First, let me get one thing out of the way. The Bowery Ballroom never ceases to amaze me. I thought the sound last night was fantastic. (commenter's have disagreed with this assessment). I’ve been to countless hip-hop shows where the vocals and music are either too high or too low muddling the sound. I can’t count how many times I‘ve listened to microphone feedback rather than lyrics. There was none of that nonsense last night and it was the cleanest sounding hip-hop show I’ve ever attended. Book 'em all at Bowery please.
Hell Hath No Fury is far from a classic so all of you unabashed lovers need to tone it down. But it’s not an overrated lyrical disappoint as the contrarians would have you believe. It's much better than your average hip-hop album and some of its reviews are deserved. It definitely leans more to the classic side then the run-of-the-mill side, if we're going to take sides, which is what we're here for. I don’t find anything wrong with Pusha and Malice eluding Tubs and Crockett. It’s strangely amusing, similar to the way Raekown and Ghost are trying to make that Julio Iglesias cream. The Clipse traffic in punch-lines, some are nice like “From Italy's Milan, To The Shores Of Nā Pali, now I consider Ferrari And Salvador Dali's” and others like “...with the keys, move over Alicia” are silly but never Lil’ Wayne stupid. That's the difference. If Lil' Wayne is the barometer for what's whack, Hell Hath isn't even in the same ballpark. C'mon, if we can love an album were Ghostface talks about Fallopian Tube Boulevard there's room for a Samuel L. Jackson sample and your average Wamp, Wamp.
But there's another side of Clipse that's not factored into these discussions. Clipse are a great live act, one of the better hip-hop acts around, and last night was no different. From the opening gun Pusha and Malice brought their ferocious brand of energy to the proceeding. They had their back and forth working strong with Malice delivering a smooth and steady performance and Pusha counterbalancing with an excited, earnest performance. Clipse treated the night like a grand show even though it was moved from the much larger Webster Hall to the friendly, more intimate Bowery due to poor ticket sales. They rampaged through most of Hell Hath No Fury, dipped back to Lord Willin' and touched on their mix-tapes. (And announced We Got If For Cheap Vol III will be released soon.)
Clipse connected with the audience instantly and then re-connected with the rest of the re-up gang, Ab-Liva and Sandman as well as Roscoe P. Coldchain for good measure. Ab-Liva and Roscoe jumped in for a hot version of Cot Damn. (Click here for the video or scroll down to watch) To see Clipse live is to really get a feel for their style and what they’re about. Their clever word play becomes a game with the audience of who's-going-to-sing-the-line-louder, with the audience winning out most of the time. More then anything else Clipse are fun live. There was no bullshit state of hip-hop address, no hype-men (or weed carriers) fucking up the songs, no delays between tracks, just one hit after another. When you factor in how good Hell Hath No Fury and their live show is, where does this leave Clipse? I don't buy the argument that Hell Hath No Fury received great reviews because nothing good was released in '06. This argument has no merit because it dismisses their album and the many other good albums released in '06. Furthermore, Hell Hath grows with each listen. Originally the album hit fast, but it has progressed into a slow burner. What’s interesting is that on repeat listens, Pharrell's beats, which are so prevalent on first listen tend to fade into the background, while the lyrics push up to the top. Clipse clever word play is a lot harder to pull off then people give them credit for. After numerous listens I’m still picking up their play on words and clever quips. Isn’t this what people want? Maybe it’s time for the haters to begrudgingly accept that these guys are not only good, but one of the better acts making music today, crack rap or not.
Cot Damn - Ab-Liva/Clipse/Roscoe P. Coldchain
Clipse handed out biodegradable Hell Hath No Fury paper bags as part of their campaign to save the environment.
Check out BrooklynVegan for my Clipse photos and a discussion about the show.