A lot of rappers talk about selling drugs. They leer and grimace and try their hardest to paint a picture of life before the record deal, when the only money in their pockets was dirty and police sirens provided a daily soundtrack.
Precious few can do this convincingly, but none more so than the Virginia Beach sibling duo, Clipse. Their cocaine inspired tales provided the content for one of this decade's most acclaimed hip hop albums; the 2006 release Hell Hath Not Fury. Produced exclusively by the Neptunes, Hell Hath No Fury consists of twelve near-flawless tracks, overflowing with swagger, bravado, and a hefty amount of powder.
The follow up, Till the Casket Drops is nearly as tight an album as its predecessor, just thirteen tracks, eight produced by constant collaborators The Neptunes, with DJ Khalil handling three, and Sean C & LV the other two. The beats are strong throughout, excellently complimenting Pusha T and Malice flows.
Malice and especially Pusha T turn in verses as good as anything on Hell Hath No Fury, but the choruses leave a lot to be desired. For the most part, the hooks are simplistic, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, except they aren't catchy either.
The two singles, "Kinda Like A Big Deal" and "I'm Good," along with "Counseling" are exceptions. The latter two are produced by the Neptunes, but they sound more Pharrell than Clipse. They're appealing in that fluffy, laidback way, and it's unfortunate that they're some of the best tracks Till The Casket Drops has to offer.
The album's opener, "Freedom," is far and away the strongest individual effort. It's honest and raw, as the brothers touch on the emotional and familial drawbacks of dedicating their lives to rap. But the song is unique in content and quality. For the rest of album, Clipse seems just as happy as they’ve ever been about the lifestyle their musical success has granted them, and just as proud of the coke sales that got them through the pre-rap days.
They seem determined, as well, to remind us what pioneers they are, like we could have forgotten. The Jeezy's and Rick Ross' of the world owe more than a little of their industry success to Clipse, who's 2002 release Lord Willin' blazed a trail for future cocaine rappers. Hell Hath No Fury cemented them as kings of the sub-genre, borderline living legends.
They've got nothing left to prove and for much of Till The Casket Drops they seem to understand this. Yet on tracks like "Footsteps" and the reggae-hinted "There Was A Murder" they seemed trapped in an unnecessary struggle for the respect that they've already obtained. The album's title alludes to this.
Till The Casket Drops is by no means a bad album. In fact, if this same content came out of the mouth of about 90% of rappers out there It might be thoroughly impressive. But this is Clipse we're talking about, and we've come to expect from them much more than the mediocrity Till the Casket Drops has to offer.