Clipse - Hell Hath No Fury
Ben Gilbert 30/11/2006
Whilst there's been a slew of enjoyable if inconsistent offerings in the world of hip hop this year, with some strong tracks on the new Ghostface, the excellent if front heavy T.I outing, and the stellar Donuts by the recently deceased J Dilla of the Slum Village. But for everything that's won those plaudits, there are probably few albums as heartily anticipated as this one.
Firstly, it's rare to get an album produced to rock values- it's no secret my favourite hip hop works are often conceptual or singular in theme, like Prince Paul's A Prince Among Thieves, a real triumph in storytelling, and Aesop Rock's Labor Days, though deadpan flow sometimes prohibits the empathy, soulful beats and incredible lyrics- "Hell Hath No Fury" has a definite theme- and considerably more flow- whilst I don't enjoy the stories quite as much as the MC trying to get a break of PP, or the pontificating of the working man, deities and aspiration wielding unholy broth of the Aes in the former conceptual pairing, the drugs baron perspectives of Hell Hath No Fury remain steady and make for a great album structure.
And there's NO SKITS. Holy hell that doesn't happen often enough in the rap game, I'm sick of godawful skits fucking up my listening experience, I don't care if it's a genre not intentionally designed to immerse the listener so much as be played on the way to the club. Immediate tick in the win column for Hell Hath No Fury then.
A friend of mine described it gushingly as "The Wire set to music." Frankly, I thought, there isn't anything as good as 'The Wire,' a programme is so ravishingly well scripted as a piece of social critique from both sides of the track of the seedy suburban underbelly that I don't feel this album really qualifies, it covers the culture sure, but as you might expect of conventional hip hop, it tends to glorify and retread, and there's nothing in the work here anywhere near as intricate [the colourful para language of the Wu] as a tapestry nor character driven [compared to say, the MF Doom works], dialectical or slow built- but to rescind my complaint on that wildfire hyperbole, it is consistent in the same way, very stark and efficient, though not without innovative industry, harp loops on Ride Around Shining, soulful organs whipped out on the closer Nightmares leave meexpecting something abrasively fearsome yet attractive in the mould of Ghostface's "Holla" but it's a more faint and even melodic, not to mention the fucked up kettle drum drowned sound of the excellent Wamp Wamp and the idiosyncratic hook of Hello New World, as well as over the top eighties pop vibe and distorted cucumber synths mingled with hissing low fi guitars, as well as a bad ass accordion sample on 'Mama I'm So Sorry.' I don't adore the beats, and a lot of people won't like the pop rather than rap vibe to a good percentage of the record, but it's tidy and largely compelling to my ear. The Neptunes, producers Pharell Williams and Chad Hugo hit a rare vein of form.
Pusha and Malice are the MC duo, Malice the straight man takes the more sagacious and philosophical rhymes up, Pusha the smoother and wittier, this one is crammed up the ass with black humour. "So much white you might think your holy Christ is near" and "while I'm shovelling snow, man, call me frosty" might put it over as playful and solely about the self congratulatory, as do couplets like "Ice on my neck so I don't get nauseous / floating around in the greatest of Porsches" but away from the bling [not that it's not colourfully described such as "purses reptilian"] as the work unfurls, it begins to feel less lazy then the clunky minimalism and umpteenth usage of *that* Pulp Fiction sermon as a sample suggests, it sasses up to descriptions of being a 'black Martha Stewart' and on 'Hello
New World' Clipse spitting a certain style of delivery on lines like "I was 16, eyes full of hope, bagging up grams at the high n dough, news call it crack, I call it diet coke" and "dodging my mama, avoiding the drama, I found poetry" that reveal a suggestion of complexity, that maybe this isn't as one sided as it sounds on first listen in terms of the polemic… there's a tinge of pathos, remorse and distaste for the lifestyle, and the idealistic yearnings to of a D'Angelo, talk of karma, child shootings, "Like tryna fly with a clip in your wings/And that's exactly why the caged bird sings/The shame rings true/Seems to me that reparations are overdue." There's character, and in standout tracks like Trill, Wamp Wamp and Mr Me Too, some catchy and magnetic personality of production, a decent curtain jerker and closer. There's redeeming, but not redemptive stuff here.
Whilst you're going to hear a lot of discharge about this being album of the year, I'll lace that with my own caveat- I think it stands out largely because of the mediocrity of a lot of the other offerings about at the moment and people are looking at this as a false prophet- it's got a flow to the story and the rhymes but it lacks the innovation of last year's Edan's seamlessly brilliant psychedelic production, nor does it have the necessary
killer high points of Ghostface- yet whilst I'm not as blown away by this as the majority of the net is, it's growing- its righteously consistent end to 2006, and particularly if you enjoyed the Got It 4 Cheap 2 mixes, this is still well worth a purchase… however at the same time, that consistency is its downfall- I think there's a distinction between the introspective twinges of conscience and irony perpetrated in the overly monotonous, gormless choruses, which just burst out as blowing their cover and recycle in a way that might penetrate some strain of humility and conscience in a cinematic montage, but here strike the listener as pretty straight up because there's no alternative aesthetic offered to belie their ambition or tight lines on the thousandth time they spit the number of different foreign cars they collect, and the occasional Daniel Dumile and Madlib like gifts of the sample soon have me hankering for something more palpably witty that goes a little beyond cross genre beats and raw flow. Repetitive more than cohesive, slightly underwhelming, if you're going to do coke rap Clipse, you have to bring something fresh or subtle to the party because a thousand people probably more gifted than you have already been there.