FEATURE: Clipse’s “Lord Willin” Turns 10

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It’s hard to believe a decade has passed since 2002, but it becomes ever more true by the week as it seems the influence of that year’s Freshman music class essentially set the tone for everything that has happened in mainstream and alternative music since. We’ve probably celebrated a dozen (likely more) anniversaries in 2012 and today is no different. Ten years ago this very day, Lord Willin hit the streets. Serving as the launching point for Clipse, who until this time had been riding high on the success of the single “Grindin,” Lord Willin forever changed the way many music fans viewed the world of hip hop.

We thought long and hard about the best way to pay tribute to this influential release, and decided after much debate that the best piece would be the one that came from the heart. So we reached out to a couple diehard Clipse fans, including yours truly, and asked that they write about what makes Lord Willin special to them. What follows are the results of that request, as well as a few select hits from the album we’re all here to celebrate. Click through, read their stories, and spend at least a little time today to remember a record that will likely outlast us all as far as history is concerned.

From James Shotwell – Editor & Founder, Under The Gun Review

“Players we are not the same…”

I have no idea when or where I first heard Clipse, but I do remember the madness caused by the ensuing weeks I spent attempting to get the beat and hook of their breakout track, “Grindin,” out of my head. It was catchy, and that’s putting things lightly, but it’s what that hook would lead me to discover about myself that really makes it memorable.

Prior to Lord Willin’, my love, knowledge, and appreciation of hip hop was about as deep as a children’s swimming pool. I knew what I had heard on the radio, and had taken a few notes from VH1’s Behind The Music, but what it meant to truly connect with hip hop was something of an alien notion in my mind. Music was always driven by rock guitars in my parents’ home, and they usually had something to do with love and adoration of Jesus Christ. That’s right, I was the kid who was only allowed to listen to quote/unquote “contemporary” Christian music for the bulk of my childhood. It wasn’t until 1999 that I even heard uncensored rock riff, so you can probably imagined what fireworks-like extravaganza was setoff the first time anything from the Death Row Records family hit my ears. Even then however, it was not the same as good old rock and roll.

Then Lord Willin’ dropped. Again, I cannot tell you where I first heard the single, but I will never forget the first time the entire record reached my headphones. It was high school and my friends were all interested in anything but discovering new urban artists. “Grindin” was infecting radio and my ever-interested mind decided to see if the hype surrounding Clipse was really worth the air time so many critics had dedicated to discussing it. One illegal download* (I was a young teen, [please don’t] sue me) later, I knew every word that had been laid to tape or paper had been earned rather than made up, and that something in me had changed. Every track, yes every single track, floored me. For the first time in my life I felt like I was connecting to a hip hop artist on a truly personal level, living through their bars as if I were reading pages in an autobiography, and it made me hunger for more in a way I hadn’t since first hearing Blink-182’s Enema Of The State a few years prior. I was hooked, and not because it was violent or filled with flashy imagery, but because the story being relayed from artist to listener was one told so theatrically that it demanded one’s attention.

Now that I’ve spent just over a decade working in the music industry, it’s clearer by the day just how much of an impact that Fall following Lord Willin’s release left on me. Hip hop has become an integral part of my life, so much so that the entire genre has become a staple of UTG’s coverage, and that is all owed to this one breathtaking record. I know I will likely never be able to tell Pusha T and Malice just how much this record means to me, but hopefully giving credit for its influence on my life will cause a few more curious ears to give it a spin.

(* = For the record: I’ve purchased 3 separate copies of Lord Willin’ over the last decade.)

From Edwin Arnaudin, Freelance writer & critic

Lord Willin’ was the soundtrack to my freshman year of college. From dorm room freestyles over the simple but innovative “Grindin'” instrumental, to testing the capacity of my roommates’ car speakers with “When The Last Time,” to watching friends unknowingly live out the lyrics of “Ma, I Don’t Love Her,” Clipse’s album was with me all the way.

While each of these tracks recall good times, none come close to matching the long-staying power of “Virginia.” Growing up in North Carolina, Fall of 2002 found me still basking in the glow of Petey Pablo’s “Raise Up.” Its simple charms had granted our state an effortless cool for months, but from the second that dark Neptunes beat flooded out of my iMac’s speakers, I knew we’d been outdone by our neighbors to the north.

With one gritty as hell verse a piece, Pusha T and Malice established themselves as MCs to watch for years to come. That I’m still watching a decade later is a testament to their respective talents, and each time I skip ahead to track 3, I’m reminded of where it all started.

From Dan Millice, Studio Engineer (Engine Room Audio)

I was a freshman in high school when this record came out. Lord Willin’ was the record that really introduced my friends and I to The Neptunes. I remember feelin’ the vibe with The Neptunes, I knew they were destined to pen hit records, which they obviously continued doing, and are still doing. Now, ten years later, I consider Pharrell one of my favorite producers. I would love to engineer some records with him one day.

From Grant Trimboli – Chief Operations Manager, Under The Gun Review

“Clipse’s 2002 debut Lord Willin’ was truly a powerful debut from Star Trak Records, and is one of my personal favorite all-time rap albums. The power and precision of every melody and instrumental hits hard, and shows us just how ahead of their time this effort was.

[No] Malice and Pusha T strived to bring an authentic Virginia sound into the game and created a movement, with not only their sounds but The Neptunes’ as well. Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo were able to combine their funk/electronic vibes with the duo’s street anthems and created a sonic masterpiece.

I wish Lord Willin’ a happy 10th anniversary!

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the founder of Under The Gun Review. He loves writing about music and movies almost as much as he loves his two fat cats. He's also the co-founder of Antique Records and the Marketing Coordinator for Haulix. You should probably follow him on Twitter.

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