I have a promo copy of “Hell Hath No Fury” sitting at home, waiting to be listened to. That I don’t really feel like it is certainly not the Clipse’s fault. When it comes to promotional records I’m stubborn in my ways. They have little appeal to me. I’ve bought LP’s and CD’s long enough to crave for the real thing. As Jay-Z says at the beginning of “Vol. 3…”: “I know you just ripped the packaging off your CD. If you’re like me, you’re reading the credits right now.” That’s me. Now I understand the necessity for advances. They’ve been around much longer than me. I blame bootleggers and filesharers for all the faded, talked over and unplayable promos, but that’s another story. So while I realize that in most cases an advance is the only feasible way to get the music in time to the media, I still can’t get over the fact that as a reviewer I often end up with something that makes me think: I can’t believe I’ve spent hours reviewing this album and all it got me was this shitty promo…
Unfair introductions like this one here are bound to happen when you’ve been sent too many shitty promos. At the receiving end for this review are Clan Destined, who present their product with no artwork to absorb, no credits to study, no pics to ponder. In all honesty, their label would readily provide every item requested. But unless they’d send me the finished product, I’d still lack the total package that a CD offers. I guess you could say it takes quite a lot of inner beauty for me to warm up to a purely functional promo. And “ABBRACADAMN!!!” just doesn’t radiate enough inner beauty to make me see completely past the plain packaging.
That is not to say that it’s all lies and corruption over smelly, rotten beats. But from a sonic standpoint – I’m not just a record fetishist, I’m also a sound fetishist – this release leaves a lot to be desired. During the first tracks, the voices either operate under distortion or are found somewhere in the back of the beat. Not until track number four do the vocals assume their rightful place at the center of the sound structure. Too often, the music is not properly mixed down to bring out some sort of aural topography that would let you distinguish between individual instruments. Good arguments can be made to tone tracks down, to obscure them to a certain point, to neglect one ingredient in favor of another. “ABBRACADAMN!!!” isnt’t that type of record. Rather, it lacks the guiding hand that would provide a song like “We Stay” with the sonic confidence that is mandatory for a posse cut, that would calibrate the opening title track where despite repetition of the phrase it remains unclear what they have to say about Uncle Sam.
Subpar music is the most common way rappers rob themselves of the opportunity to convince an audience of their skills. Clan Destined are far from untalented, that much is clear. Handling mics as well as turntables, they enter a dialogue that involves rapping and cutting on “Know About It.” “The Language” takes that a step further, consisting solely of scratched Clan D lines extended to song length. Them being in a crew called Vinyl Junkie Clique certainly makes sense. DT and AmDex both originally hail from North Carolina and joined forces while attending Morehouse College. “Sort of like domestic brew we’re bottled fresh in Atlanta,” they underline their attachment to the city. Comparisons to another ATL duo, the Ying Yang Twins, would certainly draw protests from anybody who is familiar with Clan Destined, yet interestingly both acts have recently recorded songs about femmes fatales. While “Dangerous” is stuck in strip club land and neither Kaine, D-Roc nor guest Wyclef Jean manage to tell us what we should be cautious of other than that she expects to be compensated for the eye candy on display, Clan Destined have some truly scary shit to report. “One Night,” set to a ’90s underground hip-hop background, tells the tale of how DT and Dex end up in the custody of two fanatical groupies who consider themselves the core of Clan Destined’s fanbase. Shootout finale included.
Not shy about spreading love themselves, Clan D come up with several tracks that feel like a mental massage administered in musical form. “Freeze” seems to hover above all earthly misery, gliding on thick clouds of bass and raining down piano sprinkles while the rappers offer us “the Vinyl Junkie Clique love potion / bringin’ waves to your ocean / momentum to your motions / so it never takes long to get you open.” It’s a special kind of drug that Clan Destined cook up in their kitchen: “It’s DT and Ambidextrous, we still the specialists / hella sceptic of these niggas that smell sceptic / we get you high, but skip the Visine and breath mints / this is metaphysical, spiritual lessons.”
“We cool as the breeze and we do what we please, tryin’ to get free without payin’ a fee” is the motto made public on “Yo Life,” a meandering track so tranquil, Clan D plus guests SumKid and Shaquil ‘Star’ Rashad are inclined to skip the rapping and sing their contemplations. It’s not all puffy clouds and unicorns in Clan Destined’s universe, though. They practice their third eye insight on “Read the Signs,” a track recalling ’90s crew the Boogiemonsters. As far as uplifting moments go, none is more successful than “Set Your Soul Free,” orchestrated with a breezy beat driven by a loose guitar loop that is quite impossible to mess up, certainly not by this beautiful split verse:
“The groove that you’re wearin’ is the groove that fits
So I won’t bother tellin’ y’all to move to this
It’s up to you, pick the red pill or the blue
Either way I think it’s safe to say we settin’ the mood
for some unidentified fly encounters with the most high
being you and I; cast your worries aside, fam
Just close your eyes and you can be on the island
but you gotta keep ’em wide to survive, man
Get loose, let it all hang, get on what they call change
Hop in on the next train, exit at your left brain
Cling on to the best frame of mind and not express lane
Just tryin’ to ease by
And our design is prime to make you move your behind
At its most simple still wants your mental to climb
There ain’t a person in the world whose life resembles a line
Push that shit aside, don’t let ’em ruin your time”
It is not always easy for lyrically advanced rappers to relate their thoughts and feelings. “Get Your Mind Right,” which sees DT teaming up with guest Zero Basement, fails to impress as a song that simultaneously deals with the politics of the rap game and US politics. DT’s Bush/Iraq comments are just not compelling enough to warrant song form. He comes much stronger on “Understand,” where he describes the urgency of Clan Destined’s mission as follows: “If there ever was a better day / for us to find a better way / to get it straight / we’d forever wait / and fall victim while we hesitate.” Well said.
Intelligent writing is abound on this album, and it materializes in various manifestations, from “Never All Ways,” which revolves around the word ‘never’, to “Bigger Fish,” a plea to not let the restrictions your environment puts on you hold you back, to “The Monkey,” a clever reversion of stereotypes where especially AmDex shines:
“Clan D walk like a human, see
Personified dope, somethin’ you can’t be
So I gotta be caged, never let ’em be free
No wonder why we flip, can’t get a grip
With opposable thumbs I’m gonna hold this gun
So fuck evolution when the revolution comes
Gorilla warfare in the heart of the slums
The whole globe is a jungle, how far has it come?
Yo, a lotta people wanna kill my pack
but y’all better try to kidnap a Silverback
with a butterfly net and your wrist attached
The middle finger goes up to aristocrats
Keep stereotypin’ and we hit you back
Got you goin’ apeshit cause we spit the facts
Gorilla-pimp the system not my women – get back
before I monkey up on the track
Showin’ my teeth, gold fronts, blowin my reef
Eyes redder than a peach grown in the Georgia heat
Knuckles drag low but I’ve never known defeat
Before you go to sleep peep, better hope we don’t creep
Rustle in the trees – all you heard was ‘Ee-ee-ee’
Now it’s time to get food when you ready to eat
Primates raise the crime rate, here to release
Power of the mind separates men from the beast”
Only last year, RapReviews.com had the pleasure of presenting another rapper who calls Morehouse College his alma mater. While ultimately satisfying, Small Eyez’ “Vipassana” too had some productional flaws. Maybe the institution should look into offering courses where its musically inclined students can learn the basics of sound engineering, maybe even offer loans to aspiring rap groups, so they can record professionally. Or wait for Morehouse graduate Killer Mike to become a star and let him sponsor studio sessions. The talent is there, it just needs a little bit more technical support.