It could be argued that Clipse’s Lord Willin’, is a certified street classic. Here was a record that was propelled by an incredibly raw single (“Grindin”), followed-up with a undeniable club anthem (“When’s The Last Time”), boasting wall to wall Neptunes production from start to finish. But nobody said this when it came out. This was one of those oft-overlooked records that people had written off as effortless drug rap, but then later found their ears perking up when songs like “Gangsta Lean”, “Cot Damn”, or any of the album’s other 13 tracks came seeping out of someone else’s stereo. Combined with true emcee wit - an atypical trait among their cocaine contemporaries (Young Jeezy, Rick Ross, etc) - the Clipse were a cut above the rest.
After all the reviews were written, everyone back-peddled realizing the true brilliance of Lord Willin’, Malice and Pusha T kept their name in the game with their series of We Got It For Cheap mixtapes, which boasted unreleased material, freestyles, and b-sides, all of which helped keep them relevant in the off season. After label shake-ups with Arista and landing on Jive, the Clipse finally return to major chain stores with their official sophomore release, Hell Hath No Fury.
Already deemed a “classic” by XXL Magazine, whether or not that is true remains to be seen. What can be said about Hell Hath No Fury, however, is that with this album, The Neptunes have opened up a whole new can of worms in terms of production, thinking outside the box like never before. While the last album had certified, almost safely formulaic, club songs, Hell Hath makes no attempt to satisfy whatever “the now sound” is, going off in it’s on direction completely. For instance, the first single, “Mr. Me Too”, finds the duo over a hollow metallic bassline and tapping snares, while the duo joins Pharrell in lambasting copycats and trend followers. It’s follow-up, “Wamp Wamp”, again, attempts to follow no preconceived notions of what a single should sound like, employing iron drums and sitars, while Slim Thug lends an infectious hook to Pusha and Malice’s drug-funded braggadocio.
Much like the first album though, Clipse keep things at a tightly knit 12 tracks, leaving little room for error. The Neptunes choose off-kilter, experimental production tactics for many of the beats on the record - such as the backward wind of “Momma I’m So Sorry” or the lo-fi Caribbean rhythm of “We Got It For Cheap”. They are also found taking things back to the most basic of levels of hip-hop production, with minimalist head-nodders like “Ride Around Shining” and “Dirty Money”, both beats sounding like they could have been found on the rawest hip-hop record of 1992 (and that is meant as a compliment). But it’s not to say that new ground isn’t broken here, as songs like the spacey “Trill” and “Keys Open Doors” take things back to the future, while “Hello New World” and “Ain’t Cha” carry on the traditional Virgina sound birthed on Lord Willin’.
Again, what separates Clipse from many of their other rap counterparts is their dedication to clever lyrical intricacy, rather than just shitting out whatever rhymes with what. True, their subject matter is drug pushing and flossing, but they do it with such finesse and style, that you are rooting for the bad guy the whole way through. Thought-provoking lyrics such as “I ain’t spend one rap dollar in three years, holla” or “open up the Fridigdaire / 25 to life in here”, add substance to otherwise tired subject matter. Like M.O.P. is to guns, Clipse is to drug dealing.
Given the fact that unlike Lord Willin’, Hell Hath No Fury doesn’t have a monster single behind to propel it to commercial success, which may keep it from being recognized as the classic record that it could very well be. At this point it remains to be seen if this record will eventually bleed into the collective hip-hop consciousness like Lord Willin’ did, but it’s a solid follow-up regardless.
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