An Ode to "Nightmares," the Sobering Climax of Clipse's 'Hell Hath No Fury'

If 'Hell Hath No Fury' was high off selling coke, "Nightmares" was the inevitable comedown.

Hell Hath No Fury isn't just Clipse’s best album. It isn't just the best coke rap album, either. It’s a classic album in its own right—a classic album that turns 10 today.

They say “hell hath no fury like a woman scorned,” but after Jive kept the fraternal duo locked up in label politics for almost three years during the early-mid ‘00s, we all became witness to the wrath of Pusha T and Malice (now known as No Malice), who scrapped an earlier version of their sophomore album for something a little more fitting, and entirely more menacing.

When we freshened it up we took away the moods we weren’t feeling anymore. So I can’t give you the girl record, because I’m mad. I ain’t got nothing to say about women. I would tell people that we were trashing some of the softer stuff on the album and they’d be like, ‘Yo! How can you lose that one!?’ Nah, I’m not feeling like that right now. It’s angry shit.

— Pusha T, The FADER, March 2006

Backed by The Neptunes’ hollowed out production that was as grimy as it was glitzy, the Thornton brothers brought their drug dealing past to life in such precise, poetic detail (“Pyrex stirs turned into Cavalli furs”) that made you believe they’d spent their post-Lord Willin’ lull bagging up grams at the Hyatt. Push supplied the flair, Malice sprinkled in the wisdom, and both of them took pleasure in clowning all the rappers biting their coke raps and BAPE fits. Monkey see, monkey do.

In the same year that Snoop Dogg, OutKast and T.I. all put out hefty projects weighing in at over 20 tracks, Hell Hath No Fury was a perfect example of how to make a classic album in 12 songs or less, a feat that many have tried and failed to replicate since. The album’s critical acclaim and cultural impact, despite its lack of hit singles and radio play, only makes Hell Hath No Fury a more necessary piece of homework for today’s rappers.

While songs like “Mr. Me Too,” “Trill” and “Ride Around Shining” remain fan favorites, Hell Hath No Fury wouldn’t be complete without its sobering curtain closer “Nightmares,” the most underrated song on the album.

Immediately following “Chinese New Year,” the ski mask anthem that puts the “Hell” in Hell Hath No Fury, “Nightmares” feels like the inevitable onset of PTSD after a life of selling drugs; the paranoia, anxiety, stress, hallucinations—and indeed, nightmares—that come with constantly looking over your shoulder. Behind all the stacks of cash and kilos of coke, Bilal’s falsetto crooning captures Pusha T and Malice’s innermost thoughts, the voice in their heads that keep them up at night.

There’s an interesting contrast between Malice and Pusha T’s opening lines on “Nightmares.” “They comin’ for me, they runnin’ up / I’m on my balcony, seeing through the eyes of Tony,” raps Malice, who delivers his verse before his younger brother for a change. Meanwhile, Push leads off with, “I make big money, drive big cars / Everybody know me, it’s like I’m a movie star,” borrowing Willie D’s rhymes from Geto Boys’ equally psychoanalytical “Mind Playing Tricks On Me.”

As the older, more spiritually inclined brother, Malice has always more readily acknowledged the realities—both good and bad—of the life of sin he used to lead. Push is also fully aware of the risks and dangers associated with the drug game (“Top off the coupe, that’s how JFK got shot, B”), but prefers to flaunt his way through the fear. Not even the prospect of death is enough to make King Push snuff his shine.

In the decade since Hell Hath No Fury dropped, No Malice has given himself up to God, while Pusha T is the governor of G.O.O.D. Music and a successful solo star in his own right. In hindsight, Hell Hath No Fury was the last great album from the Clipse, and “Nightmares” was a foreshadowing of where Gene and Terrence Thornton's careers were headed.

Thankfully, karma hasn’t caught up with them... yet.


By Andy James, who rides around with more of a dim glow, because that's all he can afford. You can follow him on Twitter.

Photo CreditIlja Meefout


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