Ten years ago this week was a vivid memory for hip-hop fans. After three years of delay, Clipse’s long-awaited sophomore* album Hell Hath No Fury hit store shelves.
Critically acclaimed, but only a modest chart success debuting on the Billboard Top 200 at 14, the album and the “Clipse hysteria” surrounding it did shape a lot of where hip-hop has gone in the decade since.
The most obvious footprint is the subject matter. Yes, members Pusha T and Malice rapped quite a bit about cocaine.
Not just name-dropping the substance, the brutal uncut realities surrounding the drug dealer lifestyle were explored from every aspect. There wasn’t a whole lot of precedent for this type of “coke rap,” with the closest comparison both thematically and sonically being Dungeon Family member Cool Breeze’s 1999 album East Point’s Greatest Hit. While a handful of artists in wake of Clipse’s debut Lord Willin decided to just namedrop drug terminology, Clipse’s wordplay stayed ahead of the curve.
There was also the mixtape element. During Jive Records’ delays, enough to stall if not outright kill any career, Clipse took 50 Cent’s template of how to revitalize a career when left for dead, and used it to build one of the hottest fanbases in the genre via mixtapes. By outshining their contemporaries over their own beats, the We Got It 4 Cheap series was nothing short of a masterstroke. Who knows how Lil Wayne, Odd Future and countless others’ buzzes would have continued without Clipse continuing to popularize the mixtape format within the industry.
Finally, any discussion of Clipse wouldn’t be complete without touching on how it further solidified the Neptunes’ legacy as well. Pharrell made no secret that he played favorites with his beats, telling any interviewer who asked that Clipse always got first crack at their productions. While Lord Willin showcased their style amidst Pharrell’s melodies, Hell Hath No Fury was the platform for Chad Hugo’s cinematically bleak drums to hit listeners and reverberate within their viscera.
As tumultuous of a journey as it was to get Hell Hath No Fury on store shelves, the album itself remains a perfect storm of genius whose effects are still felt on the genre and culture today.
*Yes, we know of Exclusive Audio Footage, but that was never officially released and therefore doesn’t count. Same goes for 50 Cent’s Power of a Dollar. If you’re the type of person who objects to this line of thinking, we’d like to ask you to please stop ruining our holiday parties with tirades about how Organix is the best Roots album.