Daveed Diggs has always been one of the most confidently visceral lyricists on the indie-rap scene. Despite this earned confidence, neither he nor his creative partners, Jonathan Snipes and William Hutson, in the experimental hip-hop/noise trio, clipping., have ever rested on their laurels. After releasing two of the most technically impressive and thematically disturbing albums of the last decade, the trio have returned with their most conceptually terrifying project yet – and just in time for Halloween.
Draped in grimly explicit gothic imagery, There Existed an Addiction to Blood isn’t just a horror movie in rap form; rather it uses violent and paranormal lyrical content and harsh, industrial production and field recordings to replicate the sense of ever-present dread and paranoia dominating American racial politics.
The album opens with Diggs’ patented slick, highly technical flow. Obscured by the sounds of burning wood and speaker distortion, Diggs sets the mood with a homily on the realities faced by black people in America, bringing together imagery alluding to slavery with references to werewolves and skinwalkers.
What makes this opening statement, and the album as a whole, so effective, is Diggs’ adherence to clipping.’s self-imposed rule, banning the use of first person. The result of this, particularly within the gothic sphere of this record, is that each track functions like a sermon or warning to the listener, or a horror story delivered theatrically around a campfire. It’s a tense, physical experience, bolstered by the incredible, disquieting, harsh instrumental work from Snipes and Hutson, eschewing their previous restriction preventing them from using drum sounds in their production, opting instead to augment drum sounds with eerily distorted samples and field recordings.
‘Run for Your Life’ is a particularly thrilling use of field recordings, tracking the movements of the story’s protagonist with sounds of passing cars, rain, and trains panning from one speaker to the other, making you feel as if you are in the physical circumstances described in the song. As the protagonist of ‘La Mala Ordina’ is brutally murdered in a brush with organised crime, the lyrics are gradually overpowered by a two-minute long stretch of unadulterated harsh noise, leaving the rest of the protagonist’s fate to the listener’s imagination.
A haunting, impassioned guest feature from Robyn Hood uses biblical imagery to comment on the gaslighting women undergo under patriarchy on ‘All in Your Head’.
Open your hymnal to page sixteen, it begins with the letter ‘P’
And the God said, “Let there be light!”
Talking about showing a bitch the end of the tunnel, you understand? You gon’ meet your maker
You still owe for that rib, a ho gotta pay that back with interest
Diggs takes a back seat, serving only to emphasise Robyn Hood’s argument, before the track builds into a breathless, energised spiritual delivered by Counterfeit Madison, accompanied by driving synths and drums that crackle, angrily with distortion.
This is an album laden with exquisitely crafted, violent lyricism, blasted into the realm of the genius by perfectly executed, industrial production. That being said, while There Existed an Addiction to Blood can definitely be appreciated on a surface level for the ghoulish horror of its imagery, it is absolutely a record that deserves to be absorbed multiple times for the deeper observations it makes about American society. Diggs, Snipes and Hutson are pioneers of industrial hip-hop storytelling, and listeners should not balk at the very serious warnings and self-examinations they have weaved into this stunning project. The record closes out with an 18-minute long field recording of the process of a beyond-repair piano burning to cinders. Why cling to a system that is too far gone when you can use its dismantling as the fuel for real change?