Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Clipse - Till The Casket Drops Review

From the onset, the disc’s beats are epic in scale. On the album’s intro track, the Sean C & LV–produced “Speak of Freedom,” Pusha spits, “All the apologies, I wear the cross, I bear the blame/We in the same group, but I don’t share my brother’s pain,” as he goes on to talk of music as a self-made prison. Separately, Malice speaks of a similar sentiment, when he questions, “How was I to know I was happy being piss poor?” over a perfect sound bed of rapid-fire drums, melodic strings and rock-guitar accents.

With the success of Lord Willin', shady business within the record labels put a halt onto their second offering. Having to wait until 2006 to release the follow up Hell Hath No Fury, the brothers were evidently upset with their situation and made a transition to a darker sound which reverberated their particular opinion. Now with the third offering, Til The Casket Drops, the two come together again to feed their sound to the masses. Life has left them with bruises and scars being physically, emotionally and mentally and this album serves as an outlet to celebrate crossing the finish line, but being aware of what they had to go through to get there.
Not only does Til the Casket Drops refuse to settle into a groove, but you know right from opener "Freedom" that this is a very different kind of record from Clipse. The first track on a Clipse LP without production by the Neptunes (former Bad Boy associates and American Gangster curators Sean C & LV did it instead), "Freedom"'s rock star guitar and live drums are a jarring shift from the desiccated, merciless clangor of Hell Hath No Fury. But the Schizo production actually fits the uneven topicality as well as the truly dangerous sonics of Hell Hath No Fury fit Clipse's anger. While that album's relatively celebratory tracks ("Dirty Money", "Ride Around Shinin") only amplified the amorality and emptiness that surrounded them, "Door Man", "Never Will It Stop", and "Popular Demand (Popeyes)" defiantly wave knots of hundreds.
There's no doubt that Clipse are an unusually introspective and self-aware group, but particularly since We Got It 4 Cheap, Vol. 3, you get the feeling they've been reading too much of their own press, however positive it's been. They know that some of their own fans have pigeonholed them as strictly criminologists ("Mistook my work for solely crack/ You should've got more out of it than that") or martyrs in label warfare. (Pusha T describes the "self-made prison" of the music business in "Freedom" and ends his verse saying, "my critics finally have a verse of mine to jerk off to.") On the reflective "Footsteps", Malice confides that an associate's prison sentence "weighs on my conscience, and I hate conscious rap." Earlier, Pusha calls himself "Common on his 'D-Boy," and promising the truth "no matter how bland it is."

But don’t think for a second that the brothers Thornton have become milquetoast MCs who have forgotten their struggles. At least for a moment, the chest-thumping “Never Will It Stop” quells such notions and gives a nod to the Clipse of old. Says Malice, “Child of a lesser God, so when I drop the top on the Porsche/It’s my way of reaching for the Lord.”

Usually known to not play well with others outside of the Neptunes, this go around, the Clipse bring rappers Yo Gotti, Kanye West and Cam'Ron along for the ride as they each hold their own against duo from Virginia. Linking back up with Pharrell, the Clipse show exactly how to handle production from the Neptunes. Since Lord Willin' the two have been able to lace instrumentals from their fellow Virginia natives and show exactly what is supposed to be done with them. For those that were putting a lot of doubt into the abilities of the Neptunes with their previous efforts, all negative connotations come to a close on tracks such as “Popular Demand” and “Champion” which leave speakers echoing their triumphant sound.

Til The Casket Drops could be called a return to grace, except for the fact that they never truly fell off. Time away has only resulted positively in regards to their latest offering. Always giving every side to the story, the brothers are ecstatic about their position now in life, but are also reflective of the road getting there.

It seems Pusha T was right after all on “Kinda Like A Big Deal”…Third time's the charm, right?

Track Listing

1 Speak of Freedom (prod. Sean C & LV)
2 Popular Demand (Popeyes) f. Cam’ron (prod. The Neptunes)
3 Kinda Like a Big Deal f. Kanye West (prod. DJ Khalil)
4 Showin’ Out f. Yo Gotti (prod. The Neptunes)
5 I’m Good feat. Pharrell (prod. The Neptunes)
6 There Was A Murder (prod. DJ Khalil)
7 Door Man (prod. The Neptunes)
8 Never Will It Stop f. Ab-Liva (prod. Sean C & LV)
9 Eyes On Me f. Keri Hilson (prod. The Neptunes)
10 Counseling (prod. The Neptunes)
11 Champion (prod. The Neptunes)
12 Footsteps (prod. DJ Khalil)
13 Life Change (prod. The Neptunes)
14 I’m Good (rmx) f. Rick Ross (prod. The Neptunes)

Written by DJ Big Mike of WOTC 107.7 Off Tha Chain Radio

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