ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
Two brothers from Virginia, Malice and Gene Thorton, make up the rap group Clipse. Back in 2002, they had a hit single called "Grindin'," but they never managed to follow up.
Our music critic, Robert Christgau explains why.
ROBERT CHRISTGAU: Some credit "Grindin'" with re-introducing cocaine to commercial hip hop. It was produced by Thornton's tidewater homies, the Neptunes. The Neptunes lean pop, but The Clipse were their gangsta moves -young guys who exploited the familiar hip hop trope in which rappers aren't really rappers, but hustlers. Only their beat cop knows for sure, maybe.
(Sounbite of song, "Grindin'")
PUSHA T (The Clipse): (Rapping) From ghetto to ghetto, to backyard to yard. I sell it whip on whip, it's off the hard. I'm the neighborhood pusha. Call me subwoofer, 'cause I pump base like that, Jack. On or off the track, I'm heavy cuz -
CHRISTGAU: Due to corporate vagaries in which three record companies changed hands, The Clipse's follow-up album was delayed and delayed some more. This compelled them, they swear, to return to the drug game. To keep their hand in musically, they put out two street mixtapes called "We Got It 4 Cheap."
In a brilliant parody of their pursuant criminality, the second volume, "Jack Beats," from all manner of hits, such as The Game's "Hate It Or Love It." Only where The Game's version puts its banging days in the past, The Clipse bring their swift history of the local cocaine trade into a present, where they just might shoot you in the face.
(Soundbite of music)
CHRISTGAU: Don't come up to my window, or I'm going to doing something sinful - another word much heard in hip hop. Repellant, you may say, but purely as an aesthetic effect, the combination of hard lyric and stirring strings is striking and seductive. And now finally comes the duo's major label follow-up, "Hell Hath No Fury."
(Soundbite of song, "We Got it for Cheap")
PUSHA T: (Rapping) - as soon as you hear him. Upon my arrival, the dope dealers cheer him. Just like a revival, the verse tends to steer 'em. Through a life in the fast lane, I German engineer 'em. No serum can cure all the pain I've endured. From crack to rap to back to sellin it pure. For every record I potentially sell in the store, it's like Mecca to the dealer that's sellin' it raw.
CHRISTGAU: From crack to rap, back to selling it pure, the message is clear, right? But what drives it home is that unusually pure beat, which even for the minimalist Neptunes is pretty spare. And now, hear this.
(Soundbite of song, "Momma I'm So Sorry)
PUSHA T: (Rapping) Got two hot rocks in my pocket. Momma, I'm so sorry, I'm so obnoxious. Big whole palm trees and watches. Momma, I'm so sorry, I'm so obnoxious. My only accomplish, my conscience. Gather around. Youngin' learn from me, let's not be at odds. With more like than not, two peas of a pod. Same hustle 'cept now my hustles now flows. I once gave it away, at 30 grams an o. That accounts for all them days in the cold. Feels like kissin' cake mix, can't wait to lick the bowl. But it's a bigger picture, homes, trust I've done seen it. From Frankfurt to Cologne, eyes low to Sweden. From Italy's Milan to the shores of Nepali. Now I consider Ferrari and Salvador Dali.
CHRISTGAU: Or, if you crave something more lovey-dovey -
(Soundbite of song, "Dirty Money")
PUSHA T: (Rapping) All my college hos like dirty money, dirty money. Dont it spend so right? Dirty money, dirty money. Now lets go shopping, lets go chill.
CHRISTGAU: Malice's chorus, kept by Pusha's play for a college girl, rendered even more alienating by an off-kilter keyboard.
(Soundbite of song, "Dirty Money")
PUSHA T: (Rapping) We could trip tuiton, you could be the vixen. You could front for ya girlfriend's, I aint trippin. You done got you a rapper, I see ya vision. And one of the best too, thats ambition. You could tell me bout ya day, I pretend I listen. And you aint gotta love me, just be convincin'.
CHRISTGAU: Just be convincing. These are angry and cynical young men. They don't moralize. And though they acknowledge the dangers of lifestyle, they don't lacerate themselves about it. For what it's worth, my guess is that they're telling the truth about their work life, but exaggerating its payout.
They may not get rich rapping. "Hell Hath No Fury" plummeted quickly after debuting at 14, but fans jonesing for re-runs of "The Wire" think it hits the spot.
(Soundbite of song)
SIEGEL: The CD by Clipse is called "Hell Hath No Fury." Our reviewer, Robert Christgau, is a contributing editor to Rolling Stone magazine.
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