Over the past six years or so, I’ve spilled quite a bit of virtual ink covering the Los Angeles-based hip-hop trio and JOVM mainstay act Clipping. When the act — production duo Jonathan Snipes and William Hutson and frontperson Daveed Diggs — formed in the pervious decade, they never expected to achieve much in the way of critical or commercial success: their earliest releases were built around Snipes’ and Hutson’s sparse and abrasive productions featuring industrial clang, clink and clatter and samples of field recordings paired with Diggs’ rapid-fire narrative driven flow, full of surrealistically brutal and violent imagery and swaggering braggadocio.
Sub Pop Records signed the Los Angeles-based trio and released 2014’s clpping. an effort that received attention across the blogosphere, including here. Shortly after clppng., Diggs went on to star in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s smash-hit musical Hamilton, winning a Tony Award for his dual roles of Thomas Jefferson and Marquis de Lafayette. Although the act was on a hiatus for a bit, they reconvened for 2016’s critically applauded, Sci-Fi dystopian concept album Splendor & Misery, an effort that was clearly futuristic and yet accurately described our frightening and bizarre present.
The JOVM mainstay’s third album, lat year’s There Existed an Addiction to Blood found the acclaimed trio interpreting a rap splinter set through their own singular lens — horrorcoe, a purposefully absurdist and significant sub-genre that flourished for a handful of years around the mid 1990s. Some of its pioneers included Brotha Lynch Hung, Gravediggaz, which featured The RZA — and it included seminal releases from Geto Boys, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony and pretty much most of Memphis cassette tape rap. The album’s material is also partially inspired by Ganja & Hess, the 1973 vampire cult classic, regarded as one of the highlights of the Blaxploitation era — with the title derived from the film.
With horror films, sequels are perfunctory. As the insufferable film bro Randy explains in Scream 2, “There are certain rules that one must abide by in order to create a successful sequel. Number one: the body count is always bigger. Number two: the death scenes are always much more elaborate—more blood, more gore. Carnage candy. And number three: never, ever, under any circumstances, assume the killer is dead.” Slated for an October 23, 2020 Clipping. will be releasing the highly anticipated follow-up to There Existed an Addiction to Blood, Visions of Bodies Being Burned — and much like any sequel, the JOVM mainstay act’s fourth album finds them returning with a higher body count, more elaborate, bloodier, gorier kills and of course, unrelenting monsters that just won’t stay dead. Sure, the album in a simplistic sense may be seen by many as a sequel but in reality it’s the second half of a planned diptych: as it turns out in the years following Splendor & Misery, the trio was incredibly prolific, writing too many songs for just one album. Before There Existed an Addiction to Blood’s release, Clipping. and Sub Pop divided the material into albums, specifically designed to be released only months apart.
The COVID-19 pandemic and multiple cancelled tours forced the delay of Visions of Bodies Being Burned’s release until this upcoming October. The 16 song album draws from Ernest Dickerson, Clive Barker and Shirley Jackson as much as it does from Three 6 Mafia, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony and Brotha Lynch Hung. And while they have a uniquely abrasive, angular and messy interpretation of the style, their intention is to lovingly twist beloved and familiar tropes to fit their own politics, centered around monstrosity, fear, the absurd and the uncanny and the struggle for an antiracist, anti-patriarchal, anti-colonial world.
VoBBB’s first single “Say The Name” is centered around a hook that features Scarface’s evocative lyric from “Mind Playing Tricks on Me” — “Candlesticks in the dark, visions of bodies being burned” — chopped and screwed and paired with industrial clang and clatter, wobbling, twitter and woofer rocking low end, arpeggiated synths and Diggs’ surrealistic and gory lyrics. And while full of fantastic imagery of demons in the flames, hell spawn and more, bullet holes and more, the song evokes a slow-burning, menace and horror that feels familiar — the sort of horror of seeing a man snuffed out in public on video with replays from different angles and commentary like a key play in a ballgame.