April 23, 2008

Clipse - Hell Hath No Fury (November 28, 2006)


When you release an album to a fickle hip hop audience and it manages to sell over half a million copies, you would think that the record label would do their damnedest to rush a follow-up effort to the shelves, right? Normally, that's exactly what happens, but in the case of the brothers Thornton, professionally known as the Virginia rap duo Clipse, Jive Records shelved the masters for their second released (and third recorded) album Hell Hath No Fury, primarily because Pusha T and Malice refused to play by the rules.

Their official debut, Lord Willin', was met with both critical and commercial acclaim, based on some strongly produced Neptunes tracks and the polished coke raps of the duo, who came off as vivid storytellers from them corners who weren't so wound up in their business that they couldn't see the humor in everything they did. The first two singles, the minimalist brilliance that is "Grindin'" and the club hit "When The Last Time" (relatively speaking; I've never actually heard that song in the club, but I assume it was played at least once), pushed the album toward a gold RIAA plaque, and Jive was excited for the brothers to hit the studios again to record more coke raps to club-banging instrumentals.

However, Pusha T and Malice decided to take the "artistic growth" route, and the recording sessions for Hell Hath No Fury were dominated by some of the darkest tracks of their career, which caused a lot of magazine critics to compare this disc to the HBO series The Wire, which is a brilliant piece of work in and of itself. Pusha and Malice followed up on their new found fortune and fame by describing some of the lesser-popularized lessons that are taught on the streets, and the paranoia that accompanies in the sidecar. Pharrell Williams (of production giants The Neptunes) handled all of the production exclusively, as Chad Hugo was apparently outside getting the newspaper, and while most labels would have been thrilled to be able to market an album entirely produced by The Neptunes, Jive Records immediately pulled the "there isn't a radio single on this album" card and shelved the fucker, where it almost met the same fate as the Clipse's actual first album, Exclusive Audio Footage.

Typically, this business move by the label had some repercussions. Predictably, as is the nature of today's hip hop climate, the Clipse immediately recorded a series of mixtapes with their rap partners in their newly-formed Re-Up Gang (which officially consists of Pusha T, Malice, Sandman, and Ab-Liva), which were titled We Got It For Cheap, and they became immediate hits, so at least they were able to keep their names in the spotlight. In an attempt to appease Jive's need for a radio single, Pharrell accidentally tossed a rock at the throne of Def Jam president Shawn Carter (more on that below). And, in a move that can be categorized as both history-making and a really stupid move, Pharrell pulled all of his production contributions to Jive labelmate Justin Timberlake's sophomore effort, and refused to sign off on them until Hell Hath No Fury was released as-is. While it's admirable that Skateboard P was so loyal to his boys, this final move actually caused the label to get Timbaland to essentially produce almost the entirety of what would later be called Futuresex/Lovesounds (originally, Timbo was only going to do half of the disc, in keeping with the tradition that had started with Timberlake's first solo album Justified), which would be one of the few albums that would sell more than one million copies and spawn multiple hit singles. Um, smart move, P?

Anyway, after multiple false starts (it was once scheduled to drop on Halloween 2006, which would have been appropriate), Jive finally released Hell Hath No Fury to critical acclaim and zero fucking sales, thanks to a combination of no marketing effort and the album leaking in its entirety a few weeks prior to release (probably leaked by someone at the label in an effort to piss off the brothers). Relations with Jive were strained to the breaking point, and the Clipse soon bailed on the label completely, signing with Rick Rubin, and announcing that their next album would not feature exclusive Neptunes production, although there is no beef in that camp.

Which is just as well, anyway,

1. WE GOT IT FOR CHEAP (INTRO) (FEAT SPANISH LEE)
A very underwhelming introductory song. The title may be lifted from their successful series of mixtapes, but this song doesn't evoke similar feelings. The sample lifted from Pulp Fiction near the end helps, though.

2. MOMMA I'M SO SORRY
Is that a fucking accordion? I didn't care for this track at first, but once it grew on me, it became very difficult to get the beat unstuck from my head. Several surgeries later, doctors were successful in removing it, but now I'm unable to play the piano with my left nut, which isn't necessarily something I was able to do before getting the procedure done, but I liked having the option.

3. MR. ME TOO (FEAT PHARRELL WILLIAMS)
The slow-churning first single, as potent today as it was two years ago, although the Max in 2008 is wondering why the hell Pharrell is the lead-off rapper on the song that was supposed to be the comeback single for the Clipse.

4. WAMP WAMP (WHAT IT DO) (FEAT SLIM THUG)
This song, recorded late in the game because those crackers that weren't playing fair at Jive didn't hear a single when an early version of Hell Hath No Fury was turned it, is now infamous because Pharrell made the mistake of selling the beat to Foxy Brown; since she was going through her hearing problems, Skateboard P thought it would be okay to take the beat, which she wouldn't have been able to properly rhyme to anyway, and give it to his boys Pusha T and Malice; he suffered then-Def Jam president Jay-Z's wrath for that business move, but Clipse ultimately prevailed and kept the instrumental. Somewhere there's a rumored version of this song featuring Foxy Brown and Slim Thug's exact-same chorus: I would love to hear that one day for comparison's sake. Whatever happened to the Clipse's promised remix to this song that was supposed to feature Foxy, a compromise that was made to appease Shawn Carter?

5. RIDE AROUND SHINING (FEAT AB-LIVA)
If it hasn't been done already, this beat is destined to accompany NBA footage while Ahmad Rashad or any of the third-tier guys on ESPN's Sportscenter dissect the plays of the day. This is probably one of the best beats Pharrell will ever do by himself, since we all know that Chad Hugo, his production partner in The Neptunes, had jack and shit to do with this album.

6. DIRTY MONEY (FEAT PHARRELL WILLIAMS)
This isn't bad; actually, it's pretty funny at times, but it just isn't at the level of the previous three songs.

7. HELLO NEW WORLD (FEAT PHARRELL WILLIAMS)
I remember skipping this track back in 2006, because Pharrell's singing on the chorus did nothing for me. It still doesn't, but now that I can sit still until the lyrics chime in, it's not as bad as I had made it out to be.

8. KEYS OPEN DOORS
This song just rocks. It's been a long time since I've heard the term "socialite" used in a rap song, and it's much appreciated.

9. AIN'T CHA (FEAT RE-UP GANG)
Meh.

10. TRILL (FEAT PHARRELL WILLIAMS)
The British media have proclaimed this to be one of the best songs the Clipse have ever recorded. Then again, they also think Lil Wayne is onf of the greatest rappers alive, which would be laughable if it wasn't such a discredit to hip hop as a musical genre. This song sounds like vomit soaring up into your throat and into the porcelain throne after a night of switching back and forth between cheap beer and distilled vodka that your boy mixed in a dirty bathtub in the basement of the crackhouse that your boy's parents first made love in, down the street from the McDonald's that you stupidly ordered a Double Quarter Pounder With Cheese from, even though you know that the head fryer has crabs.

11. CHINESE NEW YEAR (FEAT ROSCOE P. COLDCHAIN & PHARRELL WILLIAMS)
This song received a lot of press in 2006 (primarily because of the "run up in your house like the Orkin Man" line), but I found it disappointing, and today not a damn thing has changed. It's a toss up between which element sucks more, Pharrell's ridiculous imitation of bullets being fired, or Roscoe P. Coldchain's entire verse.

12. NIGHTMARES (FEAT BILAL & PHARRELL WILLIAMS)
Not completely terrible, but Bilal almost derails this train. I was not a fan of his singing on Jay-Z's "Fallin'", and here he barely redeems himself. Maybe it's his voice, or maybe it's his insistence on singing the term "p-noid" instead of using the actual proper word, "paranoid", like a normal fucking human being. Did you save a lot of time by leaving three letters out of the word, fucker? I'm thinking rappers should conveniently lose Bilal's phone number the next time they need a male R&B singer on their hook.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Appropriately, for an album that wasn't market even the slightest bit after being delayed for seemingly twelve years, nobody bought Hell Hath No Fury. It's a shame. Not every song is as good as some critics/bloggers/magazines would have you believe, but there are enough certified bangers to warrant you sending a copy to everyone on your Christmas card list, although admittedly, that will make for some awkward holiday gatherings.

BUY OR BURN? There are twelve songs on the album, and half of them rock. What are you waiting for? You should have bought the album two goddamn years ago; maybe they wouldn't be waiting so long between albums if they saw that there was money to be made in the record industry.

BEST TRACKS: "Keys Open Doors"; "Ride Around Shining"; "Mr. Me Too"; "Wamp Wamp (What It Do)"

-Max

RELATED POSTS:
Clipse - Lord Willin'
The Neptunes Present...Clones
Pharrell - In My Mind

8 comments:

  1. This may be the worst review I've ever read. A waste.

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  2. Awesome. Thanks for reading!

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  3. You're a fucking cocksucker, u r very biased, u dont kno how to rate albums good

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  4. Wow. You try to discredit Bilal's voice. Bold and ..well, dumb. You need to get some cotton swabs and listen again, then go hear him in concert, then apologise. He's unfuckwithable, and I don't even like "R'n'B" singers.

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  5. this album is flawless

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  6. Amongst the army of witty coke rappers that have come up in the past years, Clipse has the most solid two. Sort of like the Mobb Deep of modern coke rap.

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  7. J, you're a cock sucker. Goods, you're a waste. Daogen, who cares? Just cause The Beatles are universally accepted doesn't mean I have to like em, so Max doesn't have to like Bilal either (and I'm a huge fan of his)

    Good review, definitely deserves ample amounts of rotation in everyone's iPod. When you gonna review Till The Casket Drops?

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  8. P-noid, lmfao. Thanks for the review. When I look through old reviews, I don't look for quality writing. I look for humor, and real advice, which I found here. I don't fucking ask for more.

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