Monday, December 7, 2009

Clipse - Til the Casket Drops | Album Review

Til the Casket Drops
Label: Columbia Records
Release Date: December 8th, 2009

By Dom Corleone, contributing writer and full-time blogger at Hold the Throne

Four long years waiting for a new Clipse LP was almost as bad as that second George Dubya term. After suffering from numerous label issues and learning first-hand about Industry Rule #4080, brothers Gene “Malice” and Terrence “Pusha T” Thornton landed a deal with Columbia Records in ’07 while pursuing their own venture Re-Up Gang Records. Til The Casket Drops is the result of much turmoil, the duo’s response to a business that all but forgot about the coke-pushin’, word-flippin’ hustlers from Virginia.

Til The Casket Drops is distinctly different from Lord Willin’ and Hell Hath No Fury - primarily due to the production roster and song concepts – though a common thread is the embodiment of each rapper’s struggle, whether dealing drugs or making music, which leads to celebrating triumph despite immense pressure. Sadly, the focus is on the joy this time rather than the labor required to attain it.

On the best intro of their career “Freedom,” younger bro Pusha warns that there’s more to fame than meets the eye, over a powerful, guitar-laden Sean C & LV instrumental. Malice continues to analyze his mistakes, then thanks God that he “has been refined.” Interestingly enough, we are forced to wait until the album’s closer “Life Change” to hear a similar level of passion in their rhymes. Thankfully, the outcome is what fans expect of a Clipse and Neptunes song.

There’s plenty of flaunting in between to satisfy today’s rap consumer. Cam’ron supports on The Neptunes-produced street anthem “Popular Demand (Popeyes)” while Yo Gotti hops on “Showing Out” where Pusha rips through punchlines like “Seein’ through ya poker face, that nigga bluffin’/ Ladies goin’ gaga for a nigga, tryin’a fuck him.” Kanye West lends a hilarious verse to “Kinda Like A Big Deal” over a knocking DJ Khalil beat for one of the disc’s best songs. Even so, it’s no “Grindin’.”

Other parts of the album are straight up unremarkable. The Pharrell-assisted “I’m Good” flops harder than a soccer player plus “All Eyes On Me” with Keri Hilson is a bubble-gum soft dance song where the rappers uncharacteristically dumb it way down. Repetitive hooks (“Champion”) and uninspiring concepts (“There Was A Murder”) infest TTCD – there’s no experimental “Mr. Me Too” or free-flowing “Cot Damn” to captivate the listener. The Thornton Bros redeem themselves finally as the disc winds down, with the lustful groove of “Counseling” and the uplifting, bass-heavy “Footsteps” where Malice gets real, rapping “I wish to see you succeed/So I speak to my people, the spirit of Chuck D.”

I can’t say that I dislike TTCD, but I had higher expectations based on the plethora of the duo’s gritty mixtape material and proven track record. While producing individual songs worthy of multiple spins, a full listen is tarnished by flailing singles and conceptual redundancies. I’d much rather hear Clipse rap about selling white, because they took an artistic approach to facing their demons – it’s less inspiring now that they seem to have conquered them all.