Where does an experimental hip-hop artist go after winning a Tony? Back to making some noisy, abrasive industrial rap, naturally. Earlier this month, Los Angeles emcee Daveed Diggs of clipping. took home Broadway’s most prestigious award for his portrayal of Thomas Jefferson in Hamilton, a role that few likely would have predicted based on the eardrum-piercing thumps and shrieks of their 2014 Sub Pop debut CLPPNG. It wasn’t that far of a leap, though. Despite the inherent difficulty and lack of accessibility of some of clipping.’s most confrontational material, Diggs’ lyrical stunts have always been theatrical in nature. His mile-a-minute flow has played well on late night, after all. Still, you can’t take the provocation out of the provocateur, and the newly statuette-rich Diggs is back at the helm of a half-dozen electro buzzers on clipping.’s new EP, Wriggle.
With BDSM-themed cover art designed to look like a noise cassette, there’s a sense that clipping. intends to prove with Wriggle that their tendency toward sinister and menacing sounds haven’t waned in the past two years. Throughout the EP’s 20 minutes they find plenty of opportunities to make the listener do as its title suggests. There are many squirm-worthy moments. Some are musical, as on the shrieking samples in closing track “Our Time” that hit some cranially piercing frequencies, or the distorted and explosive beats of “Back Up.” And some of them are lyrical, as on the sexually explicit play by play of “Hot Fuck No Love,” which climaxes with Diggs’ recitation of “More head/More head/More head/More Moet.”
In spite of its initially menacing stance, however, Wriggle contains some of clipping.’s catchiest material to date. The gunshot percussion and sparse keyboard melody of “Shooter” provides a hard-hitting backdrop for Diggs’ chorus of “He got guns and that shit gon’ bang.” The more impressive feat is the title track, which turns a Whitehouse sample, of all things, into a head-nodding footwork anthem that might not get all of America chanting “Wriggle like a worm, girl/ Wriggle like an eel,” but stranger things have happened. For all of clipping.’s most abrasive instincts, there’s something undeniably fun about Wriggle, yet by no means absent its confrontational nature. That’s ultimately when the group is at their best, finding new ways to turn noise and mayhem into unlikely hits.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.