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10 years on: hell hath no fury

Ten years ago this month the Clipse released their most potent work to date, their strongest product to flood the streets – legal or not.

I have a confession to make. When Hell Hath No Fury was released a decade ago, I had no idea who the Clipse were. If 11 year old me had listened to their sophomore album I would have barely understood it. I probably didn’t know who Socrates was, I definitely didn’t know what a Glock was.

Now that my conscience is clear, let’s get one thing straight – Hell Hath No Fury bangs. It fucking bangs. It bangs so hard you wonder whether your speakers will blow before you make it halfway through the album.

For 11 songs straight, anger, hatred and rage flow over menacing, pared back Neptunes production, only abating on the twelfth and final track, presumably to give the listener time to recover. Disgust is abundant throughout; disgust for white label execs, disgust for imitators, disgust for themselves. Hell Hath No Fury makes the earlier Lord Willin’ look like a beacon of positivity in comparison.

Label issues were the root of this fury, the catalyst that turned what would have been a good album into a classic, a fact that the Thornton brothers weren’t ignorant to themselves. The four year delay they were bogged down with led to the duo rerecording, their original material not capturing their now ‘pissed the fuck off’ (their words) mind-set. Hell Hath No Fury like a rap duo scorned.

Cocaine, of course, takes centre stage, but this album runs a lot deeper than this merely being what is crudely termed as coke rap. Glamour runs parallel to genocide, paranoia next to private jets with a frequency that is alarming. Americana is twisted, repackaged to take its place in the dystopian environment the brothers thrive in. A nightmarish beauty is found in Martha Stewart, Uncle Sam and even Frosty the Snowman slotting into a world where drugs, money and guns are the norm.

Every single track on the album smacks of authenticity, a rawness that is almost tangible. For every line there is showing the riches selling cocaine has bought them there is a one highlighting the pain it’s caused, a sobering concoction. There is no shying away behind meaningless and unwanted wordplay, nowhere to hide on beats that are heavy on thumping drums and not a lot else.

Never once does a song sound weak or wanting, the lyrical content straining every last ounce from the concentrated subject matter. Neither pulls a punch in their delivery, their lines are straight and vicious, they attack each song with a ferocity purer than the blow they so often rap about.

I love this album for countless reasons but perhaps top of pile is the way that the Neptunes and the Clipse prove that they are undisputedly one of the greatest combinations rap music has ever seen. Hell Hath No Fury is comprised of beats that are pushing the envelope of music today, 10 years ago they must have sounded positively alien. It is impossible to imagine anyone else rhyming over these tracks; they capture the attitude of this album in a way that is almost unnatural. The menacing sound that resonates throughout the whole project is fully appreciated when listening through speakers with the volume turned up to 11.

A decade later Hell Hath No Fury hits as hard as ever. A record described by its creators as not being for radio, delayed partly due to a lack of radio hits, ultimately benefitted from this. Had the Clipse not been overlooked by their label the rage that is at the core of this album wouldn’t exist, it’s this rage that powers it above all else. The lack of compromise they held ensured that they got their vision out in exactly the way they wanted; this is very much a record for the Clipse, by the Clipse. Appeal to anyone else is merely a bonus.

Words by Kieran Parmar

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