Hip-hop collective clipping. deliver a startling, noise-y, industrial space odyssey on their newest concept album Splendor and Misery.
An album that is as laced with history as it is with sonically experimental and futuristic elements, the trio build a project that brings life to every character and facet of the album. Without giving too much away, the story stands at the intersection of oppression, existentialism, science fiction, and love. Don’t be threatened by the idea of a concept album; the content is both accessible and entertaining. This project is for the listener looking for bars, complexity, extremely textured instrumentals, or all three! Take it from the tracklist: “Wake Up” to the noise-rap marvel that is clipping.
Set on an “interstellar cargo ship,” the album opens with Diggs rapping from the point of view of the ship’s central computer. In one punchy verse he describes the prisoner, the main character of the project, breaking out of the hold. A burst of grating static cuts the song down to under a minute. Then it’s on to the third track, where the impressive production launches us into the mechanics of the ship. Still in the character of the computer, Diggs develops the love story of the computer and the runaway slave on “All Black.” He brings a gripping cadence that isn’t hindered by being in character, and pairs his tone with the curious pops that stamp the production of this cut.
Diggs’ ability to portray multiple, full-bodied characters shines on the stand-out track “Air ‘Em Out.” A banging, survivalist anthem, Diggs spits from the perspective of the slave with a biting, yet bouncy, potency. His rhythm is unshakable as he rides the beat and gets our heads nodding along to the track. The confident flow and swagger he brings to this song is addicting. There’s a mean groove to this one, especially over the hook, that draws us in with the allure of feeling like a badass. While this cut is the closest to a traditional hip-hop song, it’s packed with sci-fi references to keep with the cosmic theme.
Speaking of cosmic theme, producers William and Jonathan have no trouble catapulting us not just into the future, but deep into the wiring of the ship. Every clink, glitch, bang, and shatter on this album embellishes the setting. You would do yourself a huge disservice by listening to this project through laptop speakers. This project begs to be heard through quality headphones, even if that means borrowing a pair from a friend or buying some from the store just to return them the next week. The instrumentals on this album keep us suspended right beside the characters Diggs concocts through this lyrics. We’re right there breaking out of the cargo hold, stumbling through the halls, and exploring the hull. Should this project be stripped of all lyrics, the production would deliver the album’s complex and powerful narrative with ease.
The lo-fi interludes and spirituals also bring depth and intrigue to the story. While you might be tempted to skip them, especially “Story 5,” which doesn’t feature any rapping, I implore you to give them a chance at least in the context of the album. Going back through the clipping. catalog, we see the subtle genius of naming this track “Story 5.” Where in previous albums we had stories one and two, on this album we’re skipping stories three and four since this project is set so far in the future. Enjoyment aside, the attention to detail here is undeniable and commendable.
The album ultimately ends on an introspective note. “Better Place” is a final track packed with wisdom and astute observations about the human condition, about the “inside the mind of a man as a mystery.” Diggs effortlessly flexes his philosophy skills across the six verses. Backed by these heavenly synth notes, which pop off as the escaped slave resolves to change course, risk his life, and dive into the unknown. The question of “cosmic insignificance” eclipses all other moods on the album. The ending notes are bright, grandiose, that is, until they morph into a screeching anxiety. Then cut.
If it isn’t obvious by now, this album is an experience. Each moment spent listening to Splendor and Misery is a moment spent getting immersed deeper and deeper into one of the most striking albums of the year. As a work of art, this project does not fail to showcase clipping.’s sharp eyes for detail and craft. Though as a whole, this album might not be for the casual listener, the standout tracks have a widespread musical and artistic appeal. A masterpiece in its own right, take it from the tracklist and “Baby Don’t Sleep” on this album.