clipping. is an experimental hip hop group out of L.A. that boasts on its playbill the talents of rapper Daveed Diggs and producers William Hutson and Jonathan Snipes. They’ve snared a lot of ears over the past decade with thematically complex and beautifully produced albums like the 2016 Ep Wriggle and the existential, black well of emotions that was their sci-fi concept album Splendor & Misery released the same year.
The group took a large chunk of the Trump years off while writing their follow up, a two-part album, with each side slotted to be released within months of the other, sort of the way horror moves used to release sequels that were filmed simultaneously. However, one half of the project was delayed until Halloween 2020 due to Corona (I’ll let you guess which one that was).
This diptych is comprised of There Existed an Addiction to Blood (2019) and Visions of Bodies Being Burned, the latter of which is the occasion for this review. As both albums were written and recorded essentially together, it’s not surprising that they have a singular, unifying theme, a modern rumination on the themes and aesthetics of horror core.
If you’re interested in clipping. and experimental rap at all, you’ve probably already seen about a dozen unhelpful articles on popular culture websites with titles like “Top 11 Horror Core Hits You Need to Know.” Poorly researched, clickbait listicles that enumerate tracks by Eminem next to that song the Fat Boys did for the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise back in the ’80s as the essentials of horror core as a genre.
These are all amusingly bad but not worth your time. For how astonishingly influential the genre is, there is a dearth of reliable information on it.
One of the better, more compact discussions of it that I’ve found is a Youtube documentary titled WELCOME TO HELL: The History and Influence of MEMPHIS RAP (2018 Documentary). It’s extremely informative and worth watching all the way through; however, if you don’t have a spare 20 minutes today, let me sum it up for you here: horror core is a style of extremely lo-fi, southern hardcore gangster rap that leans heavily on schlock, direct-to-VHS slashers and sci-fi film soundtrack for its beats, and macabre, nihilistic themes for its lyrics.
Many of the idiosyncrasies that developed in the genre would later become the calling cards of trap and later Soundcloud rap, including buzzy, half-time, minimalistic beats, and of course, the triplet flow. Aspects of the genre are so popular that they are almost invisible today. It’s the flow that made Migo famous! Surely, this is a horror core world; most of us just haven’t woken up to the nightmare of it yet.
clipping. are far from the only contemporary hip hop group to embrace the roots of horror core in their music and attempt to resurrect it from its shallow grave with their sound. However, they are one of the more unique.
I think one of the things that distinguishes clipping. from groups like BackxWash and $UICIDEBOY$ is frankly the extent that they turn away from their source material on There Existed an Addiction to Blood and Visions of Bodies Being Burned. While the twisty triplets and a rattling, needling whine of some medieval torture devices are integral to clipping.’s sound, there is an undeniable melodicism there as well that shifts the material from pure splatterhouse to a more cabaret style of vocal presentation and accompaniments.
There are times when this works better than others, and there are a few unfortunate instances when it feels like there is more of Hamilton than Hammer Productions in their sound. But there are more times than not when they thread the needle of the two like a Cenobite’s meat-hook through Frank Cotton’s eye socket.
It’s at these times that Visions of Bodies Being Burned, and its predecessor and sibling There Existed an Addiction to Blood really, get a hold on you that the true, infernal grandeur of their designs is revealed, and you won’t be able to lose yourself from their grip until they have shared their terrible vision with you.
Don’t be embarrassed if you needed to turn on every light in the apartment after your first listening session with Visions of Bodies Being Burned.