Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1097

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The Clipse
The Clipse The Clipse The Clipse The Clipse

Virginiaâs grimiest hip hop duo, The Clipse, have never felt the need to censor themselves on track. And the candid approach applies equally to their thoughts on the state of society and current affairs, like the tragic college massacre in their home state. With a new single and some UK tour dates on the way, B&S chewed the fat with outspoken frontman Pusha T.

Pusha T isnât a guy whoâs backwards in coming forwards. He says whatâs on his mind, and with no attempt to dumb things down to make his words more palatable to the over-sensitive. It applies just as much when heâs being straight Terrence Thornton, Bronx, New York-born, Virginia state-raised, just as much as when assuming his MC alter-ego on track.

Itâs the grimy, no-compromise realism of their lyrics that have made The Clipse, (Terrence and his brother Gene, better known as Malice,) so popular with their peers in the rap game. Theyâre a group that many other MCs themselves see as inspirational.
âClipse make music that challenges whatâs going on in the mainstream,â Pusha tells us. âThere was a gap to be filled at the time we came along. Everyone was talking about the same thing. If everyone else is going left, weâll choose to go right. Weâre just like that.
âWeâre forever changing our music. I would say thereâs a definite evolution from âLord Willingâ through to âHell Hath No Furyâ. This album is way darker. Itâs an album you really have to listen to. Thereâs no cheap metaphors.â

The Clipse sound is very distinctive. Production comes almost always courtesy of fellow Virginians The Neptunes, (or just Pharrell on his own,) offering the usual space-age, quirkily bubbling basslines and freaky effects. They might have been a very different-sounding group had Pusha and Malice stayed in The Bronx, rather than relocate with their family to Virginia when they were kids. Their MCing skills might never have caught the attention of VA native Pharrell, who subsequently hooked them up with his Star Trak label. The easy, laid-back vibe of the state has been inspirational in terms of developing the music, Pusha says. Other residents such as Timbaland, Missy Elliott and Teddy Riley would probably tell you the same thing.

But Virginia recently took on an altogether more macabre image when the appalling and senseless Virginia Tech shootings unwittingly made it the setting for the worst massacre in modern American history. Inevitably, the event led to hip hop cultureâs critics openly laying the blame at the door of the genreâs harsh lyrics, and the lifestyle seemingly toted by certain of its exponents. (Interestingly, the same criticism seemed to be lacking towards Americaâs conservative middle classes, where gun ownership is part of regular daily life, and which has led to guns being so readily available for purchase by anyone with the appropriate money â whether they happen to be a dysfunctional, psychotic student with a grudge or not.)

Unsurprisingly, Pusha has his own take on this â and is characteristically outspoken in his assessment.
âPeople are really upset about that tragedy. Itâs the sort of thing no-one ever imagined would happen in Virginia. Thereâs a real state of grief about the place.
âAs ever, people are looking for scapegoats, but in all reality, there isnât one here. That guy had his own motives and was acting on them. The media managed to put a spin on it, as they do with most things, trying to suggest that itâs hip hop which motivates people to do bad things.â

Like so many other artists do once they pass a certain threshold of success, Clipse have entered the corporate world of hip hop by launching their own label situation, with Re Up Gang, a Universal imprint. Despite the move, however, Pusha says he has a fair amount of contempt towards the business side of the game.
âMusic is a business. When a situation warrants it, you might have to do records that are more radio-friendly. We had a great first album and just came off a hiatus. It was important for us to retain our credibility. We just wanted to keep everything raw. It just made sense for us not to do anything mainstream. Thereâs nothing mainstream about us.â

The resultant album, âHell Hath No Furyâ, showcases the Clipse sound adequately. Although packed with speaker-shaking, head-nodding basslines, the songs are notably devoid of catchy hooks, pop-friendly melodies and strategic artist collaborations. The mix was all there on the last single, âMr. Me Tooâ, and thereâs more of the same on the follow-up, âWamp Wampâ, set shortly for release in the UK. ââWamp Wampâ is a kind of ghetto call,â Pusha reflects. âItâs more uptempo than the other tracks on the album, so it made sense to be a single.â

For British fans looking to get more of the Clipse experience, meanwhile, the good news is thereâs a series of five UK and Ireland shows lined up for June.

What can punters expect from the live experience?
âClipse shows are always full of people who are very lyrically in tune with us, and know all the punchlines. Thereâs a lot of energy. I particularly love London, man. Itâs a place where cats really appreciate the music, and the background to it. Iâm looking forward to coming back.

The single âWamp Wampâ, is released on June 18 on Re Up Gang.

Dublin (Vicar Street): 13
Nottingham (Rescue Rooms): 15
Bristol (Thekla): 20
London (Shepherdâs Bush Empire): 21
Cambridge (Junction): 23

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