If this review sounds bi-polar, slightly schizophrenic and thoroughly confused, then I’ll have done a good job of portraying how I feel about the Clipse’s new album Till the Casket Drops. Let me begin by saying that I take this s**t seriously. The Clipse - whose actual name is just “Clipse” but I’ll be constantly referring to as “the Clipse” out of habit - are one of my favorite rap groups ever, a crew who have married the hardest street flows with an unmatched level of introspection and creativity; if the dope game is a …
DJBooth Album Review
As loosely as the word is now thrown around, Hell Hath No Fury was a classic album. But despite all the critical applause No Fury sold meagerly, forcing Pusha T and Malice to realize that if they were to achieve the level of popularity and success they deserved they had to significantly expand their sound. I get that, I understand that, and to a certain extent I support it, but I would have also been happy if they just made different versions of Hell Hath No Fury for the rest of their careers. Wouldn’t that get old? Do orgasms and money ever get old? No, and that’s how good that album was. Pushing their music at least marginally closer to the mainstream without alienating their hardcore fans was no easy task, and one they achieve admirably on Till the Casket Drops, but I still can’t help but be slightly disappointed. Once you’ve tasted hip-hop perfection, everything else leaves a slightly sour taste in your mouth, especially if the chefs are the same.
The Clipse wisely chose to ease hip-hop nation into their slightly more radio focused sound with their lead single I’m Good, a hypnotizing track featuring a signature off-kilter beat from constant production partners The Neptunes, whatever it is that Pharrell does (mostly random singing) and shine-focused rhymes from Pusha and Malice. Lines like “The sun is out, and it’s shinin on me…” feel like an episode of Mr. Pusha’s Neighborhood compared to the duo’s usually dark flows, but there’s no denying that I’m Good strikes a perfect balance between pop appeal and hip-hop credibility. The same can be said of Popular Demand (Popeyes), a marginally more street track that seizes your eardrums with a simple but catchy piano riff and then finishes the job with rhymes from the Clipse that fluctuate between old school dope talk and new school swagger. Even more notable is the rocking Kinda Like a Big Deal, a pounding track produced by DJ Khalil that’s dope, and not just because of the Anchorman quote. This is the kind of song that wouldn’t have been made if the Clipse hadn’t expanded their musical vision, and here their willingness to experiment is well rewarded.
Radio ready songs are nothing new for the Clipse, after all they’ve done songs with Justin Timberlake, but we’ve never heard a Clipse track quite like Counseling before, a shining track featuring a love struck Clipse ready to trade in hard drugs for chardonnay. I’d say that Counseling is as soft as the Clipse get, but I’ve heard All Eyes on Me, a joint perfectly packaged for radio, right down to the impossibly catchy beat (courtesy of The Neptunes, of course) and lyrics about living the good life: while “life as we know it begins on Friday night,” I can’t help but lust for the days when life began when the re-up dropped. The point is that while Casket Drops certainly takes the occasional forgettable foray into the club (I’m looking at you Showing Out), it never completely forgets about the streets.
That doesn’t mean that Casket Drops doesn’t occasionally reach back into the Clipse vault. There Was a Murder is a reggae tinged joint that’s a sterner warning to snitches than Carmelo Anthony could ever deliver, Freedom is an explosively charged cut that fearlessly touches on their place in the rap game and aspiring rappers will be studying Footsteps’ supremely dope rhyme structure for years, but it’s hard not to wish the entire album was this hard. Ultimately here’s all I have to say: Is Till the Casket Drops a damn good album? Yes. Do the Clipse deserve any impending success? Of course. Did I start banging Hell Hath No Fury and We Got It 4 Cheap the second it ended. Absolutely.
DJBooth Rating - 4 Spins
Written by Nathan S. on 12/2/09
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