Clipse’s Casket: Is This the Funeral?

Every now and then, friend, film buff, and general music enthusiast Brandon Colvin will drop by to share his musings and opinions. Enjoy his thoughts on the Clipse’s new album Til the Casket Drops.

For diehard Clipse fans (myself included), the disappointment of Til the Casket Drops was always inevitable. After their snarling, elegant 2006 masterpiece, Hell Hath No Fury, announced their creative resurrection with its ice-cold-yet-burning beats and aggressive verbal gymnastics worthy of only the wittiest coke poets, brothers Pusha T and Malice had nowhere to go but down. And, with the new album, they’ve confirmed many of their fans’ worst fears, diluting the purity of their product by cutting with fashionable aesthetics and slick production. Just as Pusha T referred to crack as “diet coke” in HHNF’s “Hello New World,” one might refer to the Til the Casket Drops as “diet Clipse.” Which is not to say it’s a horrible record by any means; it is certainly passable pop-hop (and more satisfying than the similarly plagued and disappointing The Blueprint 3). The album simply has no edge, lyrically or musically. It’s weak – which is quite a problem for rap duo famed for its gut-checking, acidic braggadocio and brutally austere, Pharrell-produced tracks.

It is within the context of this last area – production – that TtCD’s problems truly originate.

It’s difficult to precisely pinpoint how much a beat informs a lyric, or vice versa, but I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to say that the consistent symbiosis achieved between The Neptunes’ detached, austere rhythms and Clipse’s nihilistic angst on HHNF was immaculate, regardless of which informed the other most often. TtCD is a resolute shift away from such tonal homogeneity, resulting in an unnecessarily cluttered mishmash of faddish styles that only intermittently approaches the focused intensity of HHNF, a fact which seems to suggest that Pusha T and Malice are attempting to adapt themselves to the various requirements of a messy kitchen full of too many cooks, losing their artistic identity in the process. Even the Neptunes-produced tracks on TtCD, including “I’m Good,” sound more like the Pharrell’s solo work than Clipse.

Veering away from HHNF’s unified guidance, Clipse has enlisted a slew of producers and collaborators, including Kanye West, Cam’ron, DJ Khalil, Keri Hilson, and The Hitmen, in a botched, scattershot attempt to embrace the mainstream, leaving the dark tones and rough edges of their previous album behind. The result is a comparatively shallow effort. While the production on TtCD certainly leaves much to be desired – its glossy tintinnabulations chiming like bells instead of thundering like a “Chinese New Year” – the most startling change is how the production approach seems to have undercut all of the resonant force in Pusha T and Malice’s lyrics. The threatening harshness of their respective flows has been pacified and mutated into a string of rhymes amounting to nothing but self-important fluff with plenty of snide bark but no bite. Clipse’s songs are still chock full of complex metaphorical schemes and ingenious wordplay, but I wonder, what’s the point? Pusha T and Malice aren’t living up to their monikers. They aren’t rapping like angry coke dealers; they are rapping like pissy pop stars. What it amounts to is well-done, relatively vapid club rap, easily digestible and easily ignored – crisp, bubbly background noise.

Despite its general mediocrity, TtCD does boast a few notable tracks, particularly “Never Will It Stop” and “Footsteps,” both of which are non-Neptunes joints. However, these infrequent bright spots are eclipsed by low points: the god-awful “All Eyes on Me” featuring Keri Hilson and the incredibly forgettable “Kinda Like a Big Deal” featuring Kanye. I never thought I would hear auto-tune on a Clipse record, nor Keri Hilson, for that matter. Perhaps these coke-rap prophets need a swift kick in the artistic ass. If Clipse requires tribulation in order to dig for something deeper than “I’m Good” or “Counseling,” let’s hope this credibility-draining collision with the mainstream somehow proves damaging enough to evoke the violent, reactionary, passionate side of the duo that blossomed on HHNF following the years of record label frustration that culminated in their perfectly crafted hip-hop middle finger to everyone. If anyone can climb out of the grave Clipse has started digging, it’s the 1-2 punch from Virginia Beach. Don’t let the casket drop yet, guys.

Hear the difference?

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3 Responses to Clipse’s Casket: Is This the Funeral?

  1. gregston says:

    Great write-up on this, and it is true. Having listened to the album a few times it does indeed sound like “Diet Clipse” but I attribute this to their perceived evolution as men. It might of been earlier this year or last year but Malice decided to put out a series of vignettes where he pretty much put his life in addition to the trappings of success,dealing, etc under a microscope. Pretty much letting fans know things aren’t always what they seem. He’s established himself as a more spiritual family oriented man. On the track “Champion” Malice says, “I thought that life was a bad bitch, bad car/Life is with your kids, watching Madagascar.” In addition to the plethora of soul searching, and self reflection on the ills of drugs, rapping, etc. it’s pretty easy to see that they have sort of put out a softer more watered down version of themselves a little bit devoid of that classic Clipse fire we’re used to hearing. But to quote someone else you mentioned in this post, Jay-Z kind of said it best in a lyrics from his most recent album “Hov on that new shit, niggas like how come? Niggas want my old shit, buy my old album”.

  2. brandoncolvin says:

    Thanks for the comment!

    I understand why Clipse might want to shift/modify its image, I just think the results are pretty bleh. I’m certainly judging the group on the terms of their past work and not their own intentions, but even within the realm of light, breezy rap the new album sounds bland and derivative. As for Jay-Z, I really like about 3 songs on that album. He’s always been a little hit and miss for me though. I’ve definitely bought all of their old shit and I’ve worn it out. I need a new dose of Clipse. One that will really get me high.

  3. gregston says:

    I can dig it, and I agree. The first time I heard “I’m Good” I figured the album would be trash and after hearing the album I can rock with it but for the most part its a little light and serves best as, like you said “crisp, bubbly background noise”, hopefully when they get things rolling on this Re’Up Gang(sans Sandman, sadly) stuff it’ll be that pure dose of good ol’ Clipse coke.

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