feature: daveed diggs of clipping. and true neutral crew’s baffling alternative hip-hop

July 7, 2014

Let’s say hip-hop, like rock n’ roll had its own high school. Wiz Khalifa would be the weed dealer looking to pay his way through college, Nicki Minaj, Azaelia Banks, and Iggy Azaela would be considered the unattainable/mean girls, and Tyler, The Creator would be the punk talking out of turn against his teachers. So, where does that leave Daveed Diggs’ place in hip hop school? Judging by his pedigree, Daveed would be the one of the star varsity jocks (or, judging by his side hustle, a theatre man), but the reason he isn’t as popular is because he isn’t afraid to hang out with the freaks and geeks of music. That’s cool. Because of him, 2014 has received two of the most baffling alternative hip-hop albums that I have heard in a while.

By Lightning Pill, AFROPUNK Contributor

Now, those who have heard his Small Things to a Giant mixtape probably wouldn’t have seen coming that a hood rapper would fit in with noise enthusiasts, but that’s what happened. Let’s start with clipping.
Where midcity finds Daveed sharing ghetto stories over hisses, white noises and bursts of static, the self-titled effort aims to surprise you even further. There is no stop-starting with Daveed on “Intro”, just rapid fire from beginning to end (and a clever attempt to turn their catchphrase into an introduction to their album.). “Body and Blood” finds the band creating what would be a future theme song for a femme fatale horror, and each of them manage to build a small conceptual link between four songs: “Tonight”, “Dream”, “Get Up” and “…or Die”. “Tonight” being their attempt at club rap satire (complete with the ever sighed-at autotune vocals), and “Get Up” likely to be someone’s favorite over the mind-blowing attempt to turn a loud alarm clock into a dream symphony. So, even when you think that Daveed’s subject matter might not be the newest, you know the bandmates William Hutson and Jonathan Snipes both got his back.

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With their expert producing technique, they are able to turn what may have been numbing or shamefully celebratory in the hands of most mainstream rappers into something cinematic and dark in Daveed’s hands. This is why CLPPNG works so well, and makes for a winning album idea. There is no glorifying the ghetto. There is merely offering a telescope view of such place. Though, I would hesitate to call it the most eye popping album Daveed has ever been a part of. That award would go to #POPPUNK, a current mixtape he put out with True Neutral Crew, also featuring Signor Benedick.
If you’ve paid attention to the activity at Deathbomb Arc, the label has been putting out experimental music for years, and are currently popping the bandwagon to signing experimental hip-hop artists and groups. It’s fitting that they start with True Neutral Crew (members of Foot Village, Boo Hiss and, of course, clipping), a supergroup that aims to weird out any musical purist that dare stand tall. Their specialty is just mixing hip-hop with experimental punk in ways you would have never imagined. So, if #MONSANTO is the sound of the band walking through the high school with their heads in the air, #POPPUNK is the sound of them looking to change the game in the school. This time, the outcasts are giving the popular kids swirlies. On “More a Kid”, his mantra becomes like a question asked by the devil upon your shoulder. He joins what damn near sounds like a cipher held during the soundcheck of a Los Campesinos! soundcheck on the title track. The freaky part is that he sounds right at home with them. Because of these two albums, it’s safe to say that Daveed Diggs, in my opinion, is the most headspinning MC this year. One moment he could release a noise free mixtape, the next minute, he is rapping over a band reminiscent of your high school punk band. Both CLPPNG and #POPPUNK has got me wondering what would be next on his musical agenda.