Live Review: clipping. at HERE, 22/08/23

Los Angeles experimental hip hop trio brought their twisted, scary vibes to the swish central London venue

Californian trio clipping. are anything but typical, and their background is almost as unpredictable as their musique concrète-inspired brand of industrial hip hop. But what you can count on is a sensory pummelling at their live shows, and that’s precisely how it panned out at London’s sparkling, hi-spec venue HERE at Outernet, Soho. This review might even need a strobe warning itself. 

Defying hip hop conventions throughout their four full-length releases to date, the trio are more akin to industrial noise artists, or the eye-twitching electronica of Aphex Twin, than they are with the majority of rap music coming out of the Golden State. Likely why they share a fanbase with fellow experimental cult phenomenon Death Grips, and said fans were out in full force for this rare London clipping. gig. 

As VHS-esque distorted visuals took up the entire back wall of the venue, there was a solitary “London” spoken from the distance, before the trio – consisting of rapper Daveed Diggs, alongside beat technicians William Hutson and Jonathan Snipes – entered the stage to an extended version of ‘Blood of the Fang’. From then on, it was an unrelenting display of atonal electronica and chest-busting breakbeats for nearly 90 minutes, captivating the 2,000-capacity crowd. 

“How you feeling? It is ‘Scary Tuesday’…,” Diggs confirmed. Who knows what ‘Scary Tuesday’ is, but they fulfilled their promise of both mesmerising and menacing London all night. Everything about clipping. screams horrorcore; producers Hutson and Snipes collage real-world samples from exclusively non-instrumental sounds, capturing bricks, bottles, bells and metal bashing, before creating beats with it. There’s an eerie, ominous B-movie feel to their tracks, reminiscent of sh*tting yourself playing Silent Hill for the first time or that unshakeable feeling that you’re being stalked after watching a John Carpenter film.

Clipping - Visions of Bodies Being Burned: Enlacing & Pain Everyday

It’s a dislocating thought – knowing that Diggs played a prominent role in hit Broadway musical Hamilton (for which he won a Tony Award for), considering his graphic, lobe-lashing lyricism focuses almost entirely on neighbourhood gang culture or bloodied bodies that’d give video nasties a run for their money. Rapping about “your dick and your veins and your guts” on the Species-esque ‘Body & Blood’ certainly roused the crowd, however.

With Snipes and Hutson perched behind the deck in the middle, Diggs paraded around as they broke out ‘Check The Lock’ mid-set, one of the trio’s more rhythmic offerings. At times it seems as though Diggs and the producing duo are performing entirely different tracks, before the laidback rapper seamlessly adds his rapid flow to the beat. 

The Sub Pop-signed group kept the intensity high throughout the seance-gone-wrong themed ‘Visions Of Bodies Being Burned’ and ‘Shooter’, before the crowd egged them back on for the encore of ‘Nothing Is Safe’. No doubt their opus, the expansive crescendo capped off an evening of punishment. But it was perfect.