One thing that’s difficult to wrap our heads around is the sheer amount of information bombarding us on a daily basis. We can barely understand new pieces of shocking corruption, racist tragedies, and systemic violence before the next new piece comes along. We feel helpless because even if we can figure out how to help one situation, dozens more that we’re too overwhelmed to help in the same way have just piled on.
That makes it so easy to lose track of the things we are helping and changing. We try our hardest, and lose track of even what we’re doing, of the change that we might be making.
One reason I put these songs together is that artists who are tackling particular elements can help to clarify them. We have a lot of the information about what’s happening around us in our heads, but when we get overwhelmed our emotions mix across the bunch of them and we lose sight of any in particular. We don’t process the information, and we just let others make narratives of it for us – often in a harmful way – just to feel a little less overwhelmed.
Art can get shoved to the side in moments like this, but that art can be an incredibly useful way to anchor emotions, to compartmentalize and clarify. A lot of this music contrasts in culture, tone, approach, perspective. The music videos below do share a focus, though. They’re each protest songs, protest videos, and they help me feel clearer because they all look to give a space for getting back to those emotional anchors about the things that rightly anger us.
“Vipers Follow You”
“The Seduction of Kansas”
Hurray for the Riff Raff
“They Keep Silence”
El Perro Del Mar
Buke & Gase
“Blood of the Fang”
“When the Fires Come”
Kero Kero Bonito
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“Makes party music for the club you wish you hadn’t gone to, the car you don’t remember getting in, and the streets you don’t feel safe on; are phantom broadcasts bleeding into Power 106 as you drive out of range; are twenty different rappers looking into one broken mirror, talking to themselves all at once; are classic west coast rap music out of the tradition where sounding different wasn’t cause for fear.”
– Mission statement behind CLPPNG by clipping.
What is clipping.? The purest rap today. Dirty industrial noise. Assaults of static loops. Prayer bells and chimes, mutilated saxophones. Hitting sidewalks with whatever breaks, including the microphone.
clipping. is: Saul Williams’ self-criticism at the speed of MGK’s ego. Dre’s experimentation with Common’s social conscience. Nine Inch Nails’ early appreciation for S&M, rust and blood, Aphex Twin’s delight in scraping out your ears with static feedback. Eminem’s storytelling. More time signature changes than a Maynard James Keenan put-on.
CLPPNG is that album everyone knows is important but no one knows how to listen to.
clipping. is: MC Daveed Diggs, noise musician William Hutson, and Jonathan Snipes.
clipping. takes three minutes of a shrill alarm clock. clipping. gives it the musical function of a pipe organ. clipping. makes it beautiful.
clipping. makes unapologetic West Coast rap like it’s spilling out of the concrete and asphalt. clipping. makes you want to hide inside.
clipping. tells the story of a gang’s arsonist who left the life, moments before his ugliest actions return to haunt him:
“No, that was a full
life time ago. When?
Nobody has to ever
know. He has never
told – well except Ronald –
but that don’t count.
He was sweet and
exactly what he
needed him to be
at the time: wine and
candlelight and nice
texts at lunchtime.
Why had he not called Ron back?
Guess there just wasn’t a spark.
Ha! No, no,
mustn’t joke about these things.
Wouldn’t want to disappoint Doc Clark.
So many hours on a couch,
so many buried memories that take
so many tears to get em out.
Water had never been a friend.”
clipping. is something new.
– S.L. Fevre & Amanda Smith
This article is part of our series on the top 35 albums of 2014. Here’s the list as we unveil it.
by S.L. Fevre, Cleopatra Parnell, Vanessa Tottle, and Gabe Valdez
It’s been a great year (so far) for pop videos. Coldplay, OK Go, and Ariana Grande all feature today. If there’s something to take away with you, it’s that this is the year rap matters again, the year where it woke up, looked around, got fed up with what it saw, and decided to start doing something about it. You’ve seen that already in the countdown (if you missed them, here are parts 1 and 2 of our rankings), and you’ll see it again today and tomorrow.
-S.L. Fevre & Gabe Valdez
P.S. Due to music copyright law, we can only feature some videos here. It’ll vary by country. Click on each title to watch it directly on YouTube.
80s Music belonged to my older sister, who listened pretty exclusively to music like Blood Orange’s. It’s a light, airy, emotive groove reflected well in Gia Coppola’s faux behind-the-scenes rehearsal. What makes the video is how Coppola’s technical precision translates into loose, relaxed visuals – by harshly overlighting the whole picture, she achieves both the crispness and color of an HD piece as well as the flatly lit, soft tone of watching a variety show on an analog TV with so-so reception.
Combine the behind-the-scenes aspect, with dancers warming up and wearing era-appropriate rehearsal clothes, and it all sparks the feeling of getting a glimpse into a relaxed practice run from another era. And yes, Gia Coppola is Apocalypse Now and Godfather director Francis Ford Coppola’s grand-daughter. -Gabe Valdez
Chad VanGaalen’s unique animation style initially hints at a simple, cutesy video. You don’t expect it to be as detailed or darkly humorous as it is, but it rewards repeat viewings. The macabre takes the video over later on as if you’re watching a gorier, er, Edward Gorey. In a year flooded with complex animation videos, “Summertime” stands out as one of the few vids that’s truly different, both for its fresh style and its incredibly wicked sense of humor. -Gabe Valdez
When you’re a PhD and you spend the majority of your life in Alberta, Nicole Atkins’ imaginary date out resembles way more evenings than I’d like to admit. Her performance is genuinely funny (those eyes!) and the song kills (so does the album). -Vanessa Tottle
While Ziyi Zhang not being able to free herself from captivity doesn’t seem quite right to me (she was my pick as the Next Jackie Chan, after all), she gives a charming performance as Cecile, the damsel in distress in Jonas Akerlund’s Depression-era tale of dueling magicians. The silent film look gets the most out of Zhang’s capability for softness and Chris Martin’s chiseled persona, while letting the video communicate a complete story without ever getting in the way from the music. -Gabe Valdez
OK Go became famous because of a lo-fi music video done in one long take, “Here It Goes Again.” It involved the band dancing across treadmills in a video choreographed by one singer’s sister. They’re OK musicians, but they’re trailblazing music video artists. One-upping their Rube Goldberg machine in 2010’s “This Too Shall Pass” is “The Writing’s on the Wall.” It takes one of their better songs, plays with perspective like a Magic Eye, and literally turns you on your head all in one long, mind-bogglingly complex take. -Cleopatra Parnell
Rats in the head and curb stomping. This is old school rap and old school videomaking. It hits you hard and low, catches you off-guard, and contains violence without being violent. Social comment about the state of rap? Introspective psychological exam? Or all of the above? The video is filmed in one long shot that baits-and-switches you into something you don’t expect at all. I can’t think of very many music videos that have made me jump. Can you? -S.L. Fevre
Talib Kweli’s been sitting on the fence between educative rap and boastful superstardom for a hell of a long time. I’d like to think this means he’s finally chosen a side. “State of Grace” is his most important video yet, a vibrant animation full of color and emotion, a monument to hip hop’s origination in protest verse, and a call for women to take creative power and control of their image in the hip hop community. -Gabe Valdez
Lana Del Rey leaves her loving, caring beau for an older, rich man. She burns in Hell. That’s what this video amounts to. Metaphorical Hell, real Hell, or just a certain L.A. lifestyle? Her regretful, slowdown, ‘narco’ chorus ends in a chant of “I’m in love,” as if she’s trying to convince herself but doesn’t really believe it. It eventually takes over the song, her personality and the video to the point where there’s nothing of her original, laughing self left. The story in the video illustrates the evolution of selling out, not as a celebrity but as a human being, of replacing every original part of herself with the image someone else has projected on to her. It’s a stirring, thoughtful commentary to the feel-bad song of the summer. -S.L. Fevre & Gabe Valdez
This remains one of my favorite dance videos not just of the year, but of all-time. Grande, who’s extremely involved in the filming and editing of her videos, has found someone in director Nev Todorovic who she synchs up with perfectly. Earlier this year, I compared their creative relationship to that of David Fincher’s and Paula Abdul’s in the late 80s. In “Problem,” the framing constantly teases the viewer not just with Grande but with her dancers, too. The rhythmic editing style paces the music perfectly.
The video itself is filled with cinematic detail. Faux signal losses and swish pans keep the editing pace when a shot isn’t broken through a direct cut. Film scratches abound at the edges of the image, constantly drawing you to the center. A sort of psychedelic tunnel vision accompanies Iggy Azalea’s rap solo, in contrast to Grande’s trademark pinwheel and in visual complement to those swish pans and signal losses. Like the song, the video is cleverer by far than its simple pop housing would make you assume. -Gabe Valdez
The story of dance is sitting there and feeling like you’re wasting away. It’s needing to get out and express yourself. It’s not caring what you look like. It’s doing it in places you shouldn’t. It’s finding other people to do it with you at a moment’s notice. It’s finding something more in that community, something you get through movement and feeling music inside you in a way that has to get out. It’s letting every frustration you have get to your fingertips and toes to shake it out. It’s impressing people one minute and embarrassing yourself the next. It’s about taking down the walls between people in a way that makes everyone in a room appreciate nothing else but moving and feeling music inside you that has to get out. It’s about falling down and maybe getting back up and maybe not. It’s about telling your story to everyone else in a way that makes them understand their own stories better. The story of dance is sitting there and feeling like you’re wasting away, and finally deciding to do anything else but keep on sitting there. -Vanessa Tottle
Keep an eye out for our Top 5 music videos (so far).