Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Til the Casket Drops

The third album from the Clipse, Til the Casket Drops is also their worst. Of course, this isn't necessarily a significant comment on the quality of the album, given the critical acclaim for their previous two. The truth is, Til the Casket Drops is by and large a great album, and from any other group it would be considered a substantial success. But for fans of the Thornton brothers, it's hard not to notice that a little something is missing from this newest effort. It may simply be that a series of album delays, and almost half of the album being released as singles dampened the impact upon arrival, but certainly a bit of the edge is gone.

Hell Hath No Fury was such a dramatic and innovative departure from the contemporary hip-hop landscape, that to attempt a recreation on the third go would have been a commercially poor decision, and more importantly an artistic mistake. So it's no surprise when the Clipse add a new dimension to the identities they've created. Right from the start, the Clipse set a new paradigm with the reflective opening “Freedom,” produced by Sean C & LV. The song signals a departure even down to the production lineup, and it's an excellent opener. Whereas Hell Hath No Fury was a brilliantly detached portrayal of the coke game, their newest is far more self-aware, with references to music criticism, the state of hip-hop, personal shortcomings, and most significantly a little bit of guilt begins to creep in. Pusha T's first verse on the album captures this new dimension perfectly.

The next song finds the Clipse in familiar territory with the exuberant arrogance of “Popular Demand (Popeyes).” It's a good transition, but even here the stylistic changes are still present. The song was the last single released prior to the album hitting store shelves, and remains one of the best. Aside from the mediocre, but enjoyable “I'm Good” and “Eyes on Me,” the singles slipped easily into the Clipse canon and are highlights of the album. In truth, everything sounds good to great until the Kanye-influenced trifecta of soft edge mediocrity consisting of “Eyes on Me,” “Counseling,” and “Champion.” They're not bad songs, they just are not up to par with the rest of the album's content. Luckily the album picks up in dramatic fashion with the DJ Khalil produced “Footsteps.” Driven by a moody organ vamp and hard rock drums, the song is the best on the album, and one of the best of the duo's career.

The decision to go with production outside of The Neptunes for the first time seems to have been a good choice. Sean C & LV and DJ Khalil make good contributions, and in fact produce some of the best songs on the album. I would love to see the Clipse work more with Khalil in the future. That being said, The Neptunes were also behind some great tracks even though they produced the lesser ones as well. Ultimately, the album falls flat when it reaches for commercial appeal. It is an understandable move given their history of label troubles, and sale numbers not matching their proven excellence. It's too bad college kids don't buy albums. But as first-week sales reports come in today, it's clear that Til the Casket Drops didn't do it for them either. Perhaps the brothers just aren't meant for the pop market. They're at their best as too-clever D-boys; unashamed rap villains that are hard not to love. If sales drop precipitously next week they may lose their home at Columbia, but I wouldn't be surprised to see them picked up by L.A. Reid and Def Jam. Til the Casket Drops is a good album worth purchasing, but they are capable of much better.


1 comment:

  1. Khalil has been on some DOPE next level production ish..I can't wait for Self Scientific to get the shine it deserves, Change was such a dope album. I didn't really like Popeye's that much, I think Killa Cam was just a poor replacement for Sandman. Listen again and you'll hear what I mean. I like the variety of beats on this album, though. I just picked it up and gave it one listen the other night. Maybe I'll do a review of the new Snoop and new SoM for tomorrow.