The critically-acclaimed East Coast hip-hop duo Clipse have been around going on two decades, but their studio output during that time has been limited to only a pair of albums. Hailing from Virginia Beach, Virginia, the duo officially formed in 1992, with brothers Pusha T (a.k.a. Terrence Thornton) and Malice (a.k.a. Gene Thornton). Clipse would eventually catch the attention of influential young producer Pharrell Williams of The Neptunes, and Williams championed them loud enough that in 1997 they landed a recording contract with Elektra Records.
With the help of The Neptunes, the raw urban rappers recorded their full-length debut—Exclusive Audio Footage. In 1999, the label released Clipse’s first single, “The Funeral,” and the track garnered very little notice. On the heels of the single’s poor chart performance, Elektra shelved Exclusive Audio Footage indefinitely and ended up terminating their contract with Clipse.
Undaunted and still being touted by Williams, the duo would sign with the Arista label in 2001. With the first album never released, they released their official debut album, Lord Willin’ (2002 Star Trak/Arista) a year later. Once again under the production prowess of The Neptunes, Lord Willin’ was a hit, in large part thanks to the breakthrough hit song, “Grindin’,” which was a backstreet anthem about drug pushing and hustling. The album also featured the hit, “When the Last Time.”
That same year, Clipse appeared on Justin Timberlake’s commercial hit, “Like I Love You,” from his debut album, Justified (2002 Jive). With their newfound success, Clipse quickly re-entered the studio in 2003 to begin recording a follow-up album. While they were in the studio laying tracks into the following year, Arista was dissolved into its sister label, Jive Records. Strangers to the new label, Clipse went relatively ignored by the more pop-oriented Jive executives.
It would be four years before their sophomore album would finally surface. As Clipse publicized frequently, the release date of Hell Hath No Fury (2006 Re Up Gang/Zomba) was being continually pushed back at Jive, until the group asked out of their contract. Jive was reluctant to grant the duo their request and a long legal battle ensued, thus further delaying the release of Hell Hath No Fury.
During this time, the brothers formed their own label, Re-Up Records, and released the mixtape series with rappers Ab-Liva and Sandman, We Got It For Cheap Vol. 1 (2004 Re-Up) followed by We Got It For Cheap Vol. 2 (2005 Re-Up).
Finally, in 2006 Clipse reached an agreement with Jive records for the joint-release of Hell Hath No Fury on Re-Up/Jive in 2006. However, four years out of the limelight had taken its toll on Clipse’s popularity. Though the album was lauded critically, Hell Hath No Fury sold poorly.
In the fall of 2007, Clipse announced they had signed to Columbia Records. In addition to recording a third Clipse full-length, Pusha T and Malice once again worked with Philadelphia MCs Ab-Liva and Sandman as the Re-Up Gang, and released Clipse Presents: Re-Up Gang (Koch 2008). — Marcus Kagler