Hell Hath No Fury
Record Review by Adam McKibbin
Hip-hop is a genre that often provokes hand-wringing about morality; in the case of Clipse, most of these discussions have reached the (seemingly false) conclusion that Pusha T and Malice don’t have any. The only thing more annoying than the prudish condemnation of Clipse’s drug-slinging celebrations is the deification of the same material for its “darkness” or “rawness.” Hell Hath No Fury doesn’t really seem to have a moral ax to grind; it’s more interested in finding the quickest path to the loot. Listeners looking for a real paradigm shift in the way they view the drug trade should put down their headphones and rent The Wire.
Hell Hath No Fury, as evidenced by its success in the clubs and on the charts and year-end lists, isn’t dark or complicated enough to be unpalatable to the mainstream. But Clipse undoubtedly bring out the nasty streak in The Neptunes, who manned the boards for the entirety of the album. There are a number of giant singles, and the only one that fails to clear the bar is the overcrowded “Trill,” with its halting, somewhat robotic chorus of “I’m…trill” that doesn’t take off. But The Neptunes bring their A-game for Hell Hath No Fury, which is helped immeasurably by settling with a single production team that shaped the flow of the album from beginning to the end, as opposed to having hired guns try to force-feed one single into the next. Pusha T and Malice have bite behind their bark, and The Neptunes supplement them with tracks that are brash, confrontational, and memorable.
One of the best is “Mr. Me Too,” which gives the duo a chance to show off their cutting sense of humor (“Everything I say, I got you sayin’ ‘Me, too.’”), and also address the music biz drama that made this album one of the more-delayed and most-anticipated of the year. All of it is set on a pretty minimal backdrop of “uh-huh, uh-huh” female vocals and a trunk-rattling bass drop.
Clipse make a few more revolutionary strides for hip-hop. First, they share the spotlight with guest stars who are given the chance to shine, like Slim Thug’s casually menacing chorus on “Wamp Wamp (What It Do)”—but they never retreat to the shadows and make the album feel more like the Various Artists show. Second, they cut and run on the lame, obligatory skit.
The braggadocio ends in “Nightmares,” where Bilal takes the mic for a confessional ballad about “running from guilt.” It wouldn’t exactly make Nancy Reagan proud--“Just Say No” is a hopelessly naïve sentiment in the world of Hell Hath No Fury—but it does present an otherwise unseen side of the coin, when the days of living large give way to nights of feeling small.
More by this writer:
J Dilla - The Shining
The Coup - Pick a Bigger Weapon
Dr. Octagon - The Return of Dr. Octagon
Tanya Morgan - Interview