Last updated: 12/10/2011 11:00:00 AM
The world of hip-hop is made up of foundations represented by stylistically regional hip-hop genres - East Coast, West Coast, the Mid-West, and the Dirty South. Every few years however, a hip-hop act emerges to interrupt the shine of conventional hip-hop. This year Malice and Pusha T a.k.a. Clipse have arrived to introduce the Virginia streets to the hip-hop world.
The past few years have been full of contribution for the quiet state of Virginia. Almost overnight, VA has become an innovative ground for hip-hop culture. While noteworthy talent such as Missy Elliot, Timbaland and Teddy Riley have proudly represented Virginia on the radio and in the clubs, Clipse will bring the uncharted aspect of Virginia streets to the forefront with their Star Trak/Arista debut, Lord Willin'.
The creation of Clipse is the culmination of events that began in the late 1980's. Both Malice (Gene Thornton) and Pusha T (Terrence Thornton) were born in the heart of hip-hop's birthplace, the Bronx, New York; home to hip-hop giants like KRS-1, and the late Big Pun. Residing in the Gunhill Road section of the Bronx, a young Malice and Pusha T migrated to Virginia in the early 1980's. First to move was the older brother, Malice who quickly developed a reputation as a lyrical wordsmith. Three years later, Pusha T joined his brother and the duo began to combine their Kool G. Rap, Juice Crew, Eric B & Rakim and Large Professor influences with the unique sounds of Virginia.
It was during a cipher that Malice caught the attention of an unknown producer named Pharrell Williams. Impressed by what he heard, Williams promised to work with Malice and Pusha T to produce a demo tape. As Malice and Pusha T began to develop their craft and recognize their potential to have an effect on the hip-hop world, they began to formally be known as Clipse.
Meanwhile, Pharrell along with his classmate, Chad Hugo, began to take the hip-hop world by storm and establish themselves as one of the brightest production teams in hip-hop. Once established, Pharrell and Chad, known as the Neptunes, helped the Clipse land a deal on Elektra in 1999, where they released the buzz-single The Funeral. The single struck a cord with street heads and garnered Clipse some well-deserved attention, making them two to watch for the new millennium. Although the streets wanted more of Clipse, their album was pushed back and eventually shelved indefinitely by their former label.
As MCs first, and entertainers second, Malice and Pusha T continued to stay busy after their initial setback by enhancing other people's tracks with their distinct lyrical delivery. 2000 found Clipse working with a host of No Limit Artists including Master P, 504 Boyz and Silk Da Shocker. In 2001, the duo appeared on releases from The Backstreet Boys, Jermaine Dupri, and Grammy award winning Nelly Furtado. Most recently, for Star Trak Entertainment, Clipse have laced several tracks including Am I High, Truth Or Dare, and Lap Dance, all off the Neptunes' debut album, N.E.R.D.: In Search Of... On the R&B end they found time to bless songstress Kelis for her anticipated sophomore release, Wanderland. In 2002, they have even tested their commercial appeal by performing in a Reebok campaign for Allen Iverson's "Answer 5" basketball shoe.
"After the whole album ordeal, we did a total 360." says Malice. "Thinking we was coming from the streets and into the music business, ready to drop an album only to make a U-turn and go back."
"We ain't mad though." reflects Pusha T. "Can't be, cause I can look back and say that this one is ready," he continues, "the situations in our lives took this album where it went."
Where this album went was on a one way trip to the outskirts of inner city Virginia... With their debut album, Lord Willin', Clipse tap into their past experience on the streets of VA to project pictures that will at times evoke a smile as well as provoke thought. Additionally, the Neptunes dig deep into their eclectic chamber of sounds to create a backdrop that brilliantly compliments Clipse various subjects. "The album runs like a movie about Virginia," says Pharrell of the Neptunes. "These cats have been quietly waiting for a long time and now the timing is right for their unique, Virginian perspective to be heard," he continues.
On the diary-esque, I'm not you, both Malice and Pusha T go into confessional mode as if seeking validation for the sins of man. "It's our way of life." attests Malice. "I can't sit here and tell you that we've made great decisions in life and we think rational about the shit we do. It's just life. It'll make you think about the shit you do and for every shit you do there are consequences. I think you can learn from it." The track is a hard-nosed testimony that features verses from Jadakiss, Styles, and Roscoe P. Coldchain.
Another track gem that displays likely to be a favorite among listeners is Ma, I don't love her. "Average nigga shit." says Pusha T in regards to the song that speaks on behalf of all men who've fought an accusation of adultery once every so often. The angelic vocals of Bad Boy's first lady, Faith Evans, caress the chorus. With Ma, I don't love her Clipse have proven their ability to create a radio-aimed single however it is evident that their darker side will earn them recognition as one of VA's most distinctive acts.
On Virginia, Clipse take it to the streets over an eerie chime-n-drum sequence, one of the most sinister Neptunes beats to date. "Pusha T had wrote his lyrics first," explains Malice. "I had heard it, and heard where he went with it and knew immediately I had to step up," he continues.
On a lighter note, listeners will find the laid back vibe of Gangsta Lean to be one of the smoothest songs on Lord Willin'. The song features the Mayfield-inspired vocals of Pharrell as the Clipse pay homage to herbal pleasures. Other highlights include the first street single Grindin'. And the high energy radio single When The Last Time....
"I'm not gonna say we that much different than the next man, or that we that much better than the next man." contests Malice. "But what we have is a perspective you don't hear. It's a Virginia perspective. It's lingo you don't hear, it's Virginia lingo...you've never heard it. I don't think Virginia's ever been exposed like this."
Look for The Clipse to expose their fresh perspective this Summer on Star Track / Arista Records.