The album cover is nothing but a heap of spliced audio tape. Could be from a cassette, could be from a reel-to-reel, but you may have seen these mountains on the side of a highway or on an off ramp. In its present state, they cannot be played without knowledge of how to restore it to its normal state, but when you do, it will still sound abnormal. They will, without question, sound like audio clippings. You will not hear the music properly.
It would be hard to come up with a description of what would make up “adventurous hip-hop” in 2013, since even the worst songs are adventurous in their own way. But Clipping are a group who can easily be called one of the more adventurous, because on the musical side, they sample experimental, avant-garde, and noise, and a lot of times not rhythmically. When Chuck D. once said “Bring The Noise”, a generation felt that meant bringing in hard rock and heavy metal influences. Clipping goes beyond that, and Midcity is one of the more adventurous hip-hop albums I’ve heard ever, and it’s successfully created because of how it was constructed. Since half of the songs have no centered sense of rhythm, you have to base the tempo on what the rapper conveys. When you have MC’s who will incorporate different styles and techniques within the same verse, you just have to use your instincts and go for the best, but how does that work in a music that is often defined by the rhythm? You have to be open. Seriously open, as the backing tracks are often times nothing more than noise, machines, and who knows what else. There is a reason for the sonic insanity, and listeners who aren’t used to these types of sounds may immediately toss this out and go “complete garbage”. However, the adventure comes from the stories they tell, and even without drums, you’re pulled in by what they say. It’s not about parties, drinking, or getting lost in a club, there’s actual content you can grip on, and that feel goes on for about two tracks.
Now, when the group does create a rhythm track, it may not come off like “normal”, but then again hip-hop is still abnormal to many people. It comes off electronic, industrial, even cold sounding, and everything sounds… I don’t know if foreign would be the right word but it’s distant, it’s unfamiliar. These sounds aren’t meant to be heard behind someone rapping, but then you realize you’ve entered Clipping’s world, and that reveals a few more things about our own world than we realized. As if by magic, a track or two will have something that sounds… funky? Hell yeah, it’s incredibly funky and yet the sounds behind it are exactly the same as what opened the album, just twisted into something new.
With Midcity, the lack of familiar beats, basslines, and samples almost forces the listener to pay attention to what is being said, not relying on a nostalgic and familiar groove to carry you through. You can’t hear these and act like these are your favorite jams, because they’re not. Or at least not in its present state. The rhythm can come through in the method of speech, but when the noise turns into a pulse, and the pulse into a groove, you may be disturbed by how natural it comes off. It holds true to the hip-hop theory that anything can be turned into music, that anything can be turned into a groove. Some may think this is the most disturbing sounds of all, but this is nothing different from some of OFWGKTA’s work, or some of Soul-Junk’s hip-hop tracks over the years. Clipping are much more open to the possibility of possibilities, and aren’t ashamed to admit it. Could these songs be turned into something funkier with outside producers and remixers? One could argue and say yes, but these are perfect as is. If De La Soul Is Dead will forever be the album someone found in the garbage, Midcity is the album found on the highway after days, if not weeks, of taking in the changing weather conditions and cars that passed over it. Distorted and unknown, may one find beauty in Clipping’s perceived unfamiliarity.
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