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Monday, July 28, 2014

clipping. - Taking Off Track Review

I recently had the pleasure of attending the Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago. The first performer on Saturday was a rapper named Ka. I love his music - and his live show did not disappoint. He's a brilliant poet and lyricist. The most memorable part of his set was not one of his songs, though. It was a spoken interlude to his awesome track "Jungle." Sidenote: if you haven't checked out Ka or his LP The Night's Gambit, you should. Anyway, Ka described his hometown of Brownsville, a neighborhood in Brooklyn, NYC, in quite 'real' terms, so to speak. Ka dedicated "Jungle" to all of the friends he lost during the summer. He said that it gets hot in Brownsville and "people are stacked on top of each other" - that a lot of people get frustrated with their situation and "jus' start shootin'" [sic].

If Ka's interlude describes the abstract situation of of living life in the "Jungle." Then clipping.'s track "Taking Off" gives voice to a few characters that live there. Clipping.'s emcee, Daveed Diggs, delivers a harshly realistic vision of unnamed places in three rapid fire verses he drops with surgical precision and virtuosic flows. Daveed's verses are so intense they deserve detailed dissections and study to fully grasp their content and meaning. Dissections I won't delve too deeply into here, but suffice it to say that you'll be looking up the clipping.'s RapGenius page for hours if you like their music as much as I do.

Verse 1 has a rhythmic pattern that sounds as though it were taken from a snare drum exercise book. The song itself is set around 80 BPM in 4/4. The first six lines are delivered as largely eighth-notes. The next 3 or 4 lines are delivered as eighth-note triplets. The next 4 lines are delivered as sixteenth-notes at blistering speeds. Then the entire pattern I just described is repeated to conclude the verse while each half of the first verse is 8 bars long.

Lyrically, the first 8 bars describe the life of a killer in cold, factual terms. The second 8 bars describe the emotional aftermath of that sort of life on the killer himself. Throughout the rest of the song, Daveed continues with the murderer as a theme, describing where this sort of person grows up, why they are the way they are, and why people trun to such a lifestyle. This sort of attention to detail and orderedness continue throughout the track, though the first verse stands as a sort of perfect example of Daveed's amazing delivery, planning, and complex wordplay.

Musically, clipping. are noise-hop. The two instrumentalists, Jonathan Snipes and William Hutson, bring their own unique brand of dark, sparse, noise-centric beats to the table for "Taking Off" and it works perfectly to accentuate Daveed's brilliance. The strong noise element of clipping. in general deserves more than a passing comment I think. What interests me most, and for now will have to be an underdeveloped line of thinking, is that the noise element of clipping. fits so well with Daveed's gritty portrayal of life on the street that it is more consistent than a lot of other "gangsta rap." That is to say, what is usually the case in rap is that a rapper will describe dark themes of poverty, crime, exploitation over music that makes it palatable to a large audience. With clipping., however, there is no safe way to palliate what one hears: the beat and music accompanying the harsh lyrics are equally as harsh. It gives clipping.'s music a sort of x-factor whereby it is sometimes difficult to listen to and quite upsetting. This is the same sort of feeling I get from Death Grips, which makes clipping. especially exciting insofar as Death Grips broke up.

In "Taking Off," then, clipping. gives us a dark insight into life in the "Jungle" quite unlike anything I've heard before. It makes it quite a joyful experience in the darkest meaning of that statement as is possible. "Taking Off" furthermore shows the listener that, as long as we have poverty, we will have killers: a lesson worth remembering.

Rating: 8.5/10



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