There may have been some attempts at that sort of thing on Vol. 3, but it’s hard to say. They rap over beats from Graduation and American Gangster, but they’re such lame-ass beats. To the extent that people even liked them in the first place, it’s probably because they belonged to Kanye West and Jay-Z, and the two of them have reached that point of celebrity where they don’t even have to be good anymore.
Elsewhere, I’d say there’s some inspired beat selection that went into We Got 4 Cheap, Vol 3. Some of this shit I’ve never even heard before – maybe because it’s hard to even hear rap music these days, or maybe because this is new shit they commissioned specifically for the mixtape. Whatever it is, it’s the kind of shit you wish was on Hell Hath No Fury.
Every line on their new mixtape, (deep breath) We Got It 4 Cheap, Volume 3: The Spirit of Competition (We Just Think We Better), is a product of intense work. Lyrically, this thing is so dense it’s almost exhausting, and I’m going to need a while to fully process the whole thing; even on my sixth or so listen, half the stuff on the later tracks still sails over my head. But that magic face-squinch moment happens over and over again.
This is the first Clipse tape that isn’t really a Clipse tape; Ab-Liva and Sandman, the two Philly rappers who make up the Re-Up Gang along with Clipse’s Malice and Pusha T, fully deserve their equal billing. Both of them have been getting better with every new mixtape, and by now both of them (Liva in particular) rival Malice and Pusha for deadly verbal economy. These guys are all gifted writers doing their best to impress and outdo each other, and the result is a pretty great example of why rap group efforts can work better than solo stuff.
More like Spirit of Resignation. The first two volumes of the We Got It 4 Cheap series were fueled by a fervent desire to drop their lost opus. Just 80,000 soundscans later, Vol. 3 is the mourning of said masterpiece’s commercial death. Maybe the crackers were right to shelf the album in this landscape? Never, that blood’s on Jive’s hands. Re-up’s got their soft eyes on, displaying an impressive self awareness. They lament the relative meaninglessness of critical laudation (even throwing a quick jab at the “coke rap genre”) and the failing industry, ultimately resigning that maybe the rap game isn’t where the real money’s at.
And do not despair, purists. Amidst these missives, there are enough general interest cocaine punch lines to match a late period Bob Saget routine. Maybe it’s naive to think The Clipse will ever touch a brick again, worst case scenario they could just post up in Skateboard’s paisley parking garage. But it does raise a larger issue: for all the destruction that the genre is accused of, hip hop has actually kept a gang of kids off the streets. Who knows if they’ll stick around when the rap money dries up. Not everyone has blogger acclaim to fall back on.