Northern Transmissions interviews Daveed Diggs, Jonathan Snipes, and William Hutson from LA rap trio Clipping. Their debut album CLPPNG comes out on June 10th via Sub Pop Records.
Northern Transmissions: Clipping definitely has it’s own sound, what or who was the catalyst for getting the project off the ground?
JS – Bill and I had been friends and made music together off and on for years. We’d been talking about taking our love of noise and musique concrete and channeling that skillset into a project that also satisfied our love of rap. When Daveed moved down to LA and we all started hanging out and working together, it all fell together quite logically.
NT: You guys are making rap music at the core, but it’s quite a bit more than that. How would you describe the genre to people?
JS – Whatever we’re doing, it’s definitely not “more than” rap music. It’s just rap music; we don’t think we’re doing anything different. If we use sounds and techniques that aren’t common in other rap music, it’s because we’re drawing from our experience making music and sounds, just like everyone else is. Bill and I happen to come from a sound design and experimental music background, so we’re applying those skills and that taste to making rap beats. It doesn’t mean it’s not rap music, or that we think it’s “more than” or “better than” any other rap music. It’s just rap music, the way we know how to make it.
DD – Lyrically, we reference and cite contemporary and older rap songs very heavily. So I would say that we are more deeply indebted to rap music and to all of its traditions than we are in any way surpassing or “more than” rap.
WH – Yeah. A lot of people talk to us and assume we don’t like contemporary rap, and that’s why we sound like we do. But the opposite is true, really. To be honest— while there’s no right or wrong way to be a fan— we don’t really understand people who only like us and Death Grips but hate Nicki Minaj, or whoever. I guess I don’t know what they’re hearing in our music.
NT: Midcity is definitely one of the more intense albums to come out in a while. How cathartic is it playing your music?
JS – This music isn’t personal, and it isn’t therapy. It’s fun to record and to play live, but we’re definitely not “working through” anything or using it as some sort of outlet for pent up frustrations. It’s a gross generalization, but typically I find that the people I meet who make the most violent and upsetting music are the most well-adjusted.
NT: Your music is pretty sonically challenging. How is it working out for the live shows?
JS – Just like anything else, some people like it, some don’t. I definitely don’t ever feel like we’re in an uphill battle against an audience, if that’s what you’re implying. I think the intentionality of our music is pretty apparent, and even if it’s not their “thing” I think audiences typically recognize that we’re doing something precise and specific.
DD – The challenge is really recreating the feel of the recordings in a live setting. We are constantly trying to figure out ways to replicate the sounds in the recorded tracks in a way that is a little more practical than just somebody pressing play on a laptop. Lyrically, it’s pretty fast sometimes so that can be challenging for fans that aren’t used to rap shows. But we try to organize the show in a way that will give audiences time to breathe.
NT: Your bio says, “Clipping makes party music for a club you wish you hadn’t gone into.” What message are you trying to convey?
JS – I think Bill wrote that, just trying to convey that the music was scary. I think it’s become less scary since he wrote that, but it’s a very quotable sentence. I’m not sure it applies to the music we’re making anymore, but it definitely gets peoples’ attention.
WH – Yeah. When we made the beat for what turned out to be our first song, Daveed asked what it should be about. I suggested that maybe it was about a really dope party, but that he’s slowly realizing he’s having a bad trip, all his friends left him, and he doesn’t know anybody.
NT: I know that King T makes an appearance in your upcoming release, can you give us some more insight about what to expect?
WH – We got some of our absolute favorite rappers to contribute to the record. King T is a genius and I’ve been listening to him for most of my life. Hanging out with that guy is one of the coolest experiences of my life. The same goes for Guce and Gangsta Boo. We really wanted to pay tribute to our influences.
JS – Yeah, King T is amazing, we were really lucky to do a track with him. That guy’s a legend. We also have guest verses from Gangsta Boo, Cocc Pistol Cree, and Guce.
DD – All of the features on the album were really amazing. They all showed up gave really perfect vocal performances. It’s a pretty big honor to get to record with some of your heroes and have them be even better than you imagined they would be.
Which five albums albums are inspiring you these days?
JS – These aren’t necessarily new records. Just things I’ve been listening to lately, off the top of my head:
Julius Eastman – Unjust Malaise (New World Records)
I’m late to this, but I just discovered Julius Eastman. He’s a pretty fascinating character, and I wish more of his music was available, and he was more widely recognized. The music is gorgeous and urgent, and his death is an utter tragedy.
Skanfrom/Frederik Schikowski – Split LP (ADSR)
I’ve loved both Skanfrom (and Roger Semsroth’s other alias sleeparchive) & Schikowski for years, but somehow I neglected to get this record until now. A forgotten masterpiece that is definitely worth the used price on discogs. Very playful and totally fun.
NRSB-11 – Commodified (WeMe)
Gerald from Drexciya collaborating with DJ Stingray. Cold, oppressive electro. Dancey & alienating at the same time. So so good.
Vince DiCola – Transformers: The Movie (Intrada)
I’m slightly ashamed of how much I’ve been listening to this, but it’s been such a huge part of my life since I got it that I can’t ignore it in a list like this. The biggest, brashest, least apologetic record I’ve ever heard. This is what everyone means when they say “80s Soundtrack” but apparently this is the only thing that *actually* sounded like this. And it got its first official release about two months ago. Insane. Instant classic. There’s a score cue that quotes “Dare to be Stupid” by Weird Al Yankovic. Genius.
Signor Benedick the Moor – El Negro (self-released, sbthemoor.bandcamp.com)
Incredibly ambitious bedroom-recorded rapping over abstract garage punk & midi orchestras? Uh, yes please. SB just moved to LA and we’re excited to hang out & work together.
WH – Yeah. I second that NSRB-11 disc. That hasn’t left the CD player in my car in a month. Here are some others.
E-40 – The Block Brochure Vol. 4, 5, 6 (Heavy On The Grind Entertainment)
E-40 is the greatest rapper of all time. I would stand on Nas’s coffee table and say that.
Gangsta Boo & La Chat – Witch (self-released)
Okay. So this isn’t out yet. But there’s no way it won’t be amazing. They’ve released two songs from the project and they’re great, and one of them even has Mia X on it. I thought she’d stopped rapping. She’s gotta come back! She was always my favorite No Limit Soldier.
Sicko Mobb – Super Saiyan Vol. 1 (self-released)
These kids are incredible. It’s unbelievable that their first project is so fully-formed and yet they sound like nothing else out there. This whole Chicago Bop thing is really exciting— it’s like they all heard Keef’s “Citgo” and thought: this should be an entire genre. And they’re right.
Hong Chulki & Ryu Hankil – Objects Inferneaux (Erstwhile Records)
Possibly the best document to date of the Seoul noise/improv scene. Just got this record tonight and I’m already blown away.
Work/Death – Phone About To Ring (Type Records)
Scøtt Reber is one of the absolute best noise artists in the world right now and needs more attention. This is rerelease of an ultra-limited cassette from a couple years ago. It might be his best work to date, but I’m certain this guy has the potential to change the whole game with whatever is next.