Hold Up Hamilton: Clipping Return with the Wriggle EP

Clipping have thankfully taken breaks from time-consuming adventures to release more music.
By    June 27, 2016


B. Michael Payne would take McQueen over Hamilton any day.

You can’t say Clipping is only in it for the money. Despite a recent dump of remixes, a 24-hour-long “dream,” and some perfunctory acapellas, the group has shown commendable restraint in pursuing other projects. One member of the group’s production crew, William Hutson, got a PhD in “Theatre and Performance Studies.” Jonathan Snipes, the second producer, is scoring what looks to be Human Centipede-level gross out horror flicks. Oh yeah, and Daveed Diggs, the one who raps,  is the most entertaining part of this little thing called Hamilton. Given the historically popular history musical’s clout, Clipping could have probably coasted a bit on the coattails of everyone’s favorite fighting Frenchman. Instead, they released Wriggle, a solid as hell EP.

If you enjoyed Clipping’s previous releases, you’ll love this one. If you came because of the Hamilton hype, well, you’re in for a real confusing treat. The release’s production is equal parts musique concrète and somewhat clubby IDM. The well-named “Intro” announces lyrical themes:

The bulb in the streetlight flickering a little bit

I hope the bitch don’t burn out

It’s the last beating heart in the city in the darkness

It’s something you don’t want to know about

Of course, the EP’s remaining 4 million words (approx.) tell you all about the darkly beating heart of the city. It’s all urban angst, violence, and sex. The flickering illumination and skittering beat provide a schizo god’s eye view of crazed massed shooters, zero direction losers, and very specific debauchery. It’s like Frank Miller’s Sin City in art-rap form, but much better than that probably sounds.

It’s easy to over-describe Clipping’s music because it’s so thoroughly aestheticized. The group’s Sub Pop artist page reads like the little white card on a gallery wall:

Clipping experiment with rap as art-in-a-closed-field but vacate that art of its presumed subjective center, revealing instead a collage of recurrent rap themes, generated as if by an artificial intelligence.

Like all objects of academia, it lends itself to binary oppositions. Mind/body. High/low. Party/comedown. The band’s abrasive production, pretty common to avant-musicheads but definitely out there, contrasts to Daveed Diggs’ incessant verbal stream. In the words of our own Sam Yurick, “he raps faster than most civilians can jaw air period.” At the same time, he’s incredibly lucid, unleashing a descriptive-narrative force that’s generally unheard of outside of a Pynchon novel. While Wriggle features some quality guest appearances from Antwon, Cakes da Killa, and others, it gains its force—like 90% of all Clipping—from Diggs’ mic mastery.

Wriggle is an iterative release, tighter than their debut LP for Sub Pop, but limited in scope. It’s hard to imagine them making a huge leap forward with Diggs tied up with Hamilton for something like seven or eight performances a week. With Lin-Manuel Miranda and some others leaving the show next month, it’s possible Diggs will have more time to work on non-Revolutionary War-themed music. If so, the next step for Clipping should be exciting as hell. The constant practice and play involved with the show should have honed his vocal chops (there’s actually some of his singing on the EP closing “Our Time”) for anything Hutson and Snipes can throw at him.

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