Peter Holslin owns numerous tri-cornered hats
The last time I checked in with Daveed Diggs, he was just beginning his role as Thomas Jefferson/Marquis de Lafayette in the Broadway musical Hamilton. Well, now it’s over a year and a half later, and Hamilton’s diverse casting and rap-oriented script has captured the American imagination in a time of immense racial division and reckoning. Diggs has bagged both a Grammy and a Tony for his performance, and Hamilton’s full cast recording has become a certified hit on the charts—reaching No. 3 on the Billboard 200 and No. 1 on the US top rap albums list.
In the humbler days before Diggs’ life and career blasted up into the cosmos, most of us knew him as the MC in LA avant-garde rap outfit Clipping. Thankfully all of the colonial wig powder hasn’t gotten to his head, as he’s maintained close ties with his Clipping cohorts Jonathan Snipes and William Hutson. Last month they dropped the Wriggle EP on Bandcamp, and this week comes news that Clipping is about to drop a new album. Splendor & Misery, out Sept. 9 via Sub Pop and Deathbomb Arc, is a sci-fi Afrofuturist odyssey in the vein of Drexciya or Octavia E. Butler. As a press release describes it, the album tells the story of “the sole survivor of a slave uprising on an interstellar cargo ship, and the onboard computer that falls in love with him.”
On new single “Baby Don’t Sleep,” beatmakers Snipes and Hutson send you plummeting into the mainframe with a musique concrète cut-up beat of television fuzz and white noise. Negative space sucks the air out of your chest as Diggs raps in an arresting staccato, deconstructing the hegemony in a most deliberate manner: “Saviors are fiction / memories are fading like ghosts.” As for the music video, it’s bound to give you heart palpitations.
The imagery in the video underscores the point—patch cables, white noise and black-and-white patterns all flicker before your eyes. It gives an electric shock, one that rewires your brain to fit this beautiful and frightening new world we’re plummeting towards.