Road to Till the Casket Drops

(Self-released; 2008)

By Clayton Purdom | 6 December 2008

The Clipse are the giggling, snarking center of the rap universe; they have nestled in the rap head’s psyche and sit there, glibly grinning and spooning away, pledging allegiance to Lupe and referencing Kool G Rap as easily as they do the Kanye record that came out last fucking week. Chet co-signs that last sentence. Rap fans co-sign that last last sentence, too. The Clipse rests within our soul; even CMG’s resident old guy Aaron Newell likes it, I think. Kanye in a bum game threw a strike with “Paranoid”; these assholes in an underhand toss make it to the playoffs, and like Malice cackles in the album’s closing moments, “This is just the motherfucking prelude. I bet ya’ll be playing this shit like it’s the album. HA HA!” Malice, you whore, I am going to play this like an album. I am your best customer. I’d like a gallon of crack. Is that how it comes? I don’t know, I’ve never bought this shit before. Yes: put a gallon of crack in the trunk of my Buick LeSabre. I sold that? Fine, put it in my fucking manpurse.

“Live fast, die young / With this kinda pitch they should gimme the Cy Young.” So this is how the Clipse sells shit. Since Lord Willin’ they’ve regaled us with the details of their success, and it’s been fun. Here they transmute crack to clothes and we see the salesmen in effect, inviting us with the pitch: do we have an addiction to the fly? And then they demonstrate through example the singularity of this experience; how bereft other emcees are of what the Clipse do. We have no option but to keep demand high, and they are sole arbiters of supply; addictions form in this recession. If fly shit sounds like this I like it more than crack, and I love crack. Get this crack out of my manpurse. I don’t give a fuck, sell CMG, get me some fly shit. “Big shout out to Lupe,” they say, “first nigga to rock Play Cloths on stage,” and then adding, for historical accuracy, “… besides myself.” I am showered in cold chills at this hat tip—I see the Luke Skywalker of “conscious” “hip-hop” being celebrated by General Grievous for his lightsabre swagger—and, when my heart stops exploding and my brain kicks in I realize this hat tip is pure business alignment, and it’s as simple as the quote I just quoted. Scott Storch just looked into a Play Cloths visor. And when he finds they don’t exist, he beadazzles one. Get it!

If I need to say it, Road to Till the Casket Drops represents a return to the startling clarity of purpose that defined the startlingly clear of purpose Hell Hath No Fury (2006). Like We Got It 4 Cheap, Vol 2, beat selection and sequencing are crucial, rendering Swizz Beats’ frantic Paper Trail dud a late-record banger and rescuing Rob Browz’s festively chintzy “Pop Champagne” from Jim Jones, treating its warm synths and sparse percussion as a mid-record respite. Over this the brothers Thornton cast a new spell of lyrical perversion, as winsome and literate and pitch-black funny as ever. The paper-thin duality swirled so maddeningly on Hell Hath No Fury is crystallized here: on the first track, they assert that both “the theme was coke but the lines was uplifting” and “the coke that I push is as pure as a child’s heart.” Who they are not: Pras, David Blaine, first-timers standing on couches with their camera iPhones out trying to capture the lifestyle. The Clipse doesn’t blame us, because of who they are: Tony Romo, Nas, the Biblical character Jonah, and so on. Through this they’re whittling to a central core, tautological and ineffable. Clipse = Clipse. They are the ultimate post-Jay arbiters of self, selling us Clipse, hooking us on mixtapes before the kilo full-length of ’09. My one friend that sold schwag in college always sold a kid an eighth for $10 the first time. He was a great drug dealer, an absolute professional. He seemed born for the profession. The difference is that if Clipse mixtapes were pot they’d be big red hippie nuggles, but the concept is the same: lose money upfront to reap dividends in the long run.

As in most other avenues of human discourse, a word needs to be saved for Lil Wayne. The glut of Re-Up Gang material in 2008 cleared the way for Lil’ Wayne’s surge at critical hearts, but if Dedication 3 is any indication the new king seems to be going delightfully insane. This is fine; he should be. This new millennium sees dominance as a function of pluralism. The way Eminem and Dr. Dre and Fiddy once staunchly stood atop MTV and hocked their cheap swill at their own whim is impossible. Lil Wayne and the Clipse, one of whom has already detonated from critical crush to pop superstar, represent a new path for aspirant young rappers. The hustle is back in style; smart business sense, as it turns out, is eternal. But this mixtape, aside from banging start to stop in a very December 2008 way and featuring a slew of the best raps of this year peppered with temporal references and aside from being a fucking advertisement for a new clothes line, and despite fitting cleanly into this 2008 model for success, shows the Clipse still making great hip-hop in a very old way: rapping their fucking faces off. In a rap megaverse where Jeezy’s Recession is the strangely fitting reflection of our dull, stomach-grumbling times, this mixtape amounts to bailout money.

Or, this: “Play Clothes in stores. Happy holidays.” (Cue beat.) “It’s the reincarnation of Raekwon in an a-pron …”