Clipping. is a Los Angeles-based experimental hip-hop act formed by rapper and Hamilton vocalist Daveed Diggs along with producers William Hutson and Jonathan Snipes. The trio recently released its third studio album, There Existed an Addiction to Blood, via Sub Pop Records.
The trio burst into the underground scene with its debut mixtape midcity in 2013, which featured caustic blends of industrial music and noise underneath Diggs’ supremely technical rapping and storytelling.
While clipping.’s projects may not have attained prodigious popularity among mainstream audiences, it has proven to be influential. Most notably, Kanye West was clearly taking some inspiration from the band’s work, along with some others, in the making of his infamous Yeezus record.
The group takes inspiration from early industrial and noise acts like Dalek, but also brings in an element of grimy rap akin to Public Enemy. It takes conventional sounds and makes them unconventional, either by bringing them into an environment not normally suited for such, like the barrage of alarm clocks on “Get Up” off its 2014 debut, or distorts these sounds until they become freakishly off-putting, sporadic and weirdly catchy.
Its last album was a tale of a future enslaved person on an intergalactic ship, and the latest album brings another concept to the table. There Existed an Addiction to Blood, simply put, is a Halloween album. It’s seemingly on purpose with the album’s release being so close to Oct. 31. The project is harrowing, bone-chilling and immensely dark in sound. Diving as deep as they did on this album, clipping. can be labeled accurately as a horrorcore act.
If the listener isn’t creeped out from the first track alone, they are either not paying attention or this type of music is not for them. In Diggs’ lyrics we are subjected to dead bodies decomposing, monsters and witches—a fitting tone-setter for the rest of this album, and the trepidation only builds from here.
Straight into “Nothing is Safe” after the intro, the track is one of the most exciting singles of the year. The beat resembles a John Carpenter-esque soundtrack with a paced piano note behind the verses, leading into an explosive chorus propelled by menacing synthesizers. The track dives deeper into the themes of horror, but another angle begins to develop. The album, on this track and several others, also serves as an allegory for mainstream rap ideals framed within a horror context.
Past this point, the album rarely matches the instrumental exuberance of that song, with perhaps the exception being another fantastic single that dropped prior to the album release, “Blood of the Fang.” The album feeds the listener with a stretch of songs that are stripped down in sound and musical composition, but manage to have a fear-inducing effect on the listener nonetheless.
Clipping. conjures fear excellently on the tracks “He Dead” and “La Mala Ordina,” which feature great verses and performances from Ed Balloon, The Rita, Elcamino and Benny the Butcher. The latter song is a satirical take on modern rappers who exploit mafia culture and use it to gain status in the industry.
The song “Run for Your Life” is similar in style, spinning the tale of a stalker tracking down its victim, with La Chat coming on to play the bad guy. There is a mention of her playing “underground music,” perhaps drawing the allegorical parallel to the underground’s blood-thirsty desire to overtake the mainstream.
There are a few tracks here and there that are not as interesting in a songwriting fashion, like “The Show” or “Attunement,” as many of the highlights on this album. Also, the project features many extended interludes and field recordings that bring the album to a hulking 68 minutes in length. While some of that noise contributes to the eerie vibe and creates an immersive cinematic atmosphere, a lot of it could have been cut out completely.
Sonically, the album is potent, lyrically, it is sharp and thematically, it is creative, abstract and thought-provoking. Diggs’s relentless flows and performances are impressive, keeping the album intense from start to finish. Not every track is as great as the next, but There Existed an Addiction to Blood functions very well as a total package.
Clipping. continues to push boundaries with its sound and imbue its music with smart observations, but mostly importantly, it keeps listeners interested. Chalk this up as another successful attempt at doing something remarkably and admirably strange.