Inside the Mind of a Man is a Massacre: Splendor & Misery and Why It Deserves the Hugo

It’s Hugo season! This means banding together to discuss, debate, and ultimately vote for the things that we love. This year saw something new and different in the Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form): an experimental hip-hop album called Splendor & Misery had appeared on the ballot alongside four television episodes. I was intrigued. I’m a lifelong music junkie (my first ever magazine subscription was to Rolling Stone), and I grew up with MTV. I’ve drifted away from things these days, so I hadn’t heard of clipping. before the Hugo nominations came out. Nevertheless, I am awed by clipping.’s Splendor & Misery and hope that you come away from my humble article wanting to listen to this album and will consider it for the Hugo.

Title: Splendor & Misery (2016)splendormisery
Artist: clipping.
Label: Sub Pop & Deathbomb Arc
Length: 37:02

Who is clipping.?

clipping. is made up of Daveed Diggs, William Hutson, and Jonathan Snipes.  You may have heard Diggs’ name before; he originated the roles of the Marquis de Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson in the Broadway smash Hamilton.  The trio has been making music together for years.  Splendor & Misery is the group’s second full album.

Splendor & Misery? Tell me more!

You ought to do a little background reading.  This article is a really good place to start.  Here is an interview with William Hutson. To make a long story short, Splendor & Misery tells the story of the aftermath of a slave uprising on a space vessel. The sole survivor (referred to as Cargo #2331) commandeers the ship and eventually becomes infatuated with it. The ship’s AI, in turn, falls in love with Cargo #2331.

Where can I listen to this album?

It’s available on Spotify (free via computer), Amazon (with Amazon Music Unlimited subscription, which offers a free trial), YouTube, and on the group’s Band Camp page.  If you really want to get a good taste of clipping., look up videos of their live performances. “Air ‘Em Out” seems to be the most radio friendly track (so to speak) and they’ve performed it several times.  This is also one of the few tracks to get a video (language NSFW).

I prefer this performance from the group’s November appearance on Conan. It’s more stripped down; rather than bring their entire setup to Conan O’Brien’s stage, the group improvised an incredibly creative percussion section. Give it a look. If you stream the album and decide that you like it, consider purchasing a copy. The artists have worked hard and deserve to be compensated.

Why should I vote for Splendor & Misery for the Hugo? DOCTOR WHO FOR LIFE!

Fun fact: Doctor Who has won six times in this category in the last ten years. It’s been nominated every single year since 2006. It’s a beloved show, but I never got into it. It’s intimidating to try and get into it at this point. I’m not personally caught up on Game of Thrones, and I can’t comment on either Black Mirror or The Expanse, as I’ve never watched either of these. None of that matters: Splendor & Misery does something that none of the television shows can accomplish. It tells a story perfectly well with zero visual assistance. Stunning costumes, magnificent settings, and attractive (or deliberately unattractive) characters are all part and parcel of excellent television. Where would all of those shows be if you simply closed your eyes? How much of the story would you miss? Splendor & Misery uses only what you can hear to tell a top-notch science fiction tale. I very desperately want to read the nonexistent novelization of this album. There are a few videos, but you don’t need to watch them to be able to appreciate what’s going on here.

Furthermore, while it’s true that there are plenty of speculative albums released with little fanfare each year, this one stands out because it managed to gain attention from national television personalities such as James Corden (of The Late Late Show) and the aforementioned Conan O’Brien. A vote for Splendor & Misery is a vote for an expansion of what it means to tell stories. Very little music is ever recognized on the Hugo ballot. This is a shame, and I’d love to see this change. As the entertainment industry evolves, the consumption of fiction changes alongside it. Voting for this album, maybe pushing it to win, will help open doubtful minds to the possibilities that exist beyond today’s standards of storytelling. Music has always told stories. It’s time that we recognize this and encourage future songwriters to stretch beyond their comfort zones.  Splendor & Misery has the potential to change the award landscape.  Let’s make it happen.

6/14/17 Edit: The original article only listed Sub Pop as the Label, but Splendor and Misery was released under both Sub Pop and Deathbomb Arc. The article has been updated accordingly.

5 Comments

  • Lane Robins June 6, 2017 at 8:03 pm

    Oh this sounds remarkable. I’ll have to give it a listen!

    Reply
    • Casey Price June 6, 2017 at 8:48 pm

      Please do! It’s definitely an experience!

      Reply
  • Shara White June 6, 2017 at 8:38 pm

    Hip-hop isn’t really my jam, but this write-up has me super-duper curious…. I may have to pull this up and sit down with the lyrics and just experience it.

    Reply
    • Casey Price June 6, 2017 at 8:48 pm

      It’s not hip-hop, really. Give it a try!

      Reply
    • Casey Price June 6, 2017 at 8:50 pm

      And, experiencing it is definitely what one does with this album. Not something for a casual listen at all. It’s one of those where you put headphones on and just listen.

      Reply

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