Shawn Lee & Clutchy Hopkins: Clutch of the Tiger

Lee and Hopkins turn some heads on here as they churn out more of what we have come to expect from these eclectic and talented oddballs.

Shawn Lee & Clutchy Hopkins

Clutch of the Tiger

Contributors: Clutchy Hopkins, Shawn Lee
Label: Ubiquity
US Release Date: 2008-10-21
UK Release Date: 2008-10-27

Just the idea of Shawn Lee and Clutchy Hopkins collaborating is enough to make any fan of their solo work drool uncontrollably. Both of these oddballs have crafted some of the best hip-hop-influenced instrumental albums over the past few years. And to call them prolific would be an understatement. Hopkins has put out a pair of records since he first hit the scene and Lee seems to never stop recording. They both released albums this year: Hopkins’ Walking Backwards and Lee’s latest entry as the Ping Pong Orchestra called Miles of Styles.

Their fantastic output aside, both of them remain in the underground spotlight for their respective weirdo tendencies, especially Hopkins. His identity continues to be a mystery, though pictures have surfaced since his first album that he is an elderly man who sports an impressive gray beard. Some listeners contest that he is actually Madlib, DJ Shadow, or another super-producer. But right now, all that matters is that he has not wavered from crafting excellent jazz-hop instrumentals. That goes double for his album with Lee, titled Clutch of the Tiger. Although it isn’t as progressive as one might hope, it is still a fine representation of their talent. And it would certainly turn some heads at a wine or dinner party.

This album might be highly representative of their past efforts, but it is also indicative of a new direction for Hopkins and Lee. This is both of them at their oddest. Even when the tracks seem straightforward, a weird element will creep in and switch things up dramatically. Be it a guitar or flute, it somehow works its way in and takes over the entire track. Like "Bill Blows It", which kicks off with a flute and then succumbs to a trumpet before the two instruments trade off who wants to steal the show. But, strangely, the most impressive element of the song is the guitar work, which grooves along with the bass. Similarly, the cleverly "Leon Me" has an interesting application of electric guitar that takes the smooth, lounge-ready song to another planet. Also, many tracks on here tend to feature a brooding, almost haunting organ that creeps around in the background. But "Two Steps Back" and "Bad Influence" are the most organ-ridden of them all. "Two Steps Back" is heavy on piano as well and it sounds like something you would hear on a haunted house soundtrack. For "Bad Influence", Lee and Hopkins utilize industrial drums and wailing vocals to add more layers of fright.

Those tracks aside, though, there are plenty that fall in line with what you have heard from these eclectic men before. "Full Moon" and "Things Change" would fit right in on Hopkins’ Walking Backwards, with the latter carrying a heavy Middle Eastern vibe. Others, like "Dollar Short" and "When I Was Young", share the same familiar influences, though they focus more on the percussion, particularly handshakers and hip-hop-esque drum beats. And it's those drums that call on all those hip-hop references that Lee and Hopkins garner. Their music is more in the realm of jazz and world than boom-bap. But both of them are notorious for using live drums akin to the classic snares and bass drums heard throughout the hip-hop world of sampling. Other than that, though, these guys are clearly honing their craft outside of hip-hop -- unless, of course, you actually think Hopkins was behind that bootleg that put MF DOOM bootlegs over Hopkins’ instrumentals.

While listening to this album, one other thing becomes devastatingly clear: This is what elevator could and should be. Hotel owners around the world, throwaway all that boring garbage you play through those awful speakers and throw some Clutch of the Tiger on instead. Your patrons will be very glad you did. But don’t blame me when they start having dance parties in there, though that’s a given considering some of the grooves on here. And by no means is that meant as a slight to Hopkins or Lee. It is merely a testament to the fact that their music should be played wherever and whenever for one and all to hear, even if they could stand to mix things up a bit.


In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.