Friday, July 25, 2014

The Story Within: clipping's CLPPNG

Last year SubPop, in their attempts at becoming the most diverse alternative record label, signed underground Hip-Hop trio clipping, to accompany Shabazz Palaces as the only Hip-Hop artists on the label. This year the group led by L.A. native rapper Daveed Diggs released their 2nd LP CLPPNG to divisive reviews & opinions over the content & topics filled within it. Something many hadn't noticed was that, held within, was a concept about the tragedy of a man trapped in the ghetto, doing dirty work to get by. This, is the story within.



"Ghosts on the avenue were talking to theyselves/Somebody been selling them dreams again."

CLPPNG begins with a rapid fire verse acting as a summary of the soon-to-come story of Mike Winfield & the ghetto he lives in & the characters who inhabit it. Ghosts, dreams & aspirations play an important role throughout CLPPNG, metaphors abound re-occur to symbolize various acts of the problems in the inner-city.  

"Fucker, prepare for the storm/Hope you got a blanket or a body keepin' you warm/The spoken word is weak/Scream motherfucker, dreams are cheap/You ain't even even gotta sleep/Don't sleep."

Intro is a warning to those bearing witness to the ghetto & this album. A siren blares throughout the background, piercing the listeners ear. It's meant to grab an open ear & instill fear & panic amongst the populace to heighten the group's overall message advocating against violence in gangs & the current state it holds in media, especially Hip-Hop.

Body & Blood

A fantastical tale with sinister undertones. It's the only track exempt from anything to do with street life & focuses on a female serial killer who lures men in with her scandalous demeanor & lustful ways. However, this doesn't mean the track attributes nothing to Winfield's story, if anything it's another foreshadowing over the dangers in getting involved with the wrong women. 

"She got her own set of power tools/Her own unmarked van, plan meticulously laid out/And splayed on the walls, all scrawled on dated/Polaroids of seven heads plated." 

If we're going along with the concept of the 'landfill' and those living in it trying to outdo each other, this woman may take the cake, in ways drastically different & far more sadistic than the mindless gang violence. 

Work Work

Diggs' way of equating Winfield's work with that of your typical 9-5 job, difference being that it's filled with blood, drugs, & money. This is our first instance in which we witness the mind & motives of Diggs himself & the messages he aims at revealing. The story of CLPPNG, rather than promoting gangster life & the lavish perception it has in rap music, is more a satirical view critiquing the life itself, relegating it to the truthful ways in which 'ghosts' live & die in the ghetto. 

"Pimps up daytime/Whole block a ghost town/Ghost ride/Ghost face/G's get ghost in a moment/Pour a little for the ghosts of the dead homies"

The ghosts remain, the ones who've already met their end & the ones walking through the night, invisible to the society surrounding them. It's a powerful message to see the gangsters as pointless to society, but the message is true. As society sleeps, the G's are out on the prowl, conducting their business that affects themselves only. 

"No obituaries for the most part/Nobody cares you're not even a co-star/Just an extra/They read about it as a number/Names got money in their wallet."

This is possibly the statement that defines the album & concept. Gangsters don't have a place in society. Upon their death they simply vanish, no obituary & only known as a number, or statistic, people talk about with gang violence. Money comes & goes, as quick as their hand fills it's taken away by the drugs that consume them. No wallet is even needed to maintain an identity & to safekeep their cash.


Speaking upon the fact that tempers flair & bodies die from gangs more in the summertime than any other season, just like Chance The Rapper spoke of over his Chicago home in Pusha Man. 

"Watch it, everyone observe the color of the block where they walkin'/Watch how they walkin', see her at the payphone code talkin'."

Even in the daytime, where everything seems right in the world, the brewing under-belly of the Blood & Crips remains an integral part of their daily lives. Constantly on the lookout, for one wrong move could mean the death of an innocent pedestrian. 

Taking Off

The stage has been set. It's summer, the darkness has settled in, and Michael Winfield is just starting his day at work. 

"Ski mask on with a burner cell phone/Desert Eagle 50 cal. imprint on the backbone." 

"This is the business the uniform isn't unusual if you make killing a job/Money is good when it's coming from behind prison walls for someone who need to get off."

Winfield conducts his business in attire that represents his job. He doesn't support a shirt or tie, but a sweatshirt & mask. 

"Tired of living like this but not ready to die/Cause he isn't notorious yet/Everyone wants to be somebody know for doing something people call glorious, yes."

This shows the insight of a man who, much like most of society, is sick of his job. However, money isn't forcing him back, it's the infamy he hasn't yet achieved, a symptom of media immortality that recalls true OG's in Film, TV, & especially Hip-Hop as something to aspire to, not something to escape. The chorus enlightens us to this mind state even more.

"It's action/No time for your planning/The lifespan like this fuse is too short/That rocket is taking off/Party in the sky/Thug mansion was real as it turns out/These gangstas ride rockets/They taking off."

Instead of burning out slowly, gangster's aim to go out with a bang (pun intended). A long, prosperous life isn't something men engrained in death and destruction wish for. There's a reason Tupac & Biggie are the most well-known rappers, they went out an explosion, rather than fading, to visit thug mansion in the sky. These are the goals for Michael Winfield that he hasn't yet achieved. In fact, that goal won't be reached until death by way of violence bites him back. 


The raunchy, club-driven anthem meant to mimic & mock today's inner-city club scene begins with Michael entering the club after concluding another successful night of business. Throughout the night our lead becomes wasted, drugged & fucked all in an attempt at feeling alive & overcome the harsh cold demeanor of his job. He passes out after a long night of snatching his pray, both for money & for sex. 


After falling asleep for the night, we're hazily greeted with Winfield's warped, nihilistic mind. Diggs' quiet, simple rapping further instills the mind of a man so burdened with violence that nothing, no matter how deprived, comes off alarming, rather just another dream (Note: not nightmare). 

"Dreams are made of comfort/Struggle bursts the nightmares/The existence of this voice implies he made it/And often keeping a G in the face of a world leading a kumbaya."

Dream is rife with extraneous language & vivid imagery far to dense to make sense of, much like a dream. This line however stands out. Winfield has thus not yet cracked under the stress, maintaining his violent life, not yet succumbing to the struggle. He'll never let down, and will forever stand against the world, even if they were all harmonizing in peace, since he wishes to live in infamy. 

Get Up

After Michael drifts off entirely to sleep, lulled to sleep by some white noise, he's abruptly awoken up by his obnoxious alarm clock, a sound that lasts the entirety of the track. 

"Game don't wait (heavy, wait)/Eyes heavy, but it's time to grind motherfucker can't be late (hold up, wait)."

The life of a man living a double life is abrupt & never ends. After an event-filled night, including his lucid dreaming, the alarm clocks jolts Michael into more work, this time dealing drugs, in order to maintain some stability that his other job doesn't provide. The ringing of the clock, along with Diggs' inspirational verses act as a motivator for the troubled male, and yet, by songs end only becomes annoying & bothersome, much like the way of life any OG suffers through. 

Or Die

A continuation, or finale, on the previous couple songs "Tonight, Dream, Get Up, Or Die." There ain't no other options in the streets, no stopping, no letting up, no relaxing. 

"Everybody think they're hard until they face hit ground/Everybody make a choice, it is not profound/Either get money or die/Get faded or die/Get famous or die."

The lives of true OG's function the same; get paid, get high, get known, or die. Being someone in the ghetto means more to those living in the landfill than it matters to the outside world. Being feared, trusted, loved, or hated are what all aspire too, including Michael. But as we're soon to find out, the ghetto has a way of biting back the bullet & spitting it out, getting their karma's worth in return. 

Inside Out

Michael's greed has gotten the best of him. He urges for the fame & notoriety has hasn't yet received. He's been working with the wrong people for a long time now without anything, besides the stress & anxiety, to account for. But now, for either money, infamy, or retaliation, the distraught father lays waste to an enemy, murdering him with seven bullets, three to the head, four to the heart. 

"Orange cones and yellow tape/Palm trees swayin', passers by all look the other way/Nobody speak to police this or any other day."

Life continues onwards in the streets, with this being the norm, as the morale of the surrounding neighbors further dwindles. Except for a group of masked men...

"Here come that Caprice again/Rolling too slow up the street men sit four deep in/They seats and slow up by the scene, bandanas hide they faces/But all they heads are shakin'/They nod in unison and hit the coroner without breakin'."

Winfield's messed with the wrong gang by killing one of their own. We'll soon find out what happens when the itch for notoriety becomes to much, causing a chain reaction of violence, erupting & circling back to Michael.

Story 2

As the title makes abundantly clear, this is a story, a high-octane, brutal re-telling of a minute in the life of Michael. A whirlwind of events & emotions occur as, after working his typical bar tending job, he recognizes a car, remarkably similar to a gang-affiliated ride drive by. Suddenly, ashes fall from the sky, Michael calls home to no answer, rushes home in a moment of desperation as panic ensues, only to witness his house, with his son, daughter & babysitter trapped inside, burn to the ground. 

"No intention of stopping letting the smoke take his breath/Some strong arm rocks him aside Mike falls to the ground and cries/Why won't you just let me die/Why won't you just let me die."

Knowing his fate, his future, and his repurcussions, Michael attempts to run into the house, killing himself along with his family, before an on-looker stops him. The building beat erupts as the father's life ends, not physically, but emotionally, thanks to his forced involvement in gang violence. 


And as the previous track explodes at its conclusion, Dominoes crumbles to open, as Michael's life has officially fallen like dominoes. Where Story 2 is the climax, Dominoes is the slow descent, the exact thing an OG doesn't want, as noted on Taking Off. Michael sips his liquor, relaxes while watching sports, while reminiscing on his past. 

On this list is his street life in the first verse, filled with references to his troubles discussed throughout the album. The second conveys an interaction with a pimp & his hoe, the latter purposely slurring her words to maintain her thuggish behavior. The final verse has our lead recollecting his first school fist fight in vivid detail and how that lead to his future glossed in violence. 

Throughout all this we have the chorus, where one dark-toned voice battles with a children's choir, meant to represent the past, his children, and the disparaging attitude gang violence instills upon the youth. 

"Drop that game on 'em
- Money talk, listen to the OG
Drop that game on 'em
- Cause he always gonna say it how it be."

Having the children sing the words coming from the OG's mouth, after having heard the album & its message, is like a punch to the gut. It hits home, in that instant, that all the violence & promotion of it is trivial, meaningless & only amounts to death & ruined lives. 


"Ok, Watch them birds fly south for the Winter."

Summer has ended, but more likely than not we've fast-forwarded quite a few years, but the continuity remains. Ends begins with the brooding cold of the fridged winter, symbolizing the end of the story. 

"Once upon a time there somebody in this story/But fuck it, they need some ends/Shoot it in the vein/See if you come down/See if you come down/Don't look now."

Michael's story is officially over, but not in the way he wanted. Instead of going out with a bang, he's faded away, injecting heroin in his final years. What he stood for in his attempts at reaching Thug Mansion has been muted; the money, girls, and fame has evaded him. 

"And they can't catch what never was/And everyone here been a ghost since day one."

The summary of the album as a whole, reiterating back to the Intro. You can't kill something that's already morally dead. The violence will continue, because, emotionally, nothing changes, everyone moves forward.

"They wonder why the raps are full of floss and boss and murderers/Cos killing shit is less painful then feeling shit/And the dead can't be defendants/Why live old without a pension."

Gangster rap glorifies gangsters, plain & simple. Dying for your hood is something to be commended, by what, in the long-term, amounts to nothing for society, and specifically lower-class, black society. Continuing to glorify the violence, the drugs, and the danger will only allow it to continue to exist. 

Williams Mix

It is now where Michael Winfield presumidly meets his end, enduring a 4+ minute heroin overdose, flashing in and out of consciousness as he recollects the various acts his life has been through over the previous 52 minutes on CLPPNG. 

CLPPNG doesn't promote the violence, but instead shows street life for what it is, not something to be admired like many Gangster rap artists will have you believe. The life is dirty, deprived, & unappealing to most. While it's the life they're forced to live based on circumstance, only further instituting it to grand, Western-style indulgence & appeal will only drag the violence out longer. 


Some albums, no matter how well-received, further instigate & glorify the streets. Take Kendrick Lamar's 2012 opus good kid, m.A.A.d city. The true story of Lamar's transformation from K.Dot, his ignorant teen self, to his now current state, having to endure death, deception & violence at the hands of gangs. However, the final message doesn't discount the streets he's grown up & the horror that's occurred, but instead fetishizes it by hailing Compton in the closing track, memorizing back to Tupac's glory days, saying that there "ain't no city quite like mine." To many, that further convinces gangs & the youth in participating in the events unfolding before them, rather than preventing them from doing so. 

CLPPNG is not pretty. It's harsh, grueling, irritating, and distorted, all of which is taken from the Industrial sounds clipping invokes. It's a statement to the streets that life after the streets is not what media makes it out to be. You won't be hailed, you won't be remembered. You'd simply be a ghost, like you've always been, lost in the streets to the gun or the time, memorizing on what could have been, when, in reality, the rise to Thug Mansion was never a plausible option. 

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