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The publicity surrounding LA-based rap group Clipping. has made it clear that they think the basic "rap" label suits them just fine. And it's a nice thought to get behind, that the group is simply contributing to a scene in which they've been paying the most attention, because it does away with all the unjustified stratification that unfolds from loaded terms like "experimental" and "abstract". Each and every one of these convenient phrases implies the group's pushing boundaries with their music- and for anyone who's in the know with Clipping., that point is past moot by now. After all we're talking about the same guys who, just last year, wrote Midcity- a mixtape that adamantly opposed traditional songwriting itself. According to that release's tracklist, it has 14 tracks; the record itself plays as if it's only got one. Midcity plays like a 50-minute improvisational performance by sound production wizards. Not only is it a long-winded exploration of rap but of music too, and what all can fit into that category.

This is what distinguishes Clipping's major-label debut from what came before it, that it narrows focus. CLPPNG is still hell-bent on deconstructing stigmas, but it hones in on hip-hop and the expectations that come with it. For starters, this record marks a substantial change for rapper Daveed Diggs and company. Until now, Clipping. told its stories through industrious rhythms and walloping walls of noise; now, they've had to acquaint themselves with 808s, handclaps and feature spots from fellow rappers. This compromise results in appropriately accessible rap, but with those fascinating sound production flourishes that remind us who we're dealing with here.

Listen to the second song on CLPPNG if you want a brief glimpse of this rap group in action. Surely 'Body & Blood' is the most helpful song here for those unfamiliar with Clipping.: structured simply for the newbies, but suffused with layers for the veterans. It's a hip-hop song that wouldn't feel out of place on the radio because of that persistent beat, memorable chorus and sing-song bridge. It's simultaneously approachable and downright savage, and in marrying these two traits, churns the grit of Midcity into something more palatable. Indeed, the rest of CLPPNG takes the group's agenda even further: ever heard a rap song with an alarm clock as its backbone? One with the same snare hit sample repeated for seconds at a time? What about one with a wailing power tool featured in the verse? Hell- if hip-hop is an entirely different beast in a decade, chances are Clipping. had a hand in the process.

Subtlety can go miles for a band so cultured in bedlam, so naturally, the more reflective moments of CLPPNG speak just as loudly as the weightier ones. We have 'Dream' to thank for that- Diggs channels his inner Aesop Rock on the tune, proffering a lackadaisical almost-spoken-word performance that spiritually recalls Labor Days. And never does this album sound more genuine than when it's low-key, because it's then that Clipping. foregoes the satire- the very lifeblood that runs through CLPPNG's veins. By far, this is the record's most difficult virtue- check contentious banger 'Tonight'. The party song has one distinct purpose, and that's to humiliate every other party song- and it does this by employing the usually relevant themes: self-medication via booze, potent lust and all-around misogyny. It's meant to be an uncomfortable listen, and it sure is- both in cringeworthy lyricism and trite musicianship. Just because the song seems saturated in irony doesn't mean it's the easiest thing to listen to. But the main message in 'Tonight', the one listeners need to pay attention to, is the way featured rapper Gangsta Boo approaches her verse.

  • "Lookin' for a victim, caught him slippin', I just want some sex
  • Nothing else to do when I leave the club so that's the best thing next
  • Here, just take my number, when you leave be sure to send a text"

Gangsta Boo is playing the kind of woman requested by the club she's in, and by the men who sit rapturously in her presence, circling like vultures. Boo is playing the game the song demands of her, and in doing so paints the picture as something just as perturbing as Clipping. intended. There's a beautiful irony here, after all: this crew made the album that hip-hop demanded of them while simultaneously ridiculing the very enterprise. Remember that snare sample used in 'Body & Blood'? If not, go pay attention to it in the song's last 45 seconds. You should soon notice that snare sample is actually a sliver of white noise- just enough to pass by unnoticed. And it's the same breed of white noise that has set off this group's last two outings; it pulls from the same sheen of shrill static. This is still Clipping., bitch, and you'd be sorely mistaken to believe otherwise.

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