If I had a dollar for every Stan that has sworn the Clipse are their favorite hip-hop act out, I would’ve saved up enough dough to retire from XXL a long time ago. Apparently it’s only cool to say you love the Clipse, but it must not be cool to actually buy their album.

Well, actually, let me correct that it was cool for 31,500 of y’all to support. Give yourselves a round of applause (myself included).

I’ll admit I wasn’t the biggest Clipse fan (translation: I didn’t worship the ground that the Brothers Thornton walked on), but I’ve always had a great appreciation for their music. I copped Lord Willin’ and Hell Hath No Fury when they dropped and liked both albums, but I just wasn’t ready to name any of my kids after Pusha or Malice.

You may laugh, but that’s how hard some Clipse stans go in at the barbershop and on Internet comment boards (okay, maybe not the barbershop, but mostly on the Net). I respect stanery, however.

Bottom line is hip-hop needs more fans, real supportive fans, not faux critics who pose as fans. We need to celebrate our artists a little more, because if you haven’t noticed these major labels are cashing out, taking their money and heading for the hills. Fuck it, though, the big wigs can leave if they want to, this hip-hop thing is too far-gone to be stopped now. The truly talented will always find a way to survive.

But back to the Clipse, this album is fuckin’ great. Me and the homie Alvin Blanco went up to Sony for a private (pause) listening of Til the Casket Drops, after which, Al wrote a review for the mag. To ask the homie to dissect an album like this after a single listening was a tall order, but he came through. Still, even though I had heard TTCD before most of the world, nothing could have prepared me for what it was like to actually own and sit with the album.

Those that know me, know that I’ve Never Sold Crack (HA!), though, I came up in that era and knew dudes on the block who were hustlin’, it was never my thing. So I couldn’t fully relate to the first two Clipse albums (as I’m sure most of you couldn’t either). But this shit right here (**points at freshly opened Casket CD**), is something different.

Yeah, it’s still “crack-rap,” but underneath the Kingpin tones is a theme that I can fully relate to: family above everything! Check “Freedom” (one of the illest album opening-tracks in years), where Pusha spits, “We’re in the same group, but I don’t share my brothers pain.” Pusha Ton then goes on to talk about him being numb to shit and how he lost his girl and essentially lost everything he loves in a paper chase.

Then, Malice goes on to talk about how he was “happy being piss poor” and how he has trouble chasing tail these days without being reminded of his own daughter. On “Champion,” Malicious is spittin’ about watching Madagascar with his kids. I mean my son prefers The Lion King, but that shit resonates. Maybe I’m old (not quite 30, yet). I have a wife and two kids and, to me, I put family above everything, my kids especially.

Til the Casket Drops is maybe one of the most mature, well thought out hip-hop albums I’ve heard in a minute, that’s why I bought it. The question is why didn’t you? —Rob Markman, The Deputy!