Dealing out the wordplay

CD of the week: Hell Hath No Fury, the second album from Southern duo Clipse, is a late shoo-in for hip hop album of the year, says Kitty Empire.

Hell Hath No Fury (Sony BMG) £12.99

It's been a funny year for hip hop. For an art form that thrives on creative boasting, there hasn't been much to brag about. Last year Kanye West added gloss to a form of music best known for its base thuggery, while 50 Cent still shifted plenty of units. A host of hip hop producers applied lessons learned at hip hop's faders to R&B and pop (the Neptunes and Timbaland most famously). As the defining force in US popular culture, hip hop seemed rock solid.

This year, though, the apparently unstoppable flow of great hip hop slackened a little. The post-Kanye laurels went to Lupe Fiasco, even if his sales, sadly, did not. Ghostface Killah made an unexpectedly mordant comeback with Fishscale, an ode to the cocaine trade that was funny, hard-ass and fluent. Jay-Z's escape from the boardroom was expeditious rather than heroic. OutKast's film soundtrack didn't reinvent the rim on anyone's wheels.

Hell Hath No Fury, the second album from Southern duo Clipse, is a late shoo-in for hip hop album of the year. Coming off the back of two well-received mixtapes, this official follow-up to 2002's Lord Willin' - long-delayed, thanks to corporate mergers and litigation - is that rare thing: a concise, taut, rolling record that begs to be played again and again. As with Ghostface, coca dealings dose the rhymes of brothers Malice and Pusha T. The Neptunes, meanwhile, provide paranoid, skeletal undercarriages; Pharrell's more avant-garde models hold up as beautifully as the singles.

The awesome, onomatopoeic 'Wamp Wamp' - a snake-charmer's flute, a two-note hook and a steel pan, bolstered by the liquorice interjections of guest Slim Thug - is an instant classic. But oh, the raps. Malice and Pusha T play word-ball like pros. The Inuit have multiple terms for snow; Clipse have just as many for drugs (snow for starters). 'Kis', meanwhile, are kilos (as in, 'I'm on top with the kis/Move over, Alicia'). Clipse are funny too: 'The black Martha Stewart/Let me show you how to do it...' sneers Pusha on 'Ride Around Shining', over little more than a sustained shimmer, 'Make cocaine quiches/Money piles as high as my nieces'. Here's hoping this record sells like hot crack flans.


Kitty Empire

The GuardianTramp

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