My sixth story is a synthesis of Le Guin and Delany and so much more, but in a different medium. Splendor & Misery is an audio album by the experiment rap group clipping. , fronted by Daveed Diggs, that clocks in at around 26 minutes. It was released in 2016 and SubPop has made it available in full for free on YouTube. You may know Diggs superficially from Hamilton, but Hamilton is vaguely cloying Gilbert & Sullivan to Splendor & Misery’s Wagner. No, I like clipping. better than Wagner, and its political implications are much more interesting. Anyway, it’s the kind of high art that I imagine someone will rediscover in a century and declare a masterpiece that we didn’t celebrate enough. It did win a Hugo, but that’s not enough by my count. Why isn’t say, Faber or FSG selling the libretto? They should be begging for it.
The album is primarily about and told in the voice of an unnamed enslaved man, #2331, on a cargo spaceship and what happens when, after damage that renders him the only survivor. Other voices include the ship’s AI that falls in love with him, transcending the mind/body boundary, and those of ancestral slave gospel songs. That clipping. integrates the Transatlantic slave triangle and its atrocity so easily into another universe and makes it so immediate at once—and with such a short running time—is bravura work. When you hear the choice the passenger makes at the end of the album, you too may weep. I recommend listening in the dark with headphones on, alone, then listening a second or third time with lyrics to hand.
First released on Subpop, 2016