Ahead of their free festival performance at Metro Music Fest in Oklahoma City, clipping. sat down for an interview to talk about Daveed Diggs’ rap origin, the groups’ sonic progression through the years and the expansion of their audience post-Hamilton.
SW: Where are you guys performing tonight?
Jonathan: We’re in St. Petersberg, Florida tonight with the Flaming Lips.
SW: Will this be your first time coming through Oklahoma City this Saturday?
Jonathan: Yes, I’ve driven through it a few times but this will be our first show.
SW: How did you and the Lips start talking and what led you to go on tour together? It’s quite an unlikely pairing yet seems like it would blend well in hindsight.
Jonathan: Our booking agent gives us lists of names that we could potentially do shows with and when we were suggested The Flaming Lips we thought they would be a good choice. They’re a fun group and we love hanging out with them.
SW: Is there anyone in particular that you have to thank for your introduction into the rap game?
Daveed: I guess I would have to thank the director Jake Schreier, someone I actually went to high school with. He is known for Robot & Frank, Paper Towns and has worked on videos for Francis and the Lights. I was around 14 or 15 when he asked me if I could rap for a beat that he was working on and that was the first time I had ever rapped on anything.
SW: How did you learn to rap so fast?
Daveed: Re-pe-tition? We were just talking about this the other day. Back when I first started recording songs I was working with a guy named Romel Hopkins [aka] “Wild Man”. Will was also on board with some of our projects and the fast verse style came from this beat that required a good amount of speed. I remember the situation being almost “boot camp” style, with the two of them having me do 100 takes before they were satisfied with the sound. It’s a combination of writing things with consonants that go well together and also just training your muscles for every specific song.
SW: Very neat to hear that is how the talent was honed. I also asked because I know your presence in the Los Angeles area has given way to a performance or two with Busdriver. Did he teach you any skills?
Daveed: We grew up listening to Busdriver for sure. I had actually only met him maybe a year or so before we toured with him.
William: Daveed and I saw him in either ’99 or ’00, right when he was out of high school. I remember he was wearing a safari helmet and opened for Lab Tech 1, an underground rapper from Baltimore.
SW: Being known for your harsh noise during earlier sets in your career, when did your sound shift to blend both areas of hook hip-hop with the same experimental vibe that you’ve carried for so long?
William: I think it’s more that we’ve transitioned the sound to be slightly calmer.
Jonathan: With our last record, we were trying to make everything feel very practical and within a specific world that lead us to different choices than we would have made if any sound was free-game.
SW: How has your time in Hamilton impacted your fanbase for clipping.?
Daveed: We get a lot more dads bringing their kids to our shows now.
William: We really love it though. The way I explain it, Hamilton really exposed us to a bigger group that otherwise wouldn’t have discovered us.
Daveed: Because of that, a certain percentage of the audience at our shows possibly don’t know anything about the community of artists we come from. When we book shows with other great lesser-known bands it gives us an opportunity to introduce new music to an audience that may have never known about it and the crowd always seems to enjoy the variety.
SW: Are there any nods or references in your lyrics that people interpret the wrong way?
Jonathan: I was just thinking, it’s not a sample but there’s a line in the song “Summertime” that no one has ever talked about that says “they pitchin’ that Helen Mirren” which is a reference to U.S.D.A.’s “White Girl”, whereas the cocaine representing white girl in our case, is Helen. We thought it was really funny but no one has ever asked or heard about the line. That’s the meaning though.
SW: With your extensive knowledge of noise and ambient works, I’d like to know how you define what a good ambient track sounds like.
William: Woah. There is a lot that goes into the criteria but to start, I like a track that doesn’t feel aimless. I mean that in the sense that the artist isn’t making aimless efforts, there’s a difference between a stylistic technique and someone that may just be lacking creative direction. There’s also a lot to be said about the pacing of a track and making sure everything kind of amounts to something. I like these sort of clear; timbrel concepts I guess.
SW: Where do you see your sound heading next?
William: As much as we would love to say something concrete there are just some things that we would like to hold back on until the time is right. I will say that we are very interested in continuing to do albums as a cohesive experience rather than adding each track as self-contained edits.
SW: What legacy do you want clipping. to leave?
William: Oh man, being the first rap group to win a Nobel Prize for sure.
If you find yourself in the Oklahoma City area for ACM@UCO’s Metro Music Fest, definitely stop by The Criterion, 500 E Sheridan Ave, Oklahoma City, OK 73104 at 9:30 for a free and incredible show from these talented men.