For a minute, it felt like a Clipse reunion was actually happening. It started when Karen Civil posted exclusive news about a new Clipse record being released in 2014, followed by a Facebook photo that Pusha T posted of the brothers with the foreshadowing caption, "It's Coming." When No Malice appeared on 106 & Park and Bow Wow asked him about the possibility of a new Clipse record, Thornton mysteriously replied, "With God, all things are possible." Complete with two in-studio photos of The Neptunes via Pusha T, it looked like divine intervention would be blessing us with more porcelain coke raps in 2014.
But then reality kicked in. The buzz crested quickly as Ziplock P shot down rumors of a new Clipse LP, saying, "I’m on my Pusha T right now. I don’t wanna mislead nobody, but we just working." And now, No Malice is saying that Clipse are not working on a new album. Just like that, the dream evaporated.
We're trying to keep hope alive, so we dug into our trove of Clipse treasures and scrapped together 10 dope songs of theirs that you probably never heard, ranging from features on Philly's Most Wanted records to a cut off Pharrell's Gangsta Grillz. We're sure a new Clipse project will materialize sooner or later, so think of this as the key-bump that'll calm you down until the full package arrives.
Written by Max Weinstein (@dubmaxx)
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Royce Da 5'9" f/ Pharrell and Clipse "Mr. Baller" (2002)
Album: Royce Da 5'9", Rock City (2002)
Seven months before Clipse's proper debut, they gave fans a preview of their updated, slightly tweaked sound on Royce's "Mr. Baller" from Rock City. Royce comes slick with guileful wordplay, Malice and P push up in your face with blunt descriptions of dead babies, and coke wrapped in banana peels.
The Neptunes tap out stuttering drum patterns on production that serves as both an energy boost to the beats on Exclusive Audio Footage and a predecessor to the work on Lord Willin’. Malice goes for the jugular, but P creates a broader tapestry of emotions flavored with unforgettable images like baptizing cars with bullets through the windshield. The juxtaposition between Royce’s witty punchlines and Clipse’s cutting clarity make the track stand out as a harbinger to the Virginia group’s signature honesty, marked by the production of Chad and Pharrell at their peak.
Philly's Most Wanted f/ Clipse "Street Tax" (2001)
Album: Philly's Most Wanted, Get Down or Lay Down (2001)
It would have been amazing if everyone had tried to stay on-topic about the idea of a “Street Tax” like Mr. Man did (kind of), but this is still dope. Extraterrestrial synths bolster this vintage Neptunes beat from Philly’s Most Wanted’s Get Down Or Lay Down, which Chad and P produced almost entirely. Pusha was still going by Terrar prior to the Clipse’s proper debut in 2002 and there’s a sense of development since they recorded their shelved original debut, Exclusive Audio Footage, around ’97-’98.
The Thorntons always had an exotic streak in their lyrics as Malice mentions being “Mahaweli rich, in Egypt with eight wives,” but Pusha brings it back to the kitchen with bricks in Folgers containers. Pusha still has a somewhat high-pitched timbre to his voice that carries at times, but he would end up tempering that to sound more menacing and in control by the time Lord Willin’ rolled through.
Rosco P. Coldchain f/ Pharrell and Clipse "Itchin' To Get Ya" (2003)
Clipse "Pussy" (2004)
Album: Various Artists, Barbershop 2: Back In Business (2004)
This one might not be as forgotten as the others, but it was a loosie that found a home on the Barbershop 2 soundtrack (you might recognize the remix from We Got It For Cheap Vol. 1). The song's sound reflects the time, coming off as a precursor to the metallic texture that would come to the fore on Hell Hath No Fury. The Got It For Cheap mixtapes actually stimulated demand for an end to Clipse's label limbo and can be partially credited for allowing HHNF to see release.
Clipse "Intro" (2008)
Album: Clipse, The Road To Till The Casket Drops (2008)
Before their third album 'Til The Casket Drops, the Thornton twins squeezed out a Play Clothes ad in the form of Road To 'Til The Casket Drops, dropping freestyles over all the hot beats of the moment. For the intro, they went back a year and grabbed Fabolous' "Gangsta Don't Play," complete with Junior Reid's vocals, to announce their triumphant return. Pushing coke "pure as a child's heart," Clipse proved that they could thrive without The Neptunes by utilizing "a newfound love for everything that's Jewish." Quotables abound in the intro alone, providing assurance that they still had blue magic laced in their rhymes.
Clipse and The Neptunes "Guns N' Roses" (2001)
Album: Various Artists, Training Day: The Soundtrack (2001)
"Guns N' Roses" is another soundtrack cut (from Training Day) that reflects the sonic development that Pharrell and Chad were going through. Experimenting with some of the eerie sound-stretching that would find a home on Hell Hath No Fury, The Neptunes stick to their trusty kit of drum sounds, adding some clanging in the back and choice strings with a jagged synth to accompany these tales of crime. The song feels like a punch in the nose, ending abruptly after the brothers vacillate from bitches and briefcases to crying and ruminations on impending death. It's an odd cross-section of their psyches that would be more fully explored on their sophomore album five years later.
Clipse "Got Caught Dealin Part 2 (We Get Money)" (1997)
Album: Clipse, Exclusive Audio Footage (1997)
This is an airy track with an unusually uplifting chorus backed by shifting snares and guitar. Malice starts out unwinding a tightly knit verse packed with internal rhymes before Skateboard P comes in talking that flawless rich shit that we've come to expect from him. Finally, Pusha takes a step back to track his own ascent "from restless to guest list."
Pharrell f/ Clipse "Come Go Wit Me" (2006)
Album: Pharrell, In My Mind: The Prequel (2006)
Over the course of one lengthy mixtape, Pharrell did what plenty of rappers have tried to do over the course of entire careers—rap his ass off. When the drums to Raekwon's "Incarcerated Scarfaces" drop, you better screw your face up or hop out the car. This is how Pusha starts his verse, "22 niggas, two to a car, 11 flagships with the three point star/The only other ballers is them three-point stars, we only five nine, they think we point guards." Such mathematical surgery demands a rewind. We won't ruin the rest of the song for you, but pimps and players, pay attention to his jewel about brothers turning their backs, and take note how Malice somehow evens the score after Pusha's neck-snapping entrance.
Philly's Most Wanted f/ Clipse, Fam-Lay, Rosco P. Coldchain "Cocoa Leaf (No Relief)" (2003)
After signing with Atlantic in 2000 and scoring a minor hit with "Cross The Border," Philly's Most Wanted had their Neptunes-produced debut album ready to go. For whatever reason, it got pushed back by a year and essentially rendered the project impotent, leaving Mr. Man and Boo-Bonic dead in the water by the time Get Down Or Lay Down dropped.
They proceeded to peter out and became more local figures, but at some point (perhaps in 1999, because Pusha says "22 but childish") they recorded the single "Cocoa Leaf (No Relief)," produced by The Neptunes and featuring Star Trak members Roscoe P. Coldchain, Fam-Lay and The Clipse.
Pusha once more displays a knack for sparking verses ("Pardon me, I flow too angry for some/Introduce myself by waving a gun") and humorous wordplay about white wives in court telling white lies and acting childish by copping toys. Malice concludes with 12 bars of slick gun talk, "Fill his Dolce with more holes than crochet." This is a diamond in the rough.
Clipse f/ Pharrell and Ab-Liva "Blaze of Glory" (2003)
Album: Various Artists, The Neptunes Present: Clones (2003)
The Neptunes Present...Clones saw Chad and P at a creative peak, flexing their muscular Star Trak roster to create a compilation including tracks from Kelis, Snoop Dogg, N.O.R.E., and of course, The Clipse. While songs like "Light Your Ass On Fire" and "It Blows My Mind" were getting radio play, "Blaze of Glory" almost got lost in the mix.
With hop-scotching drums, Pusha dropped Jigga-esque gems like, "The street movement that I move with hurries the 'caine like Miami U" before Ab-Liva nearly steals the spotlight with "the power to zone, turn powder to zone." You could argue that he has the best verse, but Malice has a special twinkle in his eye when he talks about forgiving haters because he's Christian, lending an air of superiority to the way he caps the track.