We have a rare gift on the Hugo ballot this year: clipping.’s science fiction concept album, Splendor and Misery. They generously handed out a bunch of download codes to prospective Hugo voters (me included), but you can also listen to the whole thing courtesy of Sub Pop on YouTube.
This “experimental hip-hop” album is up for a Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form. You’ve probably heard of at least one of clipping.’s members, Daveed “Lafayette/Jefferson” Diggs. He’s an extremely talented guy and it shows on this album. (The other 2/3 of the team are William Hutson and Jonathan Snipes, both producers.)
The first two tracks are eerie and evocative. They’re each only a minute or so long: Long Way Away (intro), Long Way Away. And I’ve linked a video for another song below. But I recommend listening to the entire album in order, because there’s storytelling going on (not to mention the pacing and flow that makes it all come together). The annotation on Genius helps with both catching all the references and understanding them; they come at you fast.
Listen for the Ursula K. LeGuin reference in “Air ‘Em Out“:
I wish I could say more about the album, but I don’t feel qualified. I never did take that music appreciation class in college and I don’t know enough about either rap or the sci fi concept album tradition to make erudite comments. (Though now I regret that Janelle Monáe’s Metropolis and The ArchAndroid weren’t nominated for a Hugo as well.) I can tell you, though, that clipping.’s nomination is the first Hugo nomination for a music album since the 1971 awards–and that 1970 album, Blows Against the Empire, was the first ever nominated. So music is something that the Hugos have historically paid little attention to. And, you know, Afrofuturism itself is something that the Hugos have largely ignored. (For more context, check out “Why clipping.’s Nomination Matters for Music in Science Fiction” at Pitchfork.)
Will Splendor and Misery win a Hugo? I don’t know.
Does it deserve its spot on the ballot? Hell yes.