May 12, 2015

For The Max-Approved Mixtape: Clipse - "Keys Open Doors"




Artist: Clipse
Title: "Keys Open Doors"
Producer: The Neptunes
Album: Hell Hath No Fury (2006)
 
There are hip hop fans now who have no idea that Pusha T was once a part of a duo called the Clipse.  Let that sink in for a moment.  The Virginia-based duo, made up of brothers Malice and Pusha T (formerly Malicious and Terrar, respectively), formed way back in 1992 and disbanded in 2009, after the release of their third album (well, fourth, if you count their aborted debut).  Shortly thereafter, Pusha signed a deal with Kanye West's G.O.O.D. Music outfit, and has since taken his seat amongst the hip hop hierarchy in place today, while Malice changed his name to No Malice after finding God and has since shifted his focus from moving weight to positivity.  But I'm willing to bet there is at least one of you who had no idea that Pusha even had a brother in the industry.  Today's post should be akin to a slap across the face, then.

Hell Hath No Fury, the Clipse's second actually-released album (following 1999's Exclusive Audio Footage, which sits in a vault somewhere, wink wink (Google is your friend), and 2002's Lord Willin', their official debut), is generally seen by critics and fans alike as the duo's finest hour (or forty-eight minutes, I suppose).  Over the course of its twelve tracks, Pusha T and Malice dive into some of the most graceful boasts 'n bullshit of recent memory, mixing their coke raps with the kind of braggadocio typically reserved for the Jay-Zs of the world, all taking place over instrumentals credited to The Neptunes, their Virginia friends from way back.  (The liner notes only show Pharrell Williams as contributing to the tracks, but he's credited as The Neptunes, so that's what I'm going with today.  Chad Hugo, you are missed.)  It isn't a perfect album, because nothing is perfect in this life, but it comes fairly close, and even with all the other songs distracting you, "Keys Open Doors" remains the album's highlight for me.

Over a jaunty drumbeat and some synths, "Keys Open Doors", a song about how selling drugs has created new opportunities for our hosts, grabs your attention from the very first instance of the track's title hitting your ear, right before a button is pressed and it repeats itself, and then again.  Yeah, that description of the hook makes the song sound terrible already.  Trust me, it works in context.  Afterward, Pusha tackles the first verse, proving himself to be the Jay Leno of hip hop, at least when it comes to what he does with his money ("I ain't spend one rap dollar in three years, holla") and not how he steps away from the corner and then passive-aggressivley takes his spot back, sending Conan to basic cable.  The materialistic sheen over his vocals leaves an unrealistic expectation with the listener, and yet Pusha-Ton makes selling coke the most glamorous thing one can do.  Look past the outdated MySpace reference and take it all in.

However, the real winner on this track is his brother, Malice.  The artist currently known as No Malice (so where's that second album, man?) looks at his riches with a curious, questioning eye, acknowledging that his life is fantastic but cluing the listener in on the inherent emptiness of his status ("Bitch tells me she love me but I know she's a whore / Shit could get ugly should she talk to the law / And that's just what I get, it's the roses of war").  Most rappers wouldn't dare dive this deep into the psyche of a drug dealer who knows his lifestyle is temporary at best; Malice sums it up in a handful of bars.  "Keys Open Doors" also features one of my favorite line deliveries in our chosen genre, when Malice refers to himself as "a socialite" with all of the swagger that word doesn't deserve, and while he's still cocky enough to say shit like "I walk with a glow, it's like the Lord's shown favor", one can tell that he doesn't truly believe in his own statement.  That could just be hindsight talking, I don't know, but I think Malice was trying to tell his brother (and, by proxy, us) something back in 2006.

So, while Pusha T turns in another stellar performance that only furthers his lyrical legacy (even he refers to this as his favorite song), his brother Malice steals the show over Skateboard P's dope-ass beat.  I imagine most of you two already know what "Keys Open Doors" sounds like, but if you happen to have missed it, it's worth tracking down, as is most of Hell Hath No Fury.  If you're one of my readers who didn't realize the Clipse were a thing, though, I don't know what to tell you.  Start reading through the back reviews, maybe?

Did you agree or disagree with this selection?  Discuss below.

-Max

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9 comments:

  1. AnonymousMay 13, 2015

    I hate to be a contrarian, but I'm pretty sure Pusha said his favorite song by him and his brother is Momma I'm So Sorry, which also happens to be my personal favorite.

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    1. AnonymousMay 13, 2015

      Thats my fav Clipse song too, along with "When the Last Time", which they hate.

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    2. It wouldn't be my blog if there weren't contrarians.

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    3. Never cared much for the Clipse nor for the Neptunes. When I heard this song, along with both your suggestions, I'm reminded why.

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  2. AnonymousMay 13, 2015

    I kind of wish you'd write more about new music.

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    1. Well, the blog has never actually been about that, so.

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  3. Pharrell's syncopated drumbeats are amazing on that album, so is the brothers' lyricism. Which reminds me, I still haven't leant an ear to Malice's solo debut. So thanks for the reminder! A good read, as usual.

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    1. You definitely should give No Malice a shot. Surprisingly good, considering that his brother is receiving all of the acclaim.

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    2. I must admit that the "Christian rap" label kind of scared me off. I don't dislike religious talk per se, I'm just not too big on preachy songs (like Christian rock or some of born-again Bob Dylan's records).
      But your review convinced me to give it a listen anyway, and it was actually pretty good and far from what I had expected.
      No Malice definitely deserves more credit. Maybe he can't compete with his brother because of Pusha T's high-profile entourage, but man can he work a rhyme!

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