Last year, the unique, brilliant hip-hop trio Clipping released their third full-length album, There Existed an Addiction to Blood, notable in that it showed them embracing the horrorcore genre. Since horrorcore is something of a love letter to the horror/slasher film genre, it seemed inevitable that Clipping would follow up that album with a sequel. After all, horror films revel in the concept of sequels. This time around, Daveed Diggs (known to most hip-hop novices as the originator of the roles of Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson in the musical Hamilton), as well as producers Jonathan Snipes and William Hutson, double down on the violence and menacing imagery with Visions of Bodies Being Burned.
The album – whose title is repeated frequently in the song “Say the Name” and is a quote from “Mind Playing Tricks on Me”, the 1991 single from obvious Clipping influences the Geto Boys – not only uses the horror genre as a touchstone, but it also applies themes of racism and inequality as well. “Say the Name” is influenced by the 1992 film Candyman, whose titular character is the son of a slave who was murdered for his relationship with a white woman. Snipes and Hutson apply a slinky tempo and a general sense of dread as Diggs’ recitations are horrifyingly graphic: “Swiss-cheesed a brother, already half-dead / Brain leaking out a hole in his forehead.”
While all three Clipping members do an amazing job of creating a menacing, foreboding atmosphere, a variety of guests are on hand to paint an even wider picture. “96 Neve Campbell” – a tribute to the “final girl” trope of the slasher film genre – features extraordinary work from the duo Cam & China, who act as the final victim’s voice, but with a preemptive, empowering stance. “This bitch boss” goes the chorus hook. On “Eaten Alive”, the title namechecking Tobe Hooper’s classic 1976 slasher film, Tortoise guitarist Jeff Parker and experimental percussionist Ted Byrnes add a creepy minimalist, industrial vibe that evokes a dark, damp sub-basement.
While much of the tempo of Visions of Bodies Being Burned suggests a slower, more deliberate sense of menace, Diggs isn’t above rapid-fire rhymes reminiscent of his Hamilton gig. “Something Underneath” includes astonishing, mile-a-minute recitations with Snipes and Hutson breathlessly keeping up. Equally impressive is “Looking Like Meat” – featuring noise-rap pioneers Ho99o9 – which combines a fusillade of rhymes, sci-fi gunfire, sludgy distortion, and walls of noise to create an unsettling, dystopian soundscape.
The final track on Visions of Bodies Being Burned is “Secret Piece”, a performance of a Yoko Ono score that instructs the musicians to “Decide on one note that you want to play / Play it with the following accompaniment: the woods from 5.00am to 8.00am in summer” (according to the press release). As a result, “Secret Piece” allows the listener to experience something of an ambient palate cleanser, with the found sounds of both nature and the city creating a small reprieve from the album’s abject horror and violence. Like the horror films that influenced it, Visions of Bodies Being Burned is a smart, noisy joyride through your worst nightmares, but it’s easy to imagine Clipping laughing maniacally while its listeners insist on sleeping with the lights on.