Horror holds a distinct, often unplaceable grip over all of us. Having a sense of fear has been a critical trait for navigating a world of immediate threats, but creative minds have twisted our instincts to make us scared of unreal dangers. Whether it be ghosts, ghouls, vampires or possessions, horror’s continual characteristic lies in its defiance of reality—drawing fear from fantasy.
Far from fiction, Clipping.’s latest album, There Existed an Addiction to Blood, turns the framework of horror on its head. Fear runs rampant across each track, but instead of channeling nightmares through imagination, the L.A. experimental hip-hop trio show us the terrifying nature of our own kind.
On frontman Daveed Diggs’ opening freestyle on “Intro,” he spits, “Monsters out here just as passionate as men out for cash,” which becomes a thesis for the whole of There Existed. It’s not as overtly conceptual as the group’s last LP, the Afrofuturistic Splendor & Misery, but each track across the record sheds light on the depravity that arises out of human desperation—which becomes as frightening as supernatural evils.
The police are a looming force of destruction on “Nothing Is Safe” as they surround a trap house and methodically dispose of the terrified people inside. Diggs gives us the perspective of someone fleeing from the chaos after watching his friend get shot in the neck. The police are not viewed as individuals, but a collective force of hatred with the reminder, “It truly doesn’t give a fuck about the fear you feelin’ / It is here to make you understand that nothing is safe.”
Diggs’ brilliant lyricism has always been Clipping.’s greatest strength, but the instrumental production from William Hutson and Jonathan Snipes on There Existed is undoubtedly their best. “Nothing Is Safe” draws influence from John Carpenter’s legendary horror soundtracks while “Club Down” builds off brooding surges of bass and accents of distorted screaming—a grisly nightmare of sound.
Their best production, however, comes on “Run for your Life,” which allows Diggs’ storytelling to take center stage with minimal accompaniment. There’s almost nothing but white noise behind Diggs’ voice in the verse, which allows for a more intimate attention to the lyrics. As he tells the story of a person hiding in a back alley dumpster from someone trying to kill them, you can hear a dog barking in your left ear and a car driving past the right—the treacherous sounds of the streets. With flawless technique, the beat emanates from the passing car’s stereo and aligns itself with Diggs’ verse and just as quickly fades out of earshot.
While these realistic stories of horror—sadistic chatrooms in “The Show,” mafia torture in “La Mala Ordina”—are splayed across There Existed, the album’s greatest statement comes in its back half with “Blood of the Fang.” With a blazing vocal delivery, Diggs underscores the militant messages from black power figures including Angela Davis and Malcolm X to rise up against white supremacy. Diggs dismisses peaceful protest with the line, “Queen Angela done told y’all, ‘Grasp at the root’ / So what y’all talkin’ ‘bout, ‘Hands up, don’t shoot’?” showing violence as an essential element of revolution. In Diggs’ mind, justice will only be served after the oppressed “digest the flesh” of the bigoted.
After the sonic beatdown the album subjects its captives to, it closes with an 18-minute outro of a piano being set on fire—a sort of nihilistic approach to ambient music. Just like the fiery destruction of a piano, Clipping. are adept at making the most gruesome stories and sounds utterly captivating to their morbidly curious listener. There Existed an Addiction to Blood is the deranged culmination of everything Clipping. have been experimenting with—but not quite nailing down—over their previous two albums. Here, they’ve given their most focused project, all while exploring the darkest corners of humanity over envelope-pushing industrial production. With a carefully constructed chaos, Clipping. throw us into their torturous musical realm and boldly ask us to find the art in fear.