Before the 2013 release of their debut effort, Midcity, the Los Angeles, CA-based hip-hop trio of clipping, which consists of Daveed Diggs, Jonathan Snipes and William Hutson never expected to find much of an audience for their sound. However, both the mainstream and indie hip hop scenes have increasingly embraced the gloriously weird and experimental — and in ways that would have been impossible just 15-20 years ago. In some way, it shouldn’t be surprising that Sub Pop Records, the label home of the equally weird Shabazz Palaces signed them to a recording contract. Whereas Shabazz Palaces’s sound is at times ethereal and spacey, clipping’s sound is sparse, ominous and downright abrasive – Daveed Diggs rhymes over industrial clinking and clanging, ambient whistling, explosions and other noises, with off-kilter syncopation. And Diggs’ rhymes with an intense, novelistic detail about violence in a way that’s frightening, surreal and terrifying. Is it a nightmare? Or is it real?
The trio were at the Afropunk Festival on Saturday, and they performed “Knees on a Ground” a single that they released independently. Inspired by the events of Ferguson, MO, the track brings to mind hip-hop’s early days of spoken word. Hearing it live and in the recorded version, the track manages to capture the confusing array of emotions many young Blacks feel – horror, moral outrage, confusion, a wearying numbness and a fear that there will be many more young brothers and sisters who will be senselessly gunned down in the streets. When I heard it live, I noticed that everyone in the crowd stopped what they were doing and seemed to have felt the exact same way I did – transfixed by such a confusing array of emotions.