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Today in Hip-Hop: Clipse Drop ‘Hell Hath No Fury’ Album

Today, Nov. 28, in hip-hop history…

Jive Records
Jive Records

2006: Clipse finally release their sophomore major label album Hell Hath No Fury via Re-Up/Star Trak/Jive Records. The album suffered numerous delays and was eventually leaked prior to the LP’s release.

Born in the Bronx but raised in Virginia, Pusha T and Malice had been caught up in label turmoil during the making of the album, as Arista, where they were signed, was being folded into Jive after the release of their 2002 debut album Lord Willin’. Most of Star Trak went to Interscope after the merger, but Clipse remained locked up at Jive, where their follow-up, much like their proper, unreleased debut album Exclusive Audio Footage, went shelved for years until the label finally dropped the LP in 2006. Push apologizes for the delay on lead single “Mr. Me Too”—”these are the days of our lives, and I’m sorry to the fans but the crackers weren’t playing fair at Jive.”

Growing increasingly frustrated with Jive’s sluggishness, they sued the label and requested release from their contract. They didn’t get it, but while litigation was going on they released the Got It for Cheap Vol. 1 mixtape in 2004 and a sequel the following year, helping to keep fans from forgetting them while “lighting the fire to Jive’s ass, lighting the fire to Pharrell’s ass,” as Malice put it.

The duo waited so long to put out Hell Hath No Fury, they actually scrapped the original version of the album because it didn’t reflect their outlook by the time it was ready to be released. “They’re still hot songs,” Malice said of the shelved version at the album, claiming they were “happier” when they were first making it. “But then, with all the drama and everybody hearing what’s going on, it wouldn’t be a true album to put out, to represent us.” So they went back in with a darker sound, pushing the Neptunes to give them harder production.

The result was a colder, bleaker and much less radio-friendly album than Lord Willin’. That LP spawned an unconventional hit in “Grindin” and a more predictable one in “Ma, I Don’t Love Her.” (Both of those appeared in the Billboard Hot 100, but “When the Last Time” is actually the highest-charting Clipse song, peaking at No. 19.) HHNF didn’t see one song chart, despite “Mr. Me Too” and “Wamp Wamp (What It Do)” both getting radio spins.

“There’s a whole bunch of aggression and frustration on this album; it’s extremely emotional,” said Malice in an ’06 interview. “Just pouring out our hearts and soul on these verses because the politics was getting in the way of everything and if you’re not careful you can get caught up and not really be creative, which is what [“We Got It for Cheap” mixtapes] Volume 1 and Volume 2 was about.”

Though the album is one of the most striking rap releases of the last decade (we gave it an XXL review at the time), it didn’t quite have the same impact as Lord Willin’, eventually becoming more of a cult classic than a widely accepted one. The LP sold 78,000 copies first week, a figure the label likely found disappointing versus the 122,000 units Lord Willin sold first week. Physical distribution of the album eventually halted, and the group never quite found themselves again; it took another three years to get out their third album Til the Casket Drops, the final project they would release as a group.

But the stark, unrelenting mood of Hell Hath No Fury still cuts through today. The tension of moral guilt, the depressing reality of necessity, the shame, the paranoia. Clipse and the Neptunes challenged themselves to make a masterpiece that now stands firm like an iceberg in the wake of the last ten years.

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