The greatest lyrical trope of Clipse’s oeuvre comes in the chorus of “Ride Around Shining,” from Hell Hath No Fury, but the remarkable ingenuity and clarity and imaginative power of the phrase transcends both the individual song and the album as a whole; ultimately, it comes to stand as an expression of the group’s most core values. The primary idea of the song is to live as richly as possible while one still can, because life could end at any moment. What could have limply been a trite reiteration of a live life to the fullest Hallmark platitude is saved from cliché by an infusion of urgency from the duo’s violent gang and drug-dealing background, and the use of an absolutely brilliant poetic description of the thought. (see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UaUy76GqqdQ)
The image comes when Pusha T describes their sumptuous lifestyle, saying they have “so much ice in the Rollies, the shit don’t tick, man.” This is an illustration of a Rolex watch so heavily encrusted with diamonds on the hour, minute, and second hands that the arms are immobile, and unable to circle around the watch face. Thus rendered stationary, they are incapable of executing their sole mechanical purpose: keeping time for the wearer. This tiny eleven-word phrase ingeniously contains the two central layers of the live-in-the-present philosophy I mentioned above.
It is tempting to read the Rolex and its jewels as symbols of superficiality, but that is completely erroneous in this particular case. Here, rather, they are symbols of fine, sensuous living in all arenas of one’s life. The brothers have chosen to live as richly as they possibly can, not just monetarily, but in all senses of the term—wearing the most beautiful and rare gems, driving the most technically advanced automobiles, enjoying the greatest romantico-sexual experiences, and living well in every other way possible. It is truly not about status, but quality. Furthermore, the fact that the watches do not even keep time is not a symbol of failure or machine degradation; rather, it is a product of willful, incredibly brave immediacy. Malice and Pusha T have no need to know the time because they have no future and are not confined by the past. For them, there is only instantaneous, extreme and raw present. Living on the literal brink of death in a violent criminal world has forced the brothers to evolve their personal ideologies into ones acutely focused on the present day, the type of present-centered ideologies that other artists and philosophers have been advocating for centuries. Rainer Maria Rilke, for example, averred that "There is an element of death in life, and I am astonished that one pretends to ignore it: death, whose unpitying presence we experience in each turn of fortune we survive because we must learn how to die slowly.” He concludes, “We must learn to die: all of life is in that."*
The Clipse brothers have unequivocally, unquestionably learned. They live in the unblinking, viciously sober reality of Rilke’s philosophy. Death suffuses all facets of their lives, and rather than being ground down by this truth, they are emboldened and animated by it. The tenuousness of the future and the inconsequence of the past have been exposed as irrelevant, and therefore wholly shorn away. All that exists is what is now. Time itself has become for them a concept as extraneous as a watch which doesn’t tell the time.
* from Selected Letters of Rainer Maria Rilke. Ed. Harry T. Moore. New York: W.H. Norton & Company, Inc., 1960. Archived online at http://www.geocities.com/renate_h/death.html, last accessed 25 June, 2009.