By Jonah Krueger, Contributor
[Sub Pop, 2019]
Key tracks: “La Mala Ordina”, “Blood of the Fang”, “Run for Your Life”
The cult of the horror movie is a strong, murky corner of the greater cinema community that often only gets mainstream coverage when a film makes billions of dollars—or it’s just the month of October. Yet, any horror movie aficionado will be happy to tell you that the beauty of the medium is its ability to accurately depict our society in all of its flaws and fears. Experimental rap-trio clipping understand that, revel in it and completely deconstruct it to deliver poignant themes on their newest LP, There Existed an Addiction to Blood.
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There’s no denying it, There Existed an Addiction to Blood is wholeheartedly a concept album, and the group likely changed their profile picture on Twitter to a trash can jack-o’-lantern because of it. When listening to the album, the sonic landscape delivers goosebumps as clipping toy with sounds of slasher film pianos, harsh static, metallic clanks, droning synths and well-placed samples.
Whether it is the terrifying banger “La Mala Ordina” or the slow, intense increase in tempo on “Club Down”, producers William Hutson and Jonathan Snipes have an uncanny ability to immerse the listener in an atmosphere. In 2016, they somehow produced a rap album that sounded like it was recorded aboard a spaceship, and in 2019, they have created a project that manages to be legitimately terrifying, as if the beats are straight from hell.
Miraculously, Daveed Diggs offers extremely compelling performances over these instrumentals throughout the runtime. On “The Show”, you can hear his technical ability as he struts over blasts of static. “Story 7”, the newest edition in the series of connected stories that began on 2014’s Midcity, is perhaps an even more impressive example. The complicated beat, painstakingly mapped out by one Twitter user, is hard enough to nod your head to, let alone rap over. Yet, as always, Diggs delivers.
Beyond his technical ability, Diggs’ lyricism is as engaging as the off-kilter instrumentals, inviting the listener to relisten over and over again to further understand the horrific tales. On the surface, the album builds a nightmarish, apocalyptic world of violence, drugs and demons. Yet, to be as wonderfully cheesy as “Possession (interlude)”, the narratives clipping have crafted leave just enough room to imply powerful social commentary, revealing the true monsters of society.
This can be seen most clearly in “Blood of The Fang”. With explicit allusions to members of the Black Panthers, including an overt reference to Malcolm X, the song places the listener into the mind of a radical civil rights activist: “Look back, blood on the ground / Look straight, they still shootin’.”
These messages show up in subtler forms as well, like on the track “All in Your Head”, a story of prostitution through the lens of mind control. The track, which is fittingly previewed by “Possession (interlude)”, even describes the pimp as a religious figure, a god ruling his sheep. What starts to become clear through the song, and the album as a whole, is that characters who are commonly stereotyped as the “monsters” or “scum” of society are cast as the victims. Drug users, prostitutes, and African Americans are all preyed upon again and again in the tales spun on There Existed an Addiction to Blood.
What truly sets the album apart, though, is the way these themes and stories work hand in hand with the instrumentals. Take the endlessly impressive track “Run for Your Life”. It follows a drug addict being hunted by his dealer. So, naturally, the beat consists almost entirely of distant gunfire, barking dogs and gasps for air. Now and then the sound of cars driving by can be heard, and as they pass from one channel to the next, the car blasts a song—a song that just so happens to exactly match the track’s beat.
Tracks like “Run for Your Life” can be found consistently throughout the album, enhancing its sense of immersion, scare factor and thematic intention. With that, clipping has created an awe-inspiring piece of work. The amount of thought and effort embedded in the album is abundantly clear, and it completely pays off. Despite a few lack-luster choruses, There Existed an Addiction to Blood remains one of the best albums of the year and likely the best album to play at your socially conscious, industrial Halloween party.