Clipse – Til The Casket Drops
Clipse have always been a bit of an anomaly: a coke-rapping duo with full Neptunes support (Pharrell guests on how many songs?), production ranging from bass-driven anthems (“Trill”) to percussion-dominated hits (“Grindin'”), all while stylin’ their way through two of the best hip-hop albums of the decade, 2002’s Lord Willin and 2006’s critically acclaimed Hell Hath No Fury. The success of the latter has produced a huge amount of hype for the twosome’s third major LP, the much delayed Til the Casket Drops. And like its predecessors, guest appearances take centre stage; Keri Hilson, Camron, Kanye West, Yo Gotti, Nicole Hurst, and Ab Liva are on full display, in addition to the previously mentioned Pharrell Williams showing up for two cuts. Despite the high-profile appearances, Clipse are still the focus, and they make sure that they show up in prime form for their best effort yet.
A few things make the coke-pushing duo’s newest an entirely different triumph than their previous releases; production is less-“clubby” (except for “Showing Out” and “All Eyes On Me”, ironically two of the best songs on the disc, and definite future hits), there has been a significant drop in the references to cocaine, and lyrical themes often revolve around being happy and family. Brothers Malice and Pusha T rap about the past as the past: they are where they are for a reason, and acknowledge their lives as such. The album’s opening track “Freedom”, is a guitar-driven introduction that is just about that: freedom. With thoughtful lyrics, the number is the duo’s most different album opener, and is their best so far. “Popular Demand”, a track with two guest appearances, brings us back to a much more familiar Clipse; they acknowledge their own hype, with assistance from Camron and Pharrell. The DJ Khalil-produced single “Kinda Like a Big Deal”, rounds out the first trio of songs on the album. With Kanye’s best musical contribution since, well, a really long time, it is one of the catchiest and most anthemic rap songs of the year. Even though it has been around for a little while before the album’s release, it is not a track you are going to skip over.
“I’m Good” and “There Was a Murder” start the second half off in distinctively different styles; the first with its RnB-esque flare, the latter with its depressive nature. “All Eyes on Me” takes on a major role for the second half. Yes, it was already mentioned, but I wanted to make sure I announce its mad potential for club recognition (guys, show this to the club girls you know now before someone else does). “Counseling” is the weakest track on the album; lyrics focus on liking a girl with no ass. Funny? Maybe, but it feels more like a filler track, even with an appearance from Nicole Hurst. Luckily, another one of the disc’s highlights, “Champion”, succeeds it in every fashion; a catchy chorus, and mature and sensitive lyrics compliment another perfect production job by The Neptunes. Closer “Life Change” is a fitting closer and part two for opener “Freedom”; the album’s lyrical themes revolve around how the siblings’ lives have changed because of their music, and how they mention it without bragging to the extent of other successful rappers is refreshing.
Til the Casket Drops shows off a mature, adult rap duo that have topped their previous successful efforts. How will fans of their coke rap style react? It will be interesting to see. It will be a shame if the reception isn’t 100% positive; this is a stronger representation of what hip-hop should be about. “Third time’s the charm” the duo proclaims on “Kinda Like a Big Deal”, and while Jay-Z hoped for the same thing with The Blueprint 3, Clipse have done it on their third major release without having to try and recreate the magic they found on previous releases. They have found an entirely new magic that will be recognized as the duo’s best to date, or til their musical casket does indeed drop.