Clipse, Hell Hath No Fury – Hipster Album of the Year

Clipse’s new LP, Hell Hath No Fury, is one of my favorite albums of the year. As I said in my short review, “Crack music hasn’t sounded this good since Raekwon.” I love how they kept a simple formula – 12 tracks, no skits, two MCs, one production team, minimal cameos – and worked it to perfection. While I don’t have it listed as my top album of the year, it’s def gotten more spins in my iPod and car speakers than any other records I’ve bought/downloaded in 2006.

But after a conversation with another notable hip-hop journalist, I’ve realized that everybody else is feeling it just as much; and to quote The Roots, it don’t feel right.

Not everybody as in other rap fans, but everybody, period. With its extensive coverage in non-hip-hop media Hell Hath No Fury has become the new trendy, “hipster” rap album, and it’s getting to me.

Don’t get me wrong, Clipse deserves all of the praise that they receive. HHNF is one of the year’s best, they spit every verse like it’s their last, and they’ve had to go through a lot of bullshit to actually get the record out to the public. But when records (and any other arts) like this hit “hipster” status, they’re lauded with all of the critical praise and trendy admiration in the world, but they end up being embraced more because it’s “in” and less because of the quality of the music.

What brought Hell Hath No Fury to “hipster” status? It’s actually pretty simple:

  1. Clipse’s A-List allegiances. Hell Hath No Fury is produced entirely by The Neptunes – the duo of Virginia beatmakers who have produced for both rap staples like Jay-Z and Busta Rhymes, and pop darlings like Brittney Spears, N*SYNC and Usher. Granted, Pharrell and Chad strayed away from their poppy sound to give Clipse stripped down, hard as nails percussion to compliment Pusha T & Malice’s equally-tough bars, and that deserves credit. Still, The Neptunes have been in the mainstream’s eyes for years now, and they aren’t going away.
  2. Clipse’s dramatic story. “These are the days of our lives, and I’m sorry to the fans, but them crackers wasn’t playin’ fair at JIVE,” Pusha T raps on the group’s first single, “Mr. Me Too.” This situation with their label has been one of the most-publicized cases of Industry Rule #1080 since The LOX with Bad Boy. With their constant deliverance on the We Got It 4 Cheap mixtape series, that makes them a great story.
  3. The present trend of crack rap. Crack music and drug-dealing rap has always been around; the difference is that now, these cats are really branding themselves and making themselves available for general consumption (pause). Young Jeezy has dubbed himself as “The Snowman,” which gave drug dealing a mainstream-accessible, easily-identifiable symbol, complete with controversial T-shirts. While he’s since transcended this status, T.I. did similarly with “Rubberband Man.” Albeit on top of it, Clipse is another addition to this trend.

Contrary to popular belief, I don’t think hip-hop sucks at all; but it has been commercialized to the point that while there’s still plenty of dope artists out there, the quality of the music itself is no longer the priority in the minds of record execs (or, music fans, for that matter). In one hand, shouldn’t I be happy that young, talented, semi-avant-garde MCs like Clipse are getting recognition instead of wannabe rappers, tired veterans in the twilights of their careers, or artists who are sticking to the mold? Of course I should. But at the same time, how long will it take until dope music stops being trendy? Many people will say that it already has.

Clipse’s Hell Hath No Fury has all the ingredients of a hip-hop classic: the format, the critical acclaim, the marriage of lyricism and production, and the capabilities of making a serious dent. I’m just hoping that these cats are feeling it after it’s the “album of the year.”

  • Adam

    Sorry bro, gotta disagree with you here. Hipster music is something completely different from The Clipse. The Clipse is simply a dope duo that made a very good album (albeit a bit overpraised). hipster music is the kind of stuff that rocks the crowds at BED (a club that I had the pleasure of having my ride towed at while I was inside partying earlier this year. Oakenfold still rocked the house). Hipster music is occasionally known by the masses, as in the cases of Justin Timberlake’s “Sexyback,” Paul Oakenfold and Goldfrapp, but most of the time flies relatively under the radar, like Mickey Avalon.

    While you might hear a Clipse record thrown in the mix at such an event, it’s not hipster music. They’re just popular and pop and hipster are two very different things. Jessica Simpson wouldn’t last three seconds in a hipster club.

    Regardless, good article breaking down WHY The Clipse have gained such popularity. You also pointed to something I’ve been said earlier in the year and got killed for… sticking with one producer is better than hiring a team of super producrs. If people can’t see this after listening to The Clipse album they’re beyond hope.

    Peace, ADAM

  • Anonymous

    I have not heard The Clipse album but I have to agree with you Billy. I think rap artist nowadays have to be a hipster because they want to be in the “in crowd”. The popular people are cool, so i want cool people to listen to cool music. Because rap music is represenative of the people. So i see rappers as people’s congressmen. Not each rapper is your congressmen but you have one or two rappers that represent what you believe in.

  • Commish CH

    HHNF is a damn good album, I can see why the Hipster crowd would get all worked up for it. Next time Im surrounded by dudes in tight shirts, chicks in weird hats, and heads sipping down the trendy drink of the moment, I’ll hum a bit of “Mr Me Too” and see if I get some dap.

  • Just Tip

    I like the Clipse and I thought their album was prety good. But I wouldn’t call it claasic just yet.

  • Just Tip

    I also think the Neptunes slipped a bit on the beats. I do like how they fit the album though.

  • J To The A.A.P.

    Don’t really see the problem. Hipsters are gonna cling to something anyway, at least they’re clinging to some quality-hiphop now and giving Clipse free promotion while they’re doing it.

  • The Peoples Champ

    very sick album