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It’s clipping., bitch!

clipping. is an experimental hip-hop trio consisting of rapper Daveed Diggs (Hamilton, the Getback) and producers William Hutson (Tattered Syntax, Rale) and Jonathan Snipes (Captain Ahab). The group's industrial/noise-based signature sound revolves around exploring the tropes and themes found in Hip-Hop in pretty much every way imaginable. For one, their instruments have ranged from standard fare (DAWs, samplers, drum machines) to out of the ordinary (tubular bells, a giant modular synthesizer, household objects) to just plain bizarre (test equipment, no-input feedback, chunks of metal, highly specialized electronics).

Contrary to popular belief, their abrasive style is not explicitly formed as a rejection of the mainstream. In fact, they based it around the traits they found endemic to the greats of the genre. As a result, they dislike mashup genre labels such as "noise rap" and "industrial rap", self-identifying as solely a rap group.

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Their techniques tend to incorporate trademark themes by way of screwball experimentation. This carries on to Daveed's writings—he may subvert tropes, he may avert tropes, he may even downplay or exaggerate them, but he hardly ever plays them dead straight.

The group started in 2009 when old college friends Hutson and Snipes began remixing acapellas from mainstream songs with the noise and power electronics-influenced beats they would create together for their amusement. In 2010, Hutson’s childhood friend Diggs joined and began writing his own raps for the group. The trio later independently released their mixtape Midcity in early 2013, receiving major acclaim with no promotion or backing. clipping. subsequently signed to record label Sub Pop.

Their sci-fi concept album Splendor and Misery was nominated for a Hugo Award in 2017 in the "Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form)" category, the first time the Hugos have recognized a music album since 1971. In 2018, their single "The Deep" was also nominated for a Hugo.

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discography.

  • dba118 (EP; 2012)
    • Facenote  (2018)
  • midcity (mixtape; 2013)
    • midcity acapellas (2016)
  • CLPPNG (album; 2014)
    • CLPPNG acapellas (2016)
    • DREAM REMXnote  (2016)
    • REMXNG (remix album; 2016)
  • Wriggle (EP; 2016)
  • Splendor & Misery (album; 2016)

tropes.

  • Album Title Drop: In "A Better Place": "He's missing something pretty/ he's missing where the air tastes gritty/ he's missing the splendor and misery/ of bodies, of cities, of being missed."
  • Alliterative Name: Daveed Diggs.
  • all lowercase letters: How their name is typically stylized (with a mandatory period at the end) alongside midcity and its track titles.
  • And Now For Something Completely Different:
    • On Splendor & Misery:
      • While the gospel and slave song influences are omnipresent in the album, "Story 5" is a straight-out gospel song in an album of industrial noise.
      • "A Better Place" is much more upbeat than the rest of the album, carrying a hopeful tone and a organ-driven beat that is different from the usual ambience and harsh beats of the album.
    • CLPPNG caps off with a John Cage piece for tape, which the band contracted to a third party. In lieu of magnetic tape, clipping. supplied all of their session audio up to that point.
    • midcity's outro is a piece in the style of Steve Reich's early tape compositions.
  • Anything Can Be Music: Being a noise group, clipping. are the epitome of this trope, having used sounds such as heavy distortion, tearing paper, a handful of screws in a wooden box, and a cassette box opening and closing.
    • In the song “Get Up”, the music is almost entirely comprised of a lone alarm clock, which is then harmonized during the chorus with other pitch-shifted alarm clocks and backed with a synthesized bass.
    • “Shooter” features a beat comprised of the sounds of 14 different firearms.
    • A staple in some of their concerts is a microphone, dipped in a bowl of broken glass.
  • Avant Garde Music: Experimental industrial/noise hip-hop doesn't exactly have a lot of mainstream appeal.
  • Ax-Crazy: Something made the "protagonist" of "Body for the Pile" snap, eat a gangbanger, massacre a police station, and take one of their cars for a joyride until he's finally stopped.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Splendor and Misery ends with the protagonist, a runaway slave known as "Cargo #2331", despite being driven to near-insanity by his isolation and long journey, continuing to explore the stars by inputting random coordinates for the ship AI, hoping to find a better place or a better way from the systematic racism and oppression of the universe at large.
  • Boastful Rap: midcity was both a straight play of typically boastful verses - bragging about power, drugs, and women - while also taking it straight into Indecisive Parody by both playing the usual rap clichés of such straight, mocking them, and upping the violence found in such rap. Starting with CLPPNG, Diggs pretty much never raps about himself, instead preferring to tell stories in his lyrics.
  • Broken Record: midcity's outro is an 11-minute Steve Reich-esque track of Daveed repeating the words "Get money" until the words become jumbled and distorted. In the way that people interpret it, since the words have so much ubiquity in hip-hop, repeating them into mush strips them of meaning.
  • Call-Back:
    • "Story 2" has the same opening word as "Story": "Godsmack".
    • The "all black everything" hook of "All Black" seemingly refers back to the "all green/gray/purple everything" hook of "bout.that".
  • Catchphrase: "It's clipping., bitch." It usually appears in the intro of each of their projects, and is also the name of their official website.
  • Concept Album: Splendor & Misery tells the story of a man known only as "Cargo #2331", a runaway slave lost in space fleeing from his captors in an empty cargo vessel with only the ship’s AI to keep him company.
    • Wriggle is a far looser instance of this trope, but all of the songs are in some way about sex.
  • Couch Gag: Their works often kick off with a short, beatless, mile-a-minute rap, along with their catchphrase followed by a blast of noise.
    • midcity begins with the catchphrase and blast. Similar blasts of noise break up his verses throughout said rap.
    • CLPPNG begins with Diggs rapping over a protracted din, ending with the catchprase and blast.
    • Wriggle has an intro which ends much the same, except the blast cuts off the catchphrase.
    • Splendor & Misery has "The Breach" which plays right after the intro proper, and kicks off the narrative. It thus skips the catchphrase, going straight from the rap to a loud collage of electronic noises and sound effects.
  • Curse Cut Short: Just as Daveed is about to say "bitch" in the Wriggle intro, a blast of noise cuts him off.
  • Downer Ending:
    • All the "Story" songs.
      • "Story 1" - A rookie cop is first on the scene to a horrific car crash involving a taxi; the trauma warps him into a violent cop disgusted at the 'animals' he's forced to protect when he's not getting smashed at a bar. When the bar informs him his tab is cut off, he goes into shock and remembers the crash and the argument that lead to his sister taking the suggestion to get a taxi.
      • "Story 2" - Protagonist Mike Winfield, a recovering pyromaniac who may have been a Mob hitman, is walking home from his shitty job when he realizes one of his victims has torched his house in kind. He sprints as fast as he can, hoping to save his kids, but by the time he gets there, a crowd can only watch as the fire spreads to obviously unsurvivable levels. He seemingly attempts to commit suicide by walking into the house, is stopped by a member of the gathered crowd, and collapses in despair.
      • "Story 4" - A remorseful domestic abuser accepts the fact that he cannot cope with the weight of his sins and he'll never stop being an abuser, gets drunk, and drowns himself.
      • "Story 5" - Somewhere in the past, a beautiful, kind, and loving veteran of a war that took her best friend from her, becomes a whistleblower against an unspecified corporation, who promptly kills her in a car crash. Worse, it's heavily implied (and outright stated in code) this is the cop's sister from "Story 1".
    • "Work Work": No matter what you do and how much money you moved and the dope you slung, you take a well-deserved bullet and your name fades into obscurity, while the real rappers and drug dealers ride it straight to the top.
    • Speaking of riding it straight to the top, "Taking Off" describes how desperate criminals are to reach it all, and either die trying, or burn themselves out in a frenzy of brilliance while trying to proclaim to the world they "made it" before they reach inglorious ends.
    • "Deep" describes the Drexciyans, while realizing in horror that the surface-dwellers are their kin, wiping out the human surface for their invasion and pollution of the ocean.
  • Dream Team: They make up one in and of themselves, given their respective solo careers, but still, their features have included King T, Antwon, Gangsta Boo, Bryan Lewis-Saunders, and Sickness.
  • Driven to Suicide: The protagonist of "Story 4" is a regret-filled Domestic Abuser drunkenly committing suicide by drowning after realizing what he's done, and knowing he'll never stop being an abuser.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: Most of the tracks on their first album, midcity, use more of a first-person narrative compared with their work from CLPPNG onward, with first-person narratives (save for "Story 1").
  • Epic Rocking: Their all-time longest output is a 24-hour remix of their song "Dream", split into 24 tracks that are an hour long each.
    • The midcity outro nears 11 minutes in length, and for normal songs 5-6 minutes is considered long ("Dream", "Dominoes", "Ends", "All Black").
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: On their album CLPPNG the group chose to forgo the use of the first person. Get it? It's 'clipping.', but without 'I', reflecting the lack of a first-person narrative in Daveed's verses.
  • The Faceless: In the music video for "Story 2", Mike Winfield, the song's protagonist, is portrayed as such; we only see up to his shoulders.
  • Fading into the Next Song:
    • On CLPPNG, the whining drone at the end of "Summertime" is also heard, in a lower register, at the start of the following song, "Taking Off".
    • Present frequently throughout Splendor & Misery; it's an almostnote  entirely gapless album.
  • Genre-Busting: A unique blend of Hip-Hop and Harsh Noise that has gotten the band compared to the likes of other experimental rap acts like Death Grips and Dälek.
  • Go Mad from the Isolation: A lighter example than most, but one of the themes and subjects of Splendor and Misery is how alone the protagonist is, unable to do much beyond recite old rap songs, evade his pursuers, and watch the universe pass him by. "Break the Glass" directly deals with this as his AI companion finally snaps at him to do something.
  • Harsh Noise: A recurring specialty of the band's.
  • Hashtag Rap: Exaggerated/parodied with "Shooter"; almost every line of the song is styled in this fashion.
  • Hell Is That Noise: The band's beats tend towards this on occasion, but it's most prominent on "Back Up" (just what is that constant thwacking?) and "Baby Don't Sleep", which goes directly into power electronics territory.
  • Hotter and Sexier: Wriggle, full stop.
  • I'm a Humanitarian:
    • "Body and Blood" describes a female serial killer who feasts on her pick-ups.
    • "Body for the Pile" describes the insane protagonist scraping out a desperate, cheap meal of 'lettuce and red cold cuts'. The fridge is out and there's a mutiliated dead body on the floor...
  • Indecisive Parody: clipping. both typical rap tropes straight and subvert them — either by knowingly mocking clichés, or upping them to eleven by violently describing the gun battles, stick-ups, drug-deals, and the hard-and-fast life of people in the ghetto. Daveed clarified that, while playing with rap cliches and tropes, midcity was not a mockery of the genre, but wound up moving away from some cliches (such as Boastful Rap).
  • Interface Screw:
    • On CD versions of CLPPNG, "Ends" ends with the whole track skipping, right after Daveed's last verse. Vinyl versions feature a bonus track with a runout groove as its sole backbeat — the vocal track eventually fades, leaving the groove to play indefinitely.
    • Vinyl versions of Splendor & Misery end with a locked groove.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: "Story 2" revolves around protagonist Mike Winfield, who is implied to be a mob arsonist, and by the end of the song all of his children and their babysitter die in a house fire identical to the ones that he would start.
  • Lyrical Cold Open: "All Black".
  • Misogyny Song: "Hot Fuck No Love" unabashedly relishes in this trope with very graphic and emotionally vacant depictions of sex.
  • Motor Mouth: Thanks to Hamilton, Diggs holds the record for the fastest rapping in a musical. It’s a reputation that’s well earned, as he's been known to rap even faster on clipping.’s songs.
  • Murder Ballad:
    • “Story 2” is about ex-mob enforcer and recovering pyromaniac Mike Winfield walking home from work one night, only to find his house alight... with his children and their babysitter still inside.
    • "Shooter" narrates a stick-up man making a threat, a spree-shooter, and a Middle Eastern soldier getting ambushed.
    • "Work Work" turns into one - "you" get gunned down by cops and your fantasies of being slick or escaping them are just Dying Dreams.
    • "Body for the Pile" depicts a gangbanger gone postal and his victims: a fellow gangster, a police station, and finally, himself after meeting the same fate as his victims.
    • Between rapping about heatwaves, the hook for "Summertime" says it best: "motherfuckers still DIE in the summertime, it happens all the time in the summertime..."
    • "Body and Blood" tells the story of a Literal Maneater who lures men in with sex to kill and eat them, although it seems to cheer her on rather than demonize her.
    • "Deep" is a rallying war song beckoning the Drexciyans to rise up and crush the human invaders completely for what they have done.
  • No Ending: "A Better Place", the final track of Splendor & Misery, ends with a blast of continuous noise that stops abruptly, reflecting the fact the protagonist continues their quest, despite all that has happened, to find "a better place" away from the slaver dystopia of the known universe by warping to unknown destinations with random coordinates.
  • Obligatory Bondage Song: Explored within the Wriggle EP. Its artwork consists of a woman in a latex fetish suit with a microphone for a ballgag, and the EP's title track shows the constant hustle of lower-class strippers and their customers as a twisted, sadomasochistic game.
  • The Oner: The video for "Work Work" is edited to look like a single take.
  • One-Word Title: midcity, CLPPNG, and Wriggle.
  • Phrase Salad Lyrics: On their own, the songs from Splendor & Misery seem abstract at best. Knowing that it’s a sci-fi concept album does help.
  • Religion Rant Song: "God Given Tongue", which likens faith to literal smoke and mirrors, intercut with a monologue about a man being recruited into a Christian cult.
  • Rhyming with Itself: The chorus of “Summertime” rhymes ‘summertime’ with itself 4 times.
  • Sampling: They're known first and foremost for sampling power electronics musicians Deathpile and Whitehouse on "Body & Blood" and "Wriggle", respectively.
    • "Something They Don't Know" features twenty-four samples, spanning damn near every genre of music. There's an ongoing sweepstakes to try and point them all out.
  • Self-Titled Album: CLPPNG, sort of.
  • Sensory Abuse: Being a noise rap band, it's inevitable that they would use this. Their first concerts used to be deliberately disorienting - strobe lights in everyone's faces, speakers blasting at uncomfortable levels.
  • Serendipitous Symphony: Invoked as part of the in-universe lore of Splendor & Misery—the beats for most of the tracks are supposed to be the sounds of the spaceship's own machinery and monitors.
  • Sequel Song: After the song "Story", clipping. have also released "Story 2", "Story 4", and Story 5". "Story 3" has yet to be released, though it has two spiritual sequels in the form of "God-Given Tongue" and "Body for the Pile".
    • P.O.V. Sequel: "Story 5" follows Randy's sister, one of the victims of the car crash, before and leading up into the car crash.
  • Shout-Out:
    • "Splendor & Misery" is named after Samuel R. Delany's unfinished sequel to his sci-fi epic Stars In My Pocket Like Grains of Sand. Being a sci-fi work heavily influenced by others, it also namedrops:
    • "Dream" mentions "that double rainbow meme" at one point, and its hook alludes to the opening lines of The Notorious B.I.G.'s "Juicy".
    • The video for the CLPPNG intro seems to be a nod towards the iconic cover art of Swans' Filth.
    • The entirety of The Deep is a homage and continuation of Drexciya, an afrofuturist techno band with an Ocean Punk mythology about the Drexciyans, descendants of slaves thrown overboard during the Slave Trades, destroying the human race. The single itself uses the same synths and rhythms of Drexciya, with bits of clipping.'s usual noise thrown in.
  • Sound-Effect Bleep: Experimented with in "overpass", one of the midcity skits, where a bleep that continually censors Daveed ends up holding, warbling and distorting into a beautiful harmony over time.
  • Spoken Word in Music:
  • Stylistic Suck: The "Wriggle" video is composed around a lengthy series of .gifs, with some being visibly compressed and poor-quality or even carrying website watermarks.
  • Surprisingly Gentle Song: On CLPPNG, "Summertime" and "Dream". The former is a rather straightforward-sounding hip-hop song sans the trademark aggression of the album's sound, and the latter is a lush, quiet, and introspective song.
  • Surreal Music Video: Rather par for the course.
    • "Work Work" features Daveed rapping the song with his teeth at the curb, about to be curbstomped by Cocc Pistol Cree. When he does get it, his head collapses like china and a few rats scamper out.
    • "Inside Out" is a direct continuation of the above video, featuring a now-headless Daveed rapping the song while objects pertaining to the lyrics emerge from his head hole.
    • "Wriggle" is a collage of (at times visibly compressed) .gifs.
  • Take That!: The censored YouTube version of the very NSFW video for "Body & Blood" (which is accessible on Vimeo) replaces all shots containing nudity with blank slides that have the word "NUDITY" gratuitously blown up across the screen. Seeing as clipping. is under the famously anti-censorship Sub Pop label, it's fitting.
  • Textless Album Cover: midcity, the dba118 EP, and the Face EP.
  • Tick Tock Tune: “Get Up” is comprised of an alarm clock... and not much else.
  • Trash Can Band: Shades of this—household objects are a common basis for several of the group's better-known beats.
  • Uncommon Time: In the song "Story 2", every eight bars an extra beat is added to the time signature which starts at 3/4. Eventually the song makes it to 8/4, after which the pattern starts over in double time, ending at 7/4.
  • The Vamp: “Body and Blood” is a song that glorifies an independent woman... who also happens to be a serial killer that engages in cannibalism and lures her victims at nightclubs.
  • Visual Pun: The vinyl of the reissue of the dba118 EP includes the "c" of the clipping. logo on the disc, to which it was pointed out that when rotated 90 degrees, the "c" resembled a smiley face. According to the group's Instagram, this was a lucky coincidence and unintentional.


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