‘There existed an addiction to blood’: horror meets hip-hop

Album art for There Existed an Addiction to Blood by clipping.

Album art for “There Existed an Addiction to Blood” by clipping.

In their latest concept album, rapper Daveed Diggs and producer group Clipping, comprised of William Hutson and Jonathan Snipes, tap into the world of horror film tropes.

Through the lens of the horror genre, Clipping analyzes racial politics like a Jordan Peele movie. The trio have become well-versed in politically conscious hip-hop, with their 2016 release “Splendor & Misery” coming out as an afro-futurist concept album about a slave spaceship.

“There Existed An Addiction to Blood” is Clipping at their most political. What’s most notable here is that they used horrorcore — a genre that has never been known for activism — as their vehicle of choice.

Album art for "There Existed an Addiction to Blood" by clipping.

Many of the tracks on “Addiction” directly reference instances of anti-blackness in America. “He Dead” describes police officers as werewolves out for blood, moving in a pack. “Say you need bullets silver/holler if you got a chain,” they rap.

Diggs approaches each song with precise scene-setting, often opting to rap in second-person to place the listener directly in the shoes of the victims.

“Nothing is Safe” opens with a John Carpenter-style piano intro as Diggs describes the surroundings: “Scent of death in the air, nothing out there looks real / Close the homies eyes, now is not the time to be feeling, really load up / Furniture to the walls, barricade you inside.” With each line, we are hearing the victims die.

What makes Diggs an interesting lyricist however, is how densely packed with historical subtext his lines are. On “Blood of the Fang” he details the violent history of racism, namedropping notable Black Panther members Angela Davis and Malcolm X.

Where Diggs falls short is delivery. Unfortunately, his ability to rap rapidly doesn’t make up for how unbearably stiff and monotone he sounds at times. There are moments where what is being said demands emotional expression and in these instances, Diggs’ flow is painfully robotic.

The album’s nightmarish feel is reinforced using a mixture of sounds and field recordings. The best example of this is “Run For Your Life” which plunges the listener into the middle of a late night city chase. It features a subtle snippet of gunfire amongst other bits of urban ambiance that waver in and out.

We hear sounds of car stereos blaring as they pass by, dogs barking and gusts of wind as the character moves through the night. At times, the ambient noises can feel a bit like they were plucked from a stock sound library, but the production choices here are still the highlight of the entire album.

Like previous exploits by Clipping, “There Existed An Addiction to Blood” is an ambitious experimental hip-hop album. Though at times it feels like the album feels a bit gimmicky, something must be said about using horror anthology narratives as a means of social commentary — it’s probably a first for the genre.

Rating: 3/5

Kati Morris can be reached at [email protected]