Album blends hip-hop, sci-fi

By Xavier Johnson, Scene Editor

There won’t be many concept albums this year quite like what experimental hip-hop trio Clipping delivered with its new album “Splendor and Misery.”

It’s a short, direct and atmospheric album driven entirely by the dense lyricism of the group’s sole rapper Daveed Diggs.

Clipping is a hip-hop group known for pushing its town boundaries on the lyrical and audio production end.

Diggs and producers William Hutson and Jonathan Snipes further push themselves creatively with this  hip-hop album release, which has a narrative set in space.

The album is about Cargo 2331, the sole survivor of a slave rebellion on a spaceship and explores the concepts of isolation, love and slavery.

In order to build the atmosphere, Snipes’ and Hutson’s sample heavy production is sparse and has minimalist themes.

Snipes and Hutson use sounds like the soft murmur and common technologic beeps typically heard on classic sci-fi spaceships like the USS Enterprise from “Star Trek.”

The minimalist approach to the production feels intentionally done in order to put an emphasis on the narrative.

Clipping had the opportunity throughout the album to further expand and explore certain musical ideas, but the production seems to be lacking on purpose to focus more on Diggs’ lyrics.

Diggs’ rapping is wordy and is often delivered with the rapid fire flow that he’s known for.

His technical rapping skill is immediately evident to the listener in the track “The Breach.”

Diggs sets the scene in this track delivering 220 words in 40 seconds. That is impressive.

Diggs’ storytelling throughout “Splendor and Misery” is layered and theatrical.

The storytelling seems to be inspired by Diggs’ time on Broadway as Thomas Jefferson in the hit musical “Hamilton.”

His time on Broadway ended up being beneficial for learning how to craft a story.

Alongside the spacious beats are moments of dissonant chaos.

In “Break The Glass” and “Wake Up,” Snipes and Hutson assault the listeners’ ears with beautifully textured noise.

It is during this chaos that Diggs’ rapping particularly shines.

Diggs’ delivery gets loose and more aggressive to match the tone of the beat.

The best aspect of “Splendor and Misery” is its short runtime.

Clocking in at 37 minutes leaves little room for unnecessary filler tracks. Each track advances the story or adds to the atmosphere.

Filler content is something that hurts most concept albums, so it’s nice that Clipping avoids that.

Clipping couldn’t avoid a common problem that concept albums face, which is a lack of replay value. Each song fits perfectly into the album, but there isn’t a song that stands on its own.

It makes for a solid experience when listening to the album straight through but this doesn’t make for a good experience when only wanting to listen to one track.

“Splendor and Misery” is an ambitious concept album that is unique in today’s hip-hop landscape.

It’s a showcase of Diggs’, Snipes’ and Hutson’s versatility as artists.

Unfortunately, there aren’t any truly standout tracks that make the album worth coming back to.