According to English myth, when a toad incubates a rooster’s egg, the egg will yield a cockatrice––a two legged dragon with a rooster’s head and medusa eyes. Little did the executives at BMG suspect, but in 2006 they would hatch such a demon when they turned management of Clipse’s second studio album over to (mostly) rap-adverse Jive Records, the proverbial toad in this analogy. What might have been a cross-over album became, when incubated in “furious anger,” one of Clipse’s most ferocious albums.

It couldn’t have hatched at a better time. Hell Hath No Fury’s release was delayed two years, which not only inspired the rage out of which Fury’s eloquence grew, but saw Clipse shipping product at the tail end of a particularly mediocre year for rap. We have 2006 to thank for such monuments as “Ridin’ Dirty,” “Grillz” and the entirety of Kingdom Come. Nas pronounced Hip Hop dead on December 19th, and, as if to confirm this, ten days later Mos Def released the worst album of his career.

Fury, in that sense, is a bright light at the end of a dark tunnel, salvation bars from two MCs who can’t quite decide if they’re successful coke dealers flirting with rap, or the other way around. Generally, Fury finds Clipse at a lyrical/creative sweet spot, somewhere between being the real deal (vis-à-vis distributing, kingpining, etc.) and having one (vis-à-vis record labels). The Merrill Lynch accountant in “Keys Open Doors,” for example, can barely suppress a gasp when handling Pusha-T’s green, either because there’s so much of it, or because it’s so appallingly dirty. Meanwhile, Pusha claims that he hasn’t disbursed one rap dollar in three years, illustrating the paradox that hoarding play money can be the highest form of spending it.

The Thornton brothers are similarly frugal with their verses, rarely going over budget by more than an exclamation point. See, for example, Pusha’s telegraph delivery on “Wamp Wamp”: “So proper, hammer time, gun cocker/ Top shotta, me hesitate none, pop ya.” I can’t decide if that “pop ya” is the final item in a list of actions, or an infinitive missing the “to”––either way, the momentum is undeniable. Malice, for his part, is more willing to splurge, which occasionally has him rapping in Elizabethan English (e.g. “Rarely do I toot my own horn”), but, just as often, leads to memorable one liners: “…the judge is saying “Life” like it ain’t someone’s life” (“Hello New World”). That’s a characteristic Malice line on Fury––incisive, a tad sanctimonious; if Pusha’s the reason you stick with a track to begin with (and it’s no mistake that he opens almost every track on the album) Malice is the reason you revisit it.

The production, likewise, is cold and furious––and compared with lyrics, it’s difficult to decide which preceded which. “Mr. Me Too” sounds like the infernal ice-grilling twin of “Drop It Like It’s Hot,” while “Keys Open Doors” is Fury at its most radio-unfriendly––shrill, amelodic, light on hooks; it’s difficult to understand how this came out of the same guy behind “Blurred Lines.” Then again, a lot can change in a decade; hell, Pusha-T leant his talents earlier this year to the Hunger Games soundtrack, and Malice, meanwhile, converted to Christianity and changed his name to “No Malice.” No one stays mad forever.

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