When I met up with Clipping back in May in South Williamsburg, Brooklyn, we spent a fun hour hanging out talking about the new album, XXL’s 20th annual Freshman class and various other subjects that crossed the two of us.
When Clipping is more attentive, it’s because the Brooklyn-based band member—yoga enthusiast and Brooklyn beatmaker and producer—is always asking you questions and making you think as if nothing is going on but the next beat that he’s currently polishing.
Catching him today as he was just picking his way down a ramp into a green room to introduce me to the new album, entitled Tribes, and interview him for the band’s first as a hip-hop duo, was completely unlike how I’ve done things when we’ve previously met. Things weren’t like that before. But Clipping is making people think about music differently.
XXL: How’d you come up with the concept behind Tribes?
Clipping: It’s about the chaos that’s going on in the world. Just everybody trying to create their own kind of tribe and identify themselves. The topics on the album, I feel, are kind of like how people live their lives, dealing with ideas of identity, the stress of trying to create your own tribe. Like if someone doesn’t fit in, how can they find their own “place”?
“When we were making Tribes, I realized the perfect time to release it was now, with the election and all the social issues going on around us.”
When you realized you wanted to drop Tribes, what were some of the issues that you wanted to touch on?
Everyday people need to be heard on top of everyone else. You really have to express your opinion. I feel like it’s like you have an opinion about something, but you feel like no one is listening. So you’re listening to every other voice that’s speaking up, and you find yourself starting to feel oppressed because you’re not getting your way.
XXL: You’ve worked with so many of your fellow Brooklyn talents, among them J Dilla, Chuck Inglish, Aparna Nancherla, Michael Goldblum, Cory Arcangel and Alex Band.
Clipping: It’s always so cool to see everyone’s work. It’s not only good to see other people’s work but to make new music with people that you’ve always wanted to work with. To not only make it with them but hear them. It’s just a great time.
What was it like working with these people?
I was so taken aback by what really happened to each of these people. Like, Chuck Inglish, we never really met until he actually played us some music, and they’re both still in high school now. [Richard Hankinson] is still only 18 years old. These are all artists that were at a similar age to us. It’s just really important to write music with people that are just as sick as you, if not sicker.
Some say you’re called a “subversive rapper.” What do you think about that label?
It’s not like I was born and raised in Brooklyn, so I don’t know why they throw that label on me. I think people just kind of go with the flow. Being black, it’s cool to be seen as revolutionary. It’s cool to live life by the way of the Underground Railroad. Being able to see a bunch of young people behind the scenes and carrying on [with] what they do.
XXL: Did you listen to a lot of old hip-hop to prepare for Tribes?
I listened to all sorts of music from all genres. Rap just feels so real and raw to me, so I just listened to it all. I like how some of the records have kind of lived over time and have been in rotation all over again, like Shanco Fly and Mike Scott, or the Lauryn Hill record, I saw years ago. And I have to really credit the Library of Congress for this record, “New World Order.” It is probably one of the biggest albums by a black artist in the history of American music. And it was created by a creative team: Charles Russell, Lisa Simpson, James Blake, Linkin Park, Booker T, De La Soul. It’s an extraordinary body of work.
XXL: What’s your reaction when you hear Tribe Called Quest songs