Splendor & Misery
The experimental hip-hop group’s second full-length album is an Afrofuturist, dystopian concept album that follows the sole survivor of a slave uprising on an interstellar cargo ship, and the onboard computer that falls in love with him. Thinking he is alone and lost in space, the character discovers music in the ship’s shuddering hull and chirping instrument panels. William Hutson and Jonathan Snipes’ tracks draw an imaginary sonic map of the ship’s decks, hallways, and quarters, while Daveed Diggs’ lyrics ride the rhythms produced by its engines and machinery. In a reversal of H.P. Lovecraft’s concept of cosmic insignificance, the character finds relief in learning that humanity is of no consequence to the vast, uncaring universe. It turns out, pulling the rug out from under anthropocentrism is only horrifying to those who thought they were the center of everything to begin with. Ultimately, the character decides to pilot his ship into the unknown—and possibly into oblivion—instead of continuing on to worlds whose systems of governance and economy have violently oppressed him.
The album was nominated for a Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form), only the second time ever that a music album was short-listed for the science fiction prize — almost 50 years after the first instance (Jefferson Starship’s Blows Against the Empire in 1970).
“Trying to summarize the extent of Splendor & Misery’s story in a short blurb like this one is more or less a fruitless endeavour but rest assured Diggs and co. expertly navigate through time and space, weaving the gripping tale of a lone slave on a ship that’s more alive than it seems. There’s lots of unpack within the depths of the album, but you’d be hard-pressed to find any other 2016 release that rewards attentive revisits quite like Splendor & Misery does.”
- Ahmed Hasan, Heavy Blog Is Heavy full review
“Devastating yet optimistic, Splendor & Misery is a stunning leap forward for clipping., and one of the most impressive albums of the year.”
- Paul Simpson, AllMusic full review