Published Sep 09, 2016The musical accomplishments that all three members of clipping. have celebrated since releasing their 2014 Sub Pop debut couldn't have provided a better foundation from which to build Splendor & Misery: MC Daveed Diggs was lauded for the dual role of Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson in the musical Hamilton, earning himself both a Grammy and Tony award this year for its Broadway run; producer Jonathan Snipes took to scoring films; while fellow beatsmith William Hutson completed a Ph.D in Theatre and Performance Studies with a dissertation on experimental music.
Given this perfect storm of extracurriculars, Splendor & Misery couldn't have come at a better time. The record revolves around a dystopic, Afrofuturist sci-fi concept that follows the sole survivor of a slave uprising onboard a cargo ship. The ship's onboard computer soon falls in love with the protagonist, who decides to pilot the ship to parts unknown rather than return to the society that oppressed him.
Clipping.'s music has never been indulgent (having challenged the use of the pronoun "I" with 2014's CLPPNG, after all), and it isn't in deep space either. Diggs tells the story as a narrator rather than a character, forcing listeners to follow the narrative in his lyrics. Save for in "Air 'Em Out," Diggs rarely breaks from his extremely calculated delivery, the beats of Hutson and Snipes working more to create the sounds of the spacecraft than back up the MC.
While at times this all can feel a bit too robotic, the narrative is broken up by brief interludes that feature more noise, more of Diggs' raps and passages of sung spirituals. Oddly captivating in running just shy of 40 minutes, Splendor & Misery is hardly your overblown concept record that runs far too long. Indeed, it's worth multiple listens for both its out-of-this-world production and Diggs' one-two punch of lyricism and bafflingly effortless delivery. (Sub Pop)