Clipping, “Splendor & Misery”

Splendor & Misery

If you saw the Broadway production of Hamilton, then you’re more familiar with experimental LA hip-hop trio Clipping than you think. Until July of this year, vocalist Daveed Diggs played the roles of both Thomas Jefferson and the Marquis de Lafayette. While the acclaimed hip-hop musical was rooted in the past (the eighteenth century, to be precise), this second full-length from Clipping jumps forward a few hundred years to the present day—and beyond.

The minimalistic, ice-cold production of Splendor & Misery feels like it’s been pulled back into the present from the future. Think the foreboding atmosphere of 2001: A Space Odyssey and Alien tweaked by the broken justice system and informed by our ongoing conversation about systemic racism in America and you’re a step toward understanding the motivation and inspiration behind this unsettling set of songs.

There are exceptions to that characterization—namely the haunting gospel stylings of “Long Way Away” and “Story 5,” both of which offer a sense of warmth and humanity drenched in sorrow—but on the whole, songs like “All Black,“True Believer,” and the vicious snarl of “Baby Don’t Sleep” are chilling representations of life as a black person in America today, and a harsh, if indirect, indictment of a system designed to keep the status quo in place.

The arrhythmic nature of the songs’ melodies and Diggs’s delivery serve to strengthen the point Splendor & Misery makes by forcing you to focus and listen. From beginning to end, you’re drawn into the world of this album and there’s absolutely no chance of escape—nor should there be. This is an artistic and political statement that needs to be heard, however uncomfortable it makes you feel.


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