Wednesday, December 14th, 2016

Clipping. – Air ‘Em Out

Now everyone give it up for the hip-hop project of America’s favorite fighting Frenchman!


Alfred Soto: This group led by Hamilton‘s Daveed Diggs wastes no time decrying what he calls lip service: “shoulda made the noose a little tighter cuz there ain’t nobody dead just some motherfuckin’ riders.” The production rattles with the clatter of chains and hubcaps. Wonder what John Adams would’ve thought of it.

Jonathan Bradley: Not entirely fair to Daveed Diggs, but “Air ‘Em Out” suffers from its lead vocal being more famous out the mouth of Hamilton‘s showboating Thomas Jefferson or Black-ish‘s crunchy counterculture layabout Johan Johnson. Rapping is acting, and Diggs wriggles out determinedly from his better known roles to scrabble around in the murk of his group’s abandoned warehouse beat. The blown-out production is empty like it’s been foreclosed on, as if the politics from Seattle’s Shabazz Palaces — the similarity is particularly distinct when thin rays of synth lights shimmers over the track towards the end — had been cleared out and replaced with bare-knuckle violence. It’s bloody and blasted and almost believable.

Brad Shoup: Supreme control, measured evenly: it’d be a lot without the clickwork and the synthblooms that break under Diggs like food coloring in water.

Tim de Reuse: After two albums squarely focused on rapping over instrumentals crafted with a loving fixation on ugly, piercing sound design, Clipping. has moved on to sci-fi, and the result is surprisingly effective, if not as immediately ear-catching as their earlier work. The instrumental here seems designed to throw off first-time listeners, taking its tempo from a muted drum machine programmed specifically to obscure the position of the downbeat and stuttering synthesizers that click out cryptic messages in ASCII; it’s gorgeous in terms of sound design, but not terribly visceral by itself. After a few disorienting runs through to get the hang of it, though, it’s clear that Diggs’ flow glues the whole package together marvelously. He plays chicken with the skeletal beat, catching up to it and backing off from it with infectious confidence, and his lyricism is sometimes silly, usually clever, and at a few points insufferably catchy.

Iain Mew: Funnily enough it’s the airlessness that makes this work so well. Its creeping progression of clicks and clatter backs Daveed Diggs’ already commanding run through paranoia and darkness with quiet force.

Will Adams: The eerie hiss, like a draft in an abandoned factory, is an excellent trick. But the rhymes are hit-and-miss (favorite is “mandible/answerable”).

Will Rivitz: Eschewing the highfalutin’ sci-fi concept work threaded through Splendor and Misery and the absurdly nerdy punchlines interspersed with more traditional gangsta-rap swagger (“You stuck on Morse code, playa this ASCII”) for a moment, the fundamental question should be asked: does it bang? In this case, the answer is a resounding yes. There’s an inverse relationship between the amount of elements in a Clipping. song and how good the song is, and “Air ‘Em Out” is pretty much entirely corrosive kicks, muted sirens, and bells accompanying Daveed Diggs’ Southern snarl. I still don’t recommend mixing Octavia Butler and menacing hip-hop, but at least I know there are exceptions.

Ramzi Awn: The rap snaps, crackles and pops, and by the time the hook rolls around, you know it’s coming. It’s hard to resist this dark gem. 

Anthony Easton: Samuel Delaney’s novels from the 1970s are as much about cities in America as they are about space–dense, violent, exhausted cities, where the most optimistic genres become clouded with a kind of bleak, spare, exhaustion. This, with its formal innovation couching talk of space — “Five deep, strap hangin’ out a black dirigible” comes as close to Dhalgren as anything that hip hop has ever done — works as a shadow to Monae’s optimistic afro-futurism and widens the potentiality of a black imagination. 

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2 Responses to “Clipping. – Air ‘Em Out”

  1. aww you guys <3 i didn't blurb this because I haven't had any blurbs in me lately but I was sure it was going to get like a 5

  2. This one’s good, but to me, the real masterpiece of Splendor & Misery is “A Better Place.” One of the best songs of the year.