Updated: Dec 10, 2020
Favorite Track: "Something Underneath" Least Favorite Track: N/A
The experimental hip-hop trio clipping., composed of rapper Daveed Diggs and sound designers/producers Jonathan Snipes and William Hutson, have been known for their abstract place in the rap music canon since their self-titled debut in the early 2010's. The mixture of grandiose production, blazing flows from Daveed, and the strange obsession with all things creepy is the perfect concoction of devilish stories and delightfully terrifying sound design. Visions of Bodies Being Burned, the sequel to 2019’s There Existed an Addiction to Blood, is essentially an update from its predecessor. Where TEaATB was creepy, with stories of murderous serial killers and supernatural entities running rampant throughout its runtime, VoBBB is somehow creepier. Where TEaATB was fantastically produced, filled to the brim with strangely unsettling sound effects and aggressive bouts of industrial noise, VoBBB is a hulking behemoth of unfathomable sounds, sounding like no other music ever created. Where TEaATB was a delightfully scary outing, proving clipping. as cutting edge musical experimentalists, VoBBB is a near-perfect masterpiece, solidifying them as top notch virtuosos of the macabre.
From the storytelling of the second song on the record, “Say the Name”, it is clear that Daveed has a knack for pulling influence from classic horror movies. This track specifically is a nod to the 1992 horror phenom Candyman, with references to the swarms of bees that play an integral role in the movie and each verse beginning with a reference to Candyman’s hook and ending with one simple demand: “Say the name”. Another example is “‘96 Neve Campbell”, which is a reference to the 1996 slasher giant Scream with Daveed asking later in the song “Do you like scary movies?/What’s your favorite?”, a question that also seems to determine your enjoyment of the song at hand. The beat on the track is minimal, with some low bass tones and aggressive flows from guest rappers Cam & China, as well as a sample of someone thunderously banging on a door. By incorporating elements of an authentic slasher atmosphere, it contributes to the already creepy and unsettling nature of the track, assured to leave the listener bone-chilled.
We also get plenty of songs that are exercises in sound design, showcasing how far Snipes and Hutson can push the limits of industrial, hip-hop, rock, breakbeat, electronic, and Horrorcore. “Make Them Dead” is a cultish, dragging, slow-burner with an ear-piercing instrumental. The track seems to drone on, with the abrasive noise instrumental growing more scary by the second before giving way to these larger-than-life, cultish vocal chants of “Make them dead”. “She Bad”, by comparison, is much more understated. The minimal instrumental here is disconcerting , as ambient string plucks and creaky doors create an unbelievably harrowing atmosphere that sets the tone for Daveed’s story of a murderous coven of witches. “Something Underneath” is one of the most terrifying musical pieces I have ever experienced. The track feels primal, almost like being hunted or violently chased and being fully aware that you aren’t going to make it out alive. The breakbeats on the track are so visceral and loud, becoming more deafening by the second, before completely giving way to Daveed’s unaccompanied chorus vocals. His flow on this track is mind-blowing, as he delivers a quick-fire flow that mentions hordes of cannibals, references Outkast, and grows increasingly impressive as he digs deeper into the story and seems to float on top of the beat.
Although I think the lyricism and tracks as a whole are mind-blowing, what is even more impressive to me is how strangely accessible this album remains. Tracks like “Pain Everyday”, a track in ⅞ best described as a “call-to-arms for the ghosts of lynching victims to haunt the white descendants of their murderers” still manages to be more palatable than the average Death Grips track. Nonetheless, clipping. definitely are experimental in every sense of the word, and their countless influences blended together do not create a simple listen by any means, but a listen that is easy to bear and never bores. Much of how this album captivates me comes from Daveed’s deep vocal timbre and the sheer amount of conviction he raps with. Not many rappers I can think of would be able to write a song like “She Bad” and make the story not only interesting, but genuinely convincing Nevertheless, Daveed seems to write detailed stories that paint vivid imagery that makes me feel as though I am a part of the story. For an album as weird and horror-influenced as Visions of Bodies Being Burned, this is critical, and it is pulled off with flying colors.
In a lot of respects, VoBBB feels like a horror movie itself, which was almost definitely clipping.’s intention from the get-go. The tracks, although seeming to have nothing to do with each other, somehow manage to work as a cohesive whole. At the end of the album, clipping. brings together an interpolation of Yoko Ono’s “Secret Piece”, a musical writing that says the following: “Decide on one note you want to play. Play it with the following accompaniment: the woods from 5 .a.m. to 8 .a.m in summer.” This idea may seem simple in concept, but when put at the end of an album littered with stories of nocturnal horrors, it feels like a resolution of sorts; as if Visions of Bodies Being Burned was a neutral view of the span of horrors happening in a single night. The sun comes up, we get our resolution, and amidst the horror and deeply unsettling feeling force-fed to us for forty-nine minutes, we find peace after the terrorscape that is Visions of Bodies Being Burned.