In a nutshell, The Clipse’s first album, Lord Willin’, was one of those oft-overlooked records that held it’s weight long after it’s original release date, but initially met with a lukewarm response. A true “grower”, the album sent legions of album reviewers back-peddling to give The Clipse their long deserved respect, whom then, in turn, overrated their second album, Hell Hath No Fury. While definitely a solid record, one publication went out on a limb and awarded the album classic status, surely a decision they might be looking back on with second thoughts. But while every rap rag (including this one) has blemishes on it’s review report card, The Clipse have had a wealth of classic songs and mixtapes and definitely deserve the praise they’ve been given, however misplaced it may be. With their third album, Til The Casket Drops, they meet halfway between the more light-hearted faire of Lord Willin’ and the edgier sounds of Hell Hath No Fury.
The major difference this time around is that The Clipse have not used The Neptunes’ production exclusively, now employing production teams of DJ Khalil & Chin and Sean C & LV to help out. The first half of the album picks up with the group’s more raw sound, as heard on their last LP. The opening track, “Freedom”, presents a dark, brooding vision of the American dream, as Pusha T and Malice deliver opposing testimonies of both indifference and regret over Sean C and LV’s sinister guitar sample. “Popular Demand” and “Kinda Like A Big Deal” follow, both finding the duo at their best over Marley Marl-esque pianos and psychedelic rock breaks, while Cam’Ron and Kanye take the honor of rhyming next to the two hood favorites. One of the albums true standouts however is the dancehall-tinged “There Was A Murder”, an anti-snitch anthem finding the duo equipped with rastafarian accents and accompanying hook from Kobe.
The second half of the album relies heavier on the Neptunes production, taking things back to the Pharrell driven style of Lord Willin’. In an attempt to duplicate the (moderate) success of past singles like “When’s The Last Time” and “Girl I Don’t Love Her”, we get a pair of R&B laced tracks in the form of “All Eyes On Me” (feat. Keri Hilson) and “Counseling” (feat. Nicole Hurst & Pharrell). The first works as an uptempo party-starter, however the second finds itself swimming in dangerous waters when it interpolates Laura Branigan’s cheesy 80′s hit “Self Control”, despite the fact we can all relate to it’s content. The Neptunes “I’m Good” nails the Neptunes / Clipse chemistry perfectly.
However much of the rest of the album seems derivative of the group’s other works, while other tracks miss the mark completely. “Doorman”, for instance sounds a bit too similar to the album’s earlier track “Popular Demand”, while the bell-ringing “Showing Out” (for some reason) duplicates the production style of Eminem, but it’s produced by Pharrell. As the album winds down, “Champion” and “Footsteps” seem like filler in an otherwise impressive resume.
The Clipse are always on point with their lyrics, flipping clever drug euphemisms into entertaining albums worth of material. While Til The Casket Drops may not be their strongest album ever, it still has it’s moments. Perhaps the group’s chemistry is off this time around due to their opposing world views. While once evil twins, the brothers Clipse now are the yin to one another’s yang, as demonstrated on the bible-thumping closer “Life Change”, where Malice leaves the wildlife behind. Where this may lead the group in the future remains to be seen. – DJ Pizzo
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