L.A. experimental hip-hop group clipping. has been gaining serious attention for their newest release CLPPNG. We reached out to them via email to pick their brains about their production work, their favorite albums of the year and using alarm clocks for beats.
The pronoun “I” isn’t used on the new album. Why is that?
William Hutson: To be honest, this is a really complicated and involved question that we’d rather not address quite yet. We’re sorry (and thank you for noticing!) but that technique — avoiding all single-point perspective, and first-person — is part of a larger project and we’re still working toward doing something more with it.
Why alarm clocks on “Get up?”
Jonathan Snipes: We wanted to use a sound that wasn’t traditionally “harsh” but that most people find unlistenable. Fans and reviewers occasionally accused midcity of not being harsh and distorted enough, so we started discussing ways of making something incredible harsh without any distortion or feedback; something really clean and simple that’s harsh and challenging because of its context, not necessarily its timbre. And, actually, I suppose it’s a way of pointing out that ‘harshness’ is entirely contextual anyway. We don’t make sounds that we think are ugly.
WH: Yeah. People divide sounds into categories like “music” and “noise” based on cultural assumptions. These categories are constructed. Sounds aren’t innately noisy, or harsh, or even beautiful. Those are judgments we put on them. The alarm sound in “Get Up” is particularly offensive to Jonathan’s girlfriend, Cristina, because it’s a recording of her alarm clock that she uses to wake up every day.
How hard is it to rap over alarm clocks?
Daveed Diggs: It’s about as hard as rapping over a metronome… so… not very hard.
Where did the idea for beat on “Work Work” come from?
WH: It was made specifically for Cree, actually. I brought DJ Mustard’s Ketchup mixtape over to play “LadyKilla” for Jonathan. We had already finished tracks with Guce and Gangsta Boo by then, and we wanted a really impressive unknown rapper on a track. Diggs hit Cree up on Twitter and she was down to work with us so we tried to make our own take on a Young California-type (Mustard, League of Starz or HBK Gang style) beat.
JS: The beat initially sounded pretty different. We’d made it, and actually recorded all of Daveed’s parts to it, but then we re-listened to “LadyKilla” and realized we had basically re-made that exact beat, with slightly weirder sounds. So, we went back in and changed it quite a bit. I remembered an idea I’d had ages ago to use a sort of bouncing-metallic-ball-bearing-Autechre type noise as the main sound in a clipping. track. I had just been given this metal thermos, so Bill and I recorded several hundred hits, scrapes, flicks, etc. on it, then cut those recordings up, made sampler instruments and sequenced it with MIDI. It ended up working, so that became the main sound.
Who are the kids singing on “Dominoes”?
JS: Their names are in the liner notes. We worked with Bobbi Page, a vocal contractor, to find them. We realized when we had this idea that we actually needed the most professional kids we could find. If it was just a room full of our friends’ and relatives’ children, it would be utter chaos and sound terrible. So, these were real Hollywood kids who were super used to doing sessions like this. I think they’d done a potato chip commercial the weekend before? Pretty sure this was the most expensive thing on the album.
WH: They were absolutely our most expensive feature.
What was the process behind the video for “Body & Blood”?
JS: Honestly, that was basically entirely our friend Patrick Kennelly. We had pitched him an idea that he completely reworked into the video. It’s pretty different from any idea we’d had, so you’d have to ask him.
Are “Story 1” and “Story 2” connected in anyway?
DD: I mean, they are both attempts at making a story rap that uses conventions more typically found in novels or films. As far as the narratives being connected, maybe we will find out on Story 3…
On “Ends” when you say “Once upon a time there was a moral to the story, but fuck it they need some ends,” what’s that a commentary on? Hip-hop or something bigger?
DD: Neither I don’t think. I guess it could be, but in my mind that song is doing a similar thing as the intro. It is pulling images from the world in which clipping. exists. But it comes at the end of the album because I think it feels like a wrap up of the things we’ve been through by the time we reach that point. It is also a rhythmic nod to Schoolboy Q. As far a “commentary,” I’m never really thinking about that when writing these songs. We tend to leave that for everybody else to think about, I guess.
There’s a video of Signor Benedick the Moor covering for Cocc Pistol Cree’s verse on “Work Work” while you were in Sacramento. Any possibility of a full version featuring him?
JS: We haven’t discussed it yet. Probably not. Seems cool to me to leave that as a live-only treat.