booming, distant kicks and subtle, scratching foley set the tone perfectly for the remaining tracks. Giving way to Diggs’ surgical, rapid flows, the foley and kicks grow increasingly distorted until Diggs’ verse is abruptly cut off by a wall of fiery noise, which transitions wonderfully into the bouncy trap bass of “Say the Name.” Another major peak is “96 Neve Campbell,” which features skeletal production under an inversion of the classic horror movie trope of women getting murdered. This time, the women are doing the killing; in the role of these women, featured artists Cam and China exude buckets of personality and swagger. The next highlight, “Pain Everyday,” opens with frantic percussive hits that once again emulate door knocking. These hits eventually give way to dynamic IDM rhythms, which Diggs flows over immaculately about victims of lynching haunting their murderers and causing them to commit suicide. The clear nod to racial justice returns on “Body for the Pile,” in which Diggs intricately details the deaths of three police officers over some grueling metallic shrieks, clicking foley and thunderous kicks. Among the best tracks on “Visions” is its most aggressive, “Looking Like Meat,” which features the duo Ho99o9. The resonant, distorted 808s (electronic percussion), Diggs’ cutthroat flow, and use of the second person give the track all the thrill of getting mugged and stabbed, but make it way more fun.

There are, however, a few low points on “Visions of Bodies Being Burned.” On “Something Underneath” and “Eaten Alive,” Diggs’ hooks aren’t nearly as catchy as they tend to be on the rest of the project. A catchy hook is key to the clipping. formula, as it gives the typical listener something to focus on while they admire the less compromising and chaotic attributes of their sound. Without this key aspect, the songs can feel directionless. On “Eaten Alive,” the clattering metallic percussion solo with sparse guitar twanging in the background goes on for far too long and isn’t all that interesting in the first place. While “Say the Name” has an earworm of a hook and some vivid murderous imagery, the resonating claps, and low string plucks in the background are disappointingly unappealing. Eventually fading out into a dissonant cacophony of plucks, whirs, clanks, and electronic fizzles, it becomes evident that the song lacks a clear purpose. “Make Them Dead” might also be a bit too abrasive for some; the power electronics intro is a tough pill to swallow for those new to the genre, and the density of the instrumentation could easily lose their attention.

Overall, “Visions of Bodies Being Burned” is a fantastic album. Elements of noise, hip-hop, horror, and even field recordings coalesce into a project only clipping. could have created. Their unique selection of timbres and aesthetics, as well as the brutal subject matter that they explore, might be intimidating for new listeners, but their chilling albums are consistently a cut above the average hip-hop project in every regard. From their expansive, jarring soundscapes to their endlessly creative lyricism, clipping. has constructed an immersive, memorable, timely, and progressive hip-hop album that will surely end up as one of the best of the year.