by: T.M. Brown
August 21, 2013
After hearing Clipses (formed by brothers No Malice and Pusha-T) “Shame on the Devil” for the first time I had to find their 2002 track “I’m Not You” on my computer and put it on full blast. There was something so rotten and stale about the new song I had to think back to better times. It felt like I needed to brush my teeth with Lord Willin’.
Before No Malice — neé Malice — found God and Pusha found Kanye, the Thornton brothers rapped almost solely about selling crack in every way imaginable. There was crack wordplay (“Sometimes I wasn’t able/There was always cane”), crack-inspired album covers like Hell Hath No Fury, even crack riffs on Michael Jackson (“made fiends rise from the dead like Thriller.”). It was an odd bedrock to build on but an amazing lyrical and rhythmic talent leached out of it in the same way that someone like Earl Sweatshirt initially used cartoonish violence as a way to build up his musical chops. The pair mined that vein for two exceptional Neptunes-produced albums and one excellent mixtape. Their first two LPs are still some of the best hip hop I’ve ever heard. Then, somewhere between Road to Till the Casket Drops and the actual casket-dropping, Clipse became almost unbearably pedestrian. The brothers went their separate ways. No Malice dedicated himself to the Book; Pusha hung out with Yeezy and wrote lines like “selling kilos through your iPod nano.”
The idea that a reunion of rappers could be any less disappointing than a reunion of rockers didn’t even pass my mind when I played “Shame on the Devil.” No Malice sounds rusty and lethargic, like his new prefix was weighing him down. Pusha sounds satisfied, as if no one told him he used to be better than this. It’s nice to see the brothers back together, but I don’t think too many people are celebrating the family reunion.