You ever see a real bed of nails?
It’s one thing to see one on Ripley’s or whatever, and a very different thing in person. You’ll wince – everyone does. Maybe not at first, when the performer lays down, but when the weights begin to add up. When the downward pressure builds and you begin to imagine what it must be like inside that Iron Maiden you saw one time at museum. You’ll wince or you’ll look away.
Everyone does. I did.
The only reason the bed of nails doesn’t kill the performer is because every single nail, ever-so-slowly and carefully, distributes their weight evenly. One or two nails at high pressure is a serious trip to the hospital. Five hundred is terrifying but totally safe – provided you distributed the weight. It’s a parlor trick and basic physics at once: just because you see the parts coming together doesn’t mean you don’t wince. The component parts lose none of their power when combined into a whole. Knowing how the trick works doesn’t erase the fear: in some cases it even enhances it.
Clipping is a bed of nails.
Clipping, stylized as ‘clipping.’, is the Hugo-award nominated rap trio of William Hutson, Jonathan Snipes, and Daveed Diggs. At least, that’s how they introduce themselves. But Hutson and Snipes are noise musicians from Los Angeles. And Daveed Diggs – well he’s Daveed Diggs of Hamilton, Blindspotting and about thirty other things. He’s the one that delivered the fastest rap in Broadway history and then popped up on Star Wars Resistance. But that’s his night job.
He’s also the frontman and lyricist for the most innovative, extreme rap group on the planet, whose upcoming album is titled Visions of Bodies Being Burned, and whose backlog ricochets from literal harsh noise to extensive concept pieces about arsonists, vampires and deep-sea Afrofuturist mermaid uprisings. So what the hell are these guys?
Well, they’re a rap group. Sort of.
Hutson and Snipes began by making hip-hop beats on their own with a strict set of rules: no drum samples and no melodies. Later, after their friend Diggs joined the group, they added another rule: no first-person narratives. They leveraged their background in extreme noise to construct ‘beats’ out of crackling wires, thumping detuned instrumentation and wailing, scraping walls of sound. Then, they fed the tracks to to Daveed, who added decapitated, sideways stories to the noise, resulting in hip-hop like you’ve never heard it: built at odd angles, delivered at light-speed and stretched into something new.
When I saw them live, one of Hutson or Snipes was on glass duty. He shoved a contact-mic into a bowl of smashed glass and rolled it around to achieve the right percussion for “Work Work”. The crowd went wild.
Atonal as it sounds, every facet of their sound is sharpened to perfection and expertly balanced. A lesser group would fall apart from the conflict of their extreme component parts. clipping. are discordant as hell without ever losing sight of their hip-hop roots, and it results in a sound that is completely distinct, and when it wants to be, terrifying.
Then, they bring in guest rappers like Cocc Pistol Cree, Gangsta Boo and Benny the Butcher to deliver guest-features as usual. The results are as astonishing as you’d think.
clipping. is a bed of nails.
They’d go on to break all of their production rules, but their experiments resulted in a wildly varied catalogue. On their label debut CLPPNG they have tracks like “Body and Blood”, which sounds like a smarter, more explicit “Closer”. Then there’s “Tonight” where Gangsta Boo plays a surreal version of her character from Run The Jewels 2. For 2016’s Splendor & Misery they wrote original Afrofuturist Science Fiction into a half-hour of crushing, extreme rap tinted with gospel. They earned themselves a Hugo Award nomination for their effort.
In 2019, they decided it was time to cut a horrorcore record.
There Existed an Addiction to Blood is an hour of disconnected, minimalist horror stories, united by Daveed Diggs’ breathless delivery and the hovering, claustrophobic menace of its production. “Nothing is Safe”, which opens the record, wants to fool you by sounding enough like a conventional hip-hop acapella that you might let your guard down. Don’t. The following thirteen tracks are a panorama of Hell. They explore Horror itself from every angle, anchored by clipping.‘s dark, occasionally-campy sense of humour, their politics, and their total devotion to their aesthetic. You’ll see.
When was the last time you were actually frightened by a horrorcore record?
Their next is out October 23rd.
And if that didn’t do it for you, then maybe this tribute to George Floyd will. We all know where the real horror is.
Black Lives Matter.
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