When Pusha T raps, “Cocaine aside, all the bloggers behoove/My critics finally have a verse of mine to jerk off to”, on album opener ‘Freedom’ it’s a typically Clipse moment. Loaded with meaning, it’s a potshot at reviewers who wanted their flawless second album ‘Hell Hath No Fury’ – its tales of dealing crack and minimal score making it the unofficial soundtrack to The Wire – to be a confessional. Yet, simultaneously, Pusha T and Malice admit bloggers are necessary; they might have misread their references but sales-wise Clipse needed all the publicity they could get.
More than that, though, in using the sort of archaic language – such as “behoove” – that even a medieval throwback like [a]Joanna Newsom[/a] would struggle to employ, it’s an example of the way Clipse embody brain trouncing brawn in hip-hop.
OK, since their last opus sold so poorly, they are chasing dollar here with a Neptunes-assisted move toward big, slick choonage. But the Thornton brothers’ self-reflection tempers everything brilliantly, even on the dated ‘Counseling’ and the wooly, synth-helmed ‘Champion’, on which they swagger, “I thought that life was a bad bitch, bad car/Nah, it’s with your kids watching Madagascar in the headset of a H3 with a crash bar”.
Never quite hitting the peak of ‘Hell…’ they walk a fine line here between fame-hungry thugs – something that ill-fits them – and existential thinkers with the “intellect of Einstein” and a fondness for sonic dissonance. Thankfully, with the big-riffing ‘Freedom’, the ear-worming piano motif of ‘Popular Demand (Popeyes)’, and the grisly-themed dancehall of ‘There Was A Murder’, it’s the latter side that wins out.
Click here to get your copy of Clipse’s ‘Til The Casket Drops’ from the Rough Trade shop