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Clipping - The Deep (2019)

LISTEN
I DO MY BEST TRIPPIN' UNDERWATER

Fresh off the release of horrorcore masterwork There Existed An Addiction To Blood, experimental hip-hop wunderkinds Clipping have dropped a 3 song EP of sea-faring sci-fi shanties. Appropriately titled The Deep, it explores the afro-futurist fantasies of Detroit techno heavyweights Drexciya, whose music soundtracked an Atlantis-esque society of drowned African children whose mothers were thrown from slave ships across the Atlantic sea. It's a concept so high-minded the Extended Play format seems restrictive, but Clipping's decade-long creative crescendo makes them ripe for the task.

The trio have flexed their world-building muscle before, most notably on 2016's Splendour and Misery. There, MC Daveed Diggs' narrated a space-bound slave's descent into madness following a ship-wide uprising-turned-massacre. Production team William Hutson and Jonathan Snipes flexed their foley skills to animate abandoned expanses and crackling circuitry, atmospheric field recordings re-contextualised within the ship's halls.

Similar brilliance occurs on The Deep's title track as the stifled sounds of oil drills are drowned out by piercing screams. Originally released in 2016 as part of an NPR piece on afro-futurism, the track's multi-staged instrumental follows Drexciya's aforementioned water-race in a journey to the surface as they abandon their peaceful origins. It's a perfect introduction to this world and easily the best song here, providing inspiration for a recent novel by sci-fi writer Rivers Solomon, as well as the ensuing 2 tracks. Segmented by short bursts of colourful sound design, The Deep's initially eerie kit patterns rev up into an 808-laden homage to Detroit's acquatic techno roots. Hutson and Snipes show subtlety in each embellishment, manufacturing rhythms which feel as advanced as the society they're depicting.

Aquacode Databreaks is a long overdue collaboration with fellow modern rap weirdos Shabazz Palaces. Daveed's mic duties are shared with Ishamel Butler, also of Digable Planets fame, as the two engage in some seriously absurdist chorus-trading atop a malfunctioning electro beat. The track runs a bit light on the mind-bending substance I know these two groups can produce. Ishmael's alien ghettoisms become laughably obtuse to the point of sticking out thematically. Still, as a concept it's so uniquely bonkers I challenge listeners not to be amused.

"I pull up on my seahorse, blinged out with diamonds
Bumpin' ghetto whale songs, heard for miles out
Whip up on my seahorse, blinged out with diamonds
My baby is a mermaid, mesmerizing, timeless"

The final track, Drownt, is similarly verse-light. A subdued bed of unnerving creaks and gurgling bass slowly gathers momentum as Diggs finds his signature pocket flow. His quips intimidate from the great unknown, weaving nautical themes into thug-like threats. As with Databreaks, Drownt feels minimal when compared to the title track's arcing plot threads. Though, its contrasting instrumental packs an atmospheric punch, with vivid machine noises leave me to imagine each corresponding device. It's slightly underwhelming after waiting 2 years for more from this world, but these extra tracks benefit from both Daveed's consistent lyrical themes and Hutson's impeccably forward-thinking production.

I love that Clipping are still exploring the campier, conceptual side of their music, and refusing a singular identity. This year of contrast has blown the group's future releases wide open; either broadening their creative scope or taking time to fill in the blanks. Whichever route Clipping decides to take, I can't see it being anything but brilliant.

7/10

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