After lawsuits, label politics and frustrating delays of the Clipse’s sophomore effort Hell Hath No Fury, it’s easy to understand the inspiration behind the album’s title. But what’s surprising is the degree of influence their anger has had in the outcome of the final product.
In the opening track, the Ezekiel 25:17 passage from “Pulp Fiction” offers clarification – Samuel L. Jackson waxing poetic about “the path of the righteous man” and “the finder of lost children.” It’s grandiose, but it’s just ornamentation of two guys laying “vengeance” upon their enemies. Likewise, underlying Malice and Pusha T’s brilliant lyrics and the Neptunes’ impeccable production is the raw sound of fury and vitriol, unifying the album’s variegated tracks and establishing Hell Hath No Fury as a cohesive classic.
Lyrically, the duo operates on a previously untapped stratum of emotion. It’s the same drug-dealer subject matter as in their debut, Lord Willin’, but now the content is more caustic. There are still the memorable one-liners (“Open the Frigidaire, twenty-five to life in here”), but this time around the Clipse have infused their deft wordplay with a searing wrath – every word and syllable is meant to draw blood.
In “We Got It For Cheap,” Pusha raps, “No serum could cure / All the pain I’ve endured / From crack to rap / To back to sellin’ it pure.” For further elucidation, brother Malice explains, “Pyrex and powder, it was back to the norm / Through all the adversity the fury was born.” Later, in “Ain’t Cha,” Pusha churlishly sneers, “Oh, you just gon` take without asking, ain’t cha? / You just grabbing, you ain’t earning for shit, that’s too old fashioned,” while Malice taunts, “If it seems like the walls are closing in, it’s only cause they are, motherfucker.” If this isn’t the livid rap of the wrathful, nothing is.
The Neptunes produce the entire album, providing a singularly eclectic collection of beats. From the hellish rapture of “Keys Open Doors” to the throbbing 808s in “Trill,” Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo run the gamut of musical inspiration. To list briefly some of the instruments: organs, steel drums, accordions, tambourines – the production can be challenging, but it’s always rewarding, as the beats’ abrasive dissonance complements the Clipse’s vengeful verses.
But while the Clipse never fail to impress lyrically, there are often glaring contradictions in their meanings. In “Trill,” Pusha states, “Rarely do I toot my own horn,” belying his opening boast, “Fear ’em, as soon as you hear ’em, upon my arrival the dope dealers cheer ’em.” Meanwhile, the nefarious machinations of “Chinese New Year” provide a stark contrast to the guilt-ridden admissions in the album’s closer “Nightmares.” These inconsistencies are dismissible nonetheless, if only because the duo sells every shameless boast and inward confession with unflinching conviction.
Whereas most rappers rush their sophomore album to ride the wave of success from their debut, the Clipse were left in label limbo, forced to simmer to the point of explosion. Now the moment of catharsis has come, and the result is one of the most exciting releases in rap’s history. At a point when the genre needed it most, Hell Hath No Fury is an adrenaline shot to hip hop’s failing heart, reviving the rap game to a state of consciousness.
Rating: 5/5 stars
Hell Hath No Fury