Over the last decade, the horror genre has moved further away from the surreal topics of vampires, werewolves and zombies, instead choosing to wrap its claws around reality: tearing off the facade of modern life to reveal something more terrifying than anything Hammer Horror could ever come up with. In 2017, Jordan Peele’s critically acclaimed satirical horror film Get Out turned the underlying racism of liberal America and transformed the abstract into the recognisable while still holding onto the core concept of what made the original rural horror films so frightening. In the second part of their horror-core double album, clipping. creates a Frankenstein’s monster out of the surreal, the real, the experimental and the familiar and in doing so reminds us why genre boundaries were made to be broken.
For the uninitiated: clipping. are an experimental hip-hop trio from Los Angeles comprising of rapper Daveed Diggs (also known for his work on the musical Hamilton) as well as producers William Hutson and Jonathan Snipes. They’ve always been comfortable setting themselves boundaries if only to see how far they can push them. Early works like Midcity and CLPPNG took hip-hop tropes and twisted them into something more abstract; Splendor & Misery was a gospel-tinged concept album centred around a slave lost in space, and last years There Existed An Addiction To Blood was the trio’s first swing at the horror-core genre. Visions Of Bodies Being Burned is the second part of the groups nightmarish offering that pushes them even deeper into the genre, while driving their style and production into even more unchartered territory.
One of the most interesting and consistent features of clipping.’s music is that the lyrics are never delivered in the first person, giving their entire work a panoramic feeling: it’s like you’re a camera moving between scenes. The album opens with a syncopated pounding that only gets more distorted and intense as the song progresses. Daveed Diggs’ vocals come in sounding like he is talking to you through a phone, but as his verse reaches a fever pitch it is suddenly cut short by an unrelenting burst of harsh noise. It’s the sonic equivalent of the first gory death in the opening scene, it’s a clipping. motif and it’s exhilarating.
The album then immediately plunges into ‘Say The Name’, where the frantic verses of intro change into a sinister, cold-blooded snarl that lumbers alongside a cycling ghetto boys hook. The instrumental has a rubbery analogue texture. The song devolves into madness during the final third, everything breaks down into a pit of discordant metal chimes and synths that drunkenly sway between their notes. Imagine if Nine Inch Nails wrote a hip hop beat: it’s as threatening as it is hypnotic.
No two moments on this album are the same. ‘96 Neve Campbell’ continues the clipping. tradition of championing strong female rappers – see ‘Work Work’ and ‘Run For Your Life’ – this time pairing with LA duo Cam and China with a slick beat. In contrast, ‘Make Them Dead’ is caught somewhere between power electronics and harsh noise. Appreciation for this album will vary massively depending on how much you’re willing to indulge clipping. in their eccentricities; if you don’t fall in love with the discordant arrangements of ‘Eaten Alive’ on first listen I wouldn’t blame you, but there is still something thrilling about hearing something truly unique.
One of clipping.’s greatest strengths is their ability to merge textures and lyrics to build a world around you. ‘Check The Lock’ tells the story of a man that has risen to the top but spends his life paranoid that everyone is out to get him, the slinky bass riff and the catchy hook could have been the foundations of a chart hit but Clipping contorts it into something threatening.
Another prime example of excellent storytelling is ‘Body For The Pile’; although the track was originally created for a compilation back in 2016, it fits excellently into VOBBB. The lyrics provide the listener with visceral depictions of how three police officers were murdered. Each line delves into the most minute details of the scene, and the chorus delicately walks the line between threatening and catchy. The beat is a thrilling mix of distorted percussion, tribal drumming and harsh noise; there’s is even a clever homage to Kendrick Lamar thrown in for good measure. Much like the album as a whole, this track builds a scene that swallows you whole: one that is so horrifying you want to run, but so engaging that you can’t seem to look away.
The blending of the familiar and the unfamiliar allows clipping. to create a world you recognise, but only just. ‘Enlacing’ lyrics draw from cosmic horror and abstract psychological deterioration, but grounds it with an incredibly well-produced club trap beat. The recognisable drum and bass breaks of ‘Pain Everyday’ are played in an odd (7/4) time signature so the beat never lands where you expect, creating an uncanny valley effect for the listener.
As mentioned previously, your enjoyment of this album will very much depend on how much you want to engage with the more left-field aspects, and how far into the world you are willing to fall. However, I don’t think the creativity of this album can be stated enough, I highly recommend everyone locks their doors, turns off the lights and gives it a listen, even if just for morbid curiosity.
Words by Tom Baker
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