The LA-based rap group delivers possibly their most thrilling and blood-curdling music to date.
Originally published on 10/23/20.
Experimental hip-hop trio clipping. is one of the subgenre’s most exciting acts. Over the past several years, they have released project after project of creative production and ingenious worldbuilding, firmly cementing their status alongside visionary experimental rap acts such as Death Grips and JPEGMAFIA. Made up of producers Jonathan Snipes and William Hutson and rapper Daveed Diggs (yes, that Daveed Diggs), the small collective has consistently brought inspiring sound manipulation, imaginative arrangements, and clever lyrics to the table.
The group released their debut mixtape midcity in 2013, instantly putting them on the map and leading to a record deal with Sub Pop. Their first album CLPPNG emerged the following year and brought them even more attention as their songwriting and attention to detail improved. The 2016 concept album Splendor & Misery saw the group tackle the world of science fiction with a strong overall storyline and an expansion upon their signature sound. It wasn’t until 2019, though, when they truly found their conceptual calling with the excellent, horror-themed There Existed an Addiction to Blood. The album took prominent influence both sonically and conceptually from classic horror films and the horrorcore genre, seamlessly integrating these elements into clipping.’s sound and resulting in one of the finest rap records of that year.
The brand-new Visions of Bodies Being Burned serves as the sister album to There Existed – it helps that the covers are so similar – as it marks a continuation of the omnipresent horror theme. (As a budding fan of horror films, I am greatly appreciative of the conceptual evolution the group has taken on.) Filled with inventive production, vivid lyrics, and precise attention to detail, Visions is yet another example of why clipping. is one of modern hip-hop’s most creative acts.
Instrumentally, some of the group’s best work can be easily found on Visions; like There Existed, the beats here are by turns catchy, ominous, and extremely creative, filled to the brim with impressive soundplay. Take the West Coast gangsta rap-influenced swagger of “’96 Neve Campbell.” Or the relentlessly pounding and rolling drumline of “Something Underneath.” Or the breakneck-speed, anxiety-inducing polyrhythms of “Body for the Pile.” Or the blown-speaker SoundCloud rap of “Looking Like Meat.” Or the unsettling faux-funk of “Check the Lock,” complete with a fantastic bassline during the hook. Hutson and Snipes prove once again to be a match made in heaven (or hell, given the horror theme here), their versatility and attention to detail and atmosphere on full display. The short list of collaborating musicians – nearly all of whom are largely unknown – very much do their part in enhancing the songs they appear on, as well. As usual with clipping., there is seldom an instrumental here that doesn’t thoroughly impress.
However, I simply can’t talk about the instrumentals on Visions without mentioning “Eaten Alive.” On this track, renowned experimental jazz musician Jeff Parker and percussionist Ted Byrnes come together to create a backdrop that is, quite frankly, the very definition of bizarre. Seemingly everything but the kitchen sink is here; a buzzing, droning string instrument, a deep, thumping kick, an atonal plucking guitar, something that sounds like a huge metal bowl being struck, and even a harp are just a few of the things that show up here. On top of that, the groove is extremely unusual, sparse, and disorienting, to the point where it can take a while to figure out what exactly is going on. In fact, what makes this all come together and start to make sense is Diggs’ rapping; his vocal rhythms bring a rhythmic cohesion to the composition that otherwise would be very difficult to find. It’s a downright brilliant subversion of the typical relationship between vocals and their instrumental backdrops.
The lyrical content on Visions is primo clipping. As any fan of the group will tell you, Diggs has long since proven himself to be a master of lyrical worldbuilding and storytelling, as well as a rapper capable of spitting like a machine gun. Nearly every track is filled with incredibly vivid imagery that works wonders alongside the dark instrumentals to put the listener into the world described, often one based in gritty, violent street life. And much like There Existed, there are songs that take cues from renowned horror films; “Say the Name” heavily references Candyman and Rosemary’s Baby, while the title of “’96 Neve Campbell” is a direct nod to the slasher classic Scream. (It’s worth noting that there’s even a brief, somewhat comedic homage to campy 80s low-budget horror films on “Wytchboard (Interlude).”)
“Body for the Pile” is arguably Visions of Bodies Being Burned’s greatest lyrical showcase. Over a fast-paced, dense beat that grows more and more chaotic over time, Diggs spends the song’s three verses recounting the aftermaths of the deaths of three different (fictional) police officers. He vividly describes each officer’s demise, as well as the setting in which they happened. The detail here is as striking as ever; every line thrusts the listener further and further into the blood-soaked environment being portrayed. (The third verse describes an officer who has died in a car crash during a chase; at one point it is heavily implied that he hit and killed a child on a bicycle in the process. Happy times!) As with numerous other clipping. songs, the detailed and graphically violent imagery is perfectly complimented by the instrumental, which in this case was helped along by underground harsh noise artist Sickness.
There aren’t a whole lot of problems with Visions of Bodies Being Burned, but the ones that are here can be glaring. The otherwise exhilarating “Something Underneath” has a relatively weak hook that doesn’t make much (if any) sense rhythm-wise alongside the rest of the song, and after its second appearance the song just… sort of ends. “Make Them Dead” and “She Bad” boast the only instrumentals I’m not a huge fan of; though the former always explodes into dense hooks, during the verses it consists solely of tinny, droning power electronics and a distorted, bass-heavy kick, and I wish there was more progression over the course of these verses. Meanwhile the latter, while characteristically strange and unnerving, is also a bit too minimal to be consistently interesting. Elsewhere, the “Invocation” interlude is downright painful to listen to, the resonance of the sinewave tones reaching points of extreme excess and sounding ten times louder than anything else on the record. Lastly, while “Eaten Alive” boasts the most thrillingly odd instrumental on the album, the song ends with two straight minutes of complete musical chaos that grows tiresome after a while, an outro that should have been halved in length.
Conversely, there are some notable improvements at points where There Existed an Addiction to Blood faltered. The biggest one by far is that Visions has a considerably stronger beginning and end; the intro is a heart-pounding horror show that ends with an explosion of harsh, unforgiving noise that flawlessly sets the tone for the album. And instead of ending the album with literally 18 minutes of a burning piano, clipping. saw fit to incorporate a different art piece conceptualized by Yoko Ono back in 1953, in which nearly every musician featured on the album plays a single note in the middle of the woods. The original piece calls for three hours, but thankfully the recording here has been condensed to three minutes and change. Not only is it much shorter and infinitely more interesting than There Existed’s rather absurd swan song, but it also serves as a strangely fitting end to the album. The penultimate track on Visions – the final actual song – is also much better than the one found on There Existed, a dense, trippy, trap-influenced banger with a surprisingly catchy hook and a memorable vocal sample.
Overall, Visions of Bodies Being Burned is yet another creative triumph from one of experimental rap’s most electrifying acts, their second effective blending of horror into their signature sound. Rife with unorthodox soundplay, unsettling atmospheres, disturbingly vivid lyrics, and fruitful collaborations and guest appearances, the album marks an ever-so-slight overall improvement from the already excellent There Existed an Addiction to Blood. I for one am very eager to see if the group decides to make a third horror-based album, because the results so far have been magnificent.
Listen to Visions of Bodies Being Burned on Apple Music or Spotify below.