The D.O.A. Award for Most Hate-Worthy Instance of Auto-Tuned Singing
By Chet Betz | 16 December 2009
Clipse :: “Footsteps”
from Til the Casket Drops
(Re-Up/Star Trak; 2009)
I wish this were a track on DJ Hero and I could just make all kinds of egregious, blessed scratching errors on the hook so as to blot out that fucking hook’s insolence, it’s brazen defecation on what could have been the one absolutely classic track on Clipse’s new record. I’m not one to demerit artists for stabs at wider pop appeal just because, but in the case of the Clipse those stabs end up goring the backside of the hard, minimal, too-cutting-edge-for-radio aesthetic that reigned on magnum opus Hell Hath No Fury (2006). They stab the back pretty well dead throughout the course of Til the Casket Drops but nowhere is the disparity between what post-HHNF Clipse should and shouldn’t be more apparent then on “Footsteps.”
Auspiciously enough, it seems that DJ Khalil set out to forge a new kind of Clipse banger from a distant organ loop, melodic bass, and live-sounding drums; the principle of the beat’s uncomplicated and almost old-school yet somewhat fresh for the brothers, who sound inspired and drop jewels like there’s holes in their pockets. “True flows / I give you Mein Kampf / Kilos, consigned ‘em / Do as I say, like Simon / and you, too, will diamond-blind hon / I’m on my Dy-lan,” intones Pusha in pretty much the sickest flow I heard this whole year while Malice punches his lines straight through the gut: “I miss my homey / but she’s missing her dad / It weighs on my conscience / And I hate conscious rap.” I mean, are you kidding me? This track is too good to be true.
To which the hook is like, yup, you’re right—too good to be true. Much the same with the whole “stabs at pop appeal” business, I don’t demerit artists for uses of auto-tune just because, but the auto-tuned hook on “Footsteps” is from a whole other galaxy than the rest of the song. And the galaxy that it’s from totally blows. Twenty interminable seconds of some dude named Kobe—who I can only assume isn’t Kobe Bryant but kind of hope it is cuz, seriously, fuck the Lakers—singing into a machine some shit that echoes and makes sure to repeat the word “footsteps” a lot and then practically throws the beat off rhythm when it hits the word “daaaaanger.” It is imperative in rap that nothing screw with the beat’s hypnotism and yet only appropriate that this misplaced vocoder drool would have such devastating impact as to affect Khalil’s drums. I can only hope it learned the honorable DJ one but unfortunately he and the Clipse can’t travel back in time to fix this, this glorious ruin of a half-masterpiece. It would be somewhat forgivable if the taint could be relegated to just the idea of a “bad hook” but Kobe lets a little blip go during Malice’s first verse in a horrifying bit of foreshadowing that this singing is utterly prepared to o’erstep its bounds. At the end of “Footsteps” that singing gobbles up the rest of the track, promising to make our collective mommas and sistas “say oooooh.” I say, “Shit.”