Major-label gangsta rap has fallen into such a rut that Clipse's Hell Hath No Fury stands out as much for what it isn't as what it is. In an era of bloated 70-minute epics, Fury clocks in at a lean 45 minutes, and in a realm where production-by-committee reigns and studio gangstas rap over beats by the same handful of big-name producers, Clipse's long-awaited, endlessly delayed second album is produced entirely by The Neptunes. In an age where the prevalence of superstars in guest spots threatens to turn solo albums into compilations or mix-tapes, Fury refreshingly represents the undiluted musical vision of Clipse brothers Malice and Pusha T and longtime pal Pharrell.
Fury is as lean and mean sonically as it is lyrically. The monster first single "Mr. Me Too" is cut from the same minimalist cloth as the previous Pharrell smashes "Grindin'" and "Drop It Like It's Hot." The beat for "Mr. Me Too" is little more than wheezing synthesizers that suggest an unusually funky life-support system. The track perfectly embodies Pharrell's less-is-more musical philosophy. Malice And Pusha T convey swaggering menace so effortlessly here that it can be easy to forget that they spend much of tracks like "Mr. Me Too" bragging about watches, cars, and other high-end luxury items. But in gangsta rap, it isn't what you say so much as how you say it, and Malice and Pusha T's deep, rich, resonant voices and authoritative delivery could probably make "Ice Ice Baby" sound gangsta.
After kicking snowman raps over stripped-down beats for 11 tracks, Clipse gets lush and reflective on the album-closing "Nightmares," a paranoid homage to Geto Boys' "Mind Playing Tricks On Me" highlighted by Bilal's silky guest vocals. It's one of the few vulnerable moments here. After years of mistreatment at the hands of the record industry, Clipse makes his latest sound like an exhilaratingly cold-blooded act of revenge.