Clipse - Sacrificial Lambs Freestyle (off Selector Mixtape Vol 1, 2012, Pitchfork)
Okay, so… I cheated on saying Clipse’s “Sacrifical Lambs” is one of the best rap songs of the year, as it was originally shown to the public in 2010 in the form of a freestyle for Pitchfork TV’s Selector series. Also, it’s a freestyle over someone else’s beat - in this case Dilla’s beat for MF DOOM’s “Gazillion Ear”. (This brings up another issue - when is a freestyle not a song? There’s entire swathes of Dipset freestyles which are better than any of, say, Jim Jones’ solo album material…) BUT it was a freestyle that I stanned hard over and was finally released on Pitchfork’s Selector compilation back in February of this year. SO THERE.
Pusha’s verse is from the Til The Casket Drops highlight “Footsteps”, but Malice quietly makes this his moment. One of the most celebrated facets of the Clipse’s career is the up-and-down narrative of Malice’s moral struggle with his lifestyle. Pusha’s always seemed the defiant, haughty and overall younger brother to Malice, who has always suggested a human being moving stony-faced through years of making and regretting your decisions. Remember that unforgettable “I’m Not You” verse? Remember the cynicism of his “Ultimate Flow” verse? This freestyle is up there with those.
The “Sacrificial Lambs” freestyle is one of the rare unselfish moments as a hip-hop fan that you want someone to truly pull out of the struggle and make good on themselves. It’s a troubling thing to admit, but Lil Wayne’s recent output feels like the outcome of not only drug-induced burnout but his own abstinence. Realisation is a scary thing for mainstream rap to come face-to-face with, despite all the incessant talk of being “real”. We care about outsized personalities, musical worlds and if it takes the drugs/guns/self-destructive grandeur/cases to capture others’ imaginations? So be it.
In the video for “Sacrificial Lambs”, Malice looks fierce and defiant, holding up his Re-Up Gang chain [above] when talking about attending a close friend’s trial on drug charges (“my heart bled for Tony as he got up on the stand”), but you definitely get the sense that he’s reaching a tipping point of sorts. The elder brother Thornton’s recent decision to change his moniker to No Malice is pretty goofy but it’s a good move. He deserves to make a change - I’m thinking he can weather the shift away from life as, well, sacrifice.