Three tracks in, Clipse introduces listeners to where it comes from: "In Virginia we smirked at the Simpson trial/Yeah, I guess the chase was wild but what's the fuss about?/See plenty of my partners feeling like O.J./Beat murder like the shit is OK/That's what our dough say." When, say, Ja Rule drops something similar, you know he's just going back to his comfortable home, where his wife calls him Jeffrey and his biggest concern is making sure his platinum plaques are in the proper place when Cribs comes calling. With Clipse, it's not as clear. Brothers Malice and Pusha T (Gene and Terrence Thornton to their mama) don't sound like rhymers getting into character, merely playing the parts of Tek-toting, powder-pushing hustlers; more like the other way around. "Ironic, the same place I'm making figures at/That's the same land they used to hang niggas at," Malice says later on that same cut, "Virginia," and he doesn't sound mad. He just is. And the music matches the lyrical tension, the Neptunes' sparse menace as lean and mean as someone who just got out of the joint after a five-year bid. "Grindin'" is the grittiest hip-hop hit in years (maybe ever), little more than skittish kick-snare stutter and ping-pong patter, as Clipse inventories its ill-gotten gains ("The 20s are spinning like windmills/And the ice?/32 below minus the wind chill"). "Intro" does the same thing, and maybe better, Pusha T piggybacking the Neptunes' low-end theory and steel-drum slither while he explains why the brothers "were raw before rap": "Back in '84 when I saw Crockett and Tubbs as the law/These eyes got big when they televised that raw/My mama should've seen it coming/Me running up and down the stairs too quick/Humming Miami Vice theme music." (Of course, they didn't wanna be the cops.) From "Intro" to the pair of "Grindin'" remixes that end the set, including a stop at "Comedy Central" (which isn't a very fun place, as it turns out), Clipse brings gangland fantasies back down to street level. They're still fantasies (aren't they?), but at least they aren't cartoons. Will Pusha T and Malice hold it together when they don't have to worry about hustling for dollars? Lord willin'.


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