In street jargon, the term “re-up” means to replenish something that’s running low—and when it came to The Clipse, their music was in desperate need of one. It’s not that their body of work was horrendous; it was more of a case of red tape stopping them from releasing it to the people who yearned for another hit of their metaphorical morphine. Their re-up came in the form of their We Got It 4 Cheap mixtape series and their own label imprint, Re-Up Gang Records. Now with a new situation at Columbia Records, the brother-duo added two more components to the equation, Ab-Liva of Major Figgas fame and Sandman. With everything in place, the foursome, they get ready to distribute their group offering in Clipse Presents: Re-Up Gang to the people who have been in a rehabilitative state waiting for the next fix.
The 12-track album gets underway with the ‘Re-Up Gang Intro,’ and with epic horns, they run through the cocaine references that make them who they are, “Ignore the lies that they tell/under my cuticles, proves the pies that I sell.” ‘Million Dollar Corner’ is more of the same, with all four MC’s getting into the act feeding off each other perfectly with their ode to hustling. ‘Fast Life,’ produced by Scott Storch, (and with his financial woes, odds are they got the beat at a discount price). Nonetheless The Clipse choose to go this one alone with lines like, “It’s the all might duo/you know/critically acclaimed, moving weight like a sumo.”
The whole gang reappears on ‘My Life’s The S***,’ and colorful punch lines such as, “I stay with the heat, so I’m cooler than parfait/in France, the appetizer’s the entrée” are not too far behind. The Re-Up Gang’s chemistry continues on ‘Bring It Back.’ Over the simple sounding but yet adequate production, each member has their own time to shine lyrically with one of them being, “And the Lord don’t understand our troop/we ‘gon never say sh*t, we the Blue Man Group.” One of the standout tracks on the album is ‘Money.’ With raw drums, and woman asking for money in the background, they all talk about the wonderful things money can buy you if you’re lucky enough to obtain a huge amount of it. On ‘Been Thru So Much,’ all four artists let their guards down (just a little bit) and talk about some personal experiences. The Re-Up Gang ends the ride with songs like, ‘Still Got It For Cheap,’ and ‘Show You How To Hustle,’ which are very solid contributions in their own right.
Having twelve songs was the right decision for the Re-Up Gang to make, because the content consists of the same repetitive lingo. Even though The Clipse, Ab-Liva, and Sandman don’t give you a wide variety of topics, they do excel in the subjects that they do tend veer towards, (drugs, cars, women, etc). As for the production, a handful of songs could’ve used some tweaking, but in true hustler’s fashion, they used the tools that were given to them. Some artists usually hurt their careers by doing something different, and stepping out of their lane, but with these certain individuals, it would be a difficult task getting them to use their blinkers because they know what works for them, and they stick with it.
DJ Booth Review
Total Ratings: 3
Last week I was in a daze, unable to make sense of the world around me. A question was gnawing away at me like Fat Joe on a chicken-wing. There I was, the Re-Up Gang’s new album pulsing through my speakers, and I was shockingly unimpressed. See, for me listening to anything related to The Clipse is a near religious experience. Or to put it in their words, “so much white you might think that holy Christ was near.” Damn, I mean I even liked that joint they did with Justin Timberlake. So how could this be? How could a Re-Up Gang album not leave me hotter than Richard Pryor on freebase?
And then it hit me. The answer’s simple really. The Clipse Present the Re-Up Gang is a pretty damn good album, it’s just not nearly as good as the mixtape. As I wrote back in February, We Got It 4 Cheap (Vol. 3): The Spirit of Competition, was the mixtape of the year, and six months later it still is. Re-Up Gang, on the other hand, might not even be the best album released in August. Where the mixtape delivered body blows, the album sticks and jabs, and where the mixtape was straight dope, the album feels like it’s cut with a little bit of musical baking soda. In other words, the Re-Up Gang is their own worst enemy. They’re so good, they make themselves look bad.
That also means that if you haven’t heard the mixtape, please ignore the previous paragraph. If you need some help forgetting, I recommend multiple shots of Patron (just joking kids, drinking is wrong). The truth is that if you don’t carry the same prejudices I did when you first put on the album, you’re in for a good time. The most notable difference on this go around for Malice, Pusha T and their Re-Up compadres Ab Liva and Sandman is – predictably – more radio friendly fare. Take the minimally titled Money, a track that sounds oddly like a stripped-down version of I Get Money (listen to em both back to back and tell me I’m wrong). It’s no surprise that Re-Up distinguishes themselves from Mr. Cent in the lyrical department; even their cash flow flow is metaphor heavy: “I lead a horse to water, but I can’t make him drink, I shove classics, here’s my Cuban Linx.” Money’s not the triple-beam brilliance you’d hope for, but it’s still better than most. In comparison, the lead-single off the album is Fast Life, produced by Scott Storch (remember when he was major?). Fast Life is a Clipse exclusive, meaning they excluded Ab Liva and Sandman, but surprisingly it doesn’t really work. I feel like the beat’s primarily to blame, it’s just too clap-happy for the street-bound Clipse. For a beat that works much better with the crew’s off-kilter rhyme style just flip one track back to the darkly echoing Street Money. In other words, Street Money would have made the mixtape. Fast Money, not so much.
If it sounds like I’m obsessed with The Spirit of Competition, I am, but it doesn’t help that five tracks from The Spirit of Competition make a re-appearance on the album. Re-Up Gang Intro transforms from a track that sounds like an angel walking through the bowels of hell on the mixtape to a more triumphant but softer version, and Bring It Back goes from an all-out banger to the much more laid back, synth-centric album version. On the flip side I was glad to hear that Emotionless, the rawly insightful track that was my favorite of Spirit of Competition, remained largely intact with a pounding bass line adding even more dark depth than the original. Similarly, Show You How To Hustle is the one track that’s even better than the mixtape version, with coke-laced metaphors like “I double up on birds like Noah in the flood” underwritten by strangely swirling synths.
You know what? I clearly need to just get over the mixtape and learn to enjoy the Re-Up Gang album. Hold on, let me reach for some of that aforementioned Patron….ahhhh, that’s better. Suddenly the world, and the album, has a new golden sheen. Now I’m feeling the electronically spacey We Know much better, and Still Got It For Cheap is feeling harder than cracked concrete. At the end of the day The Spirit of Competition is still better, but Re-Up Gang the album’s pretty damn good itself. Keep lining up those shots and pretty soon I’ll be calling it a classic.
Though it’ll always be a very distant second to coke-pushing, one narrative surrounding Clipse prior to their 2006 breakthrough Hell Hath No Fury was the duo’s underdog status. But after years of being denied should-have-been fame and fortune, Malice and Pusha T are now in a sweet position not unlike that of, oddly enough, the Roots– a cozy label deal, almost unconditional internet love, and slots on typically indie playlists. With the turn of 2008 came the We Got It 4 Cheap, Vol. 3 mixtape, but without much to complain about, Clipse turned to fabricating “spirit of competition” subliminals against Lil Wayne which backfired when the critical and commercial success of Tha Carter III proved that Weezy’s fanbase not only included the critics who fawned over Hell Hath No Fury, but also an additional million people who don’t mind paying for their music.
If there’s anything that tends to deflate Clipse’s infallible guise, it’s an awareness of this very situation– check the sneering admission on “Re-Up Gang Intro” that “Writers scream ‘More!’/ Yet they don’t run to the store…/ To write a verse is like a chore.” However real that writer’s block is, The Clipse Presents: Re-Up Gang improves upon Vol. 3 in that it contains actual conflict: a clash of Re-Up’s modest merits with its reasons for existence. We’re strictly “Stans only” here, considering the mixtape’s stopgap timing and limited commercial prospects. And yet, as evidenced by the numbingly iced-out single “Fast Life“, too much of Re-Up Gang is done in the style of Lord Willin’s baffling Jermaine Dupri collaboration “Let’s Talk About It”– a track I imagine most of Clipse’s current fanbase absolutely loathes.
The problem here is that the egalitarian make-up of Re-Up Gang means half of the record is taken up by Ab-Liva and Sandman (still doing that “cannnnnn-on” thing before every verse, thanks for asking), who need no introduction, and are pretty much without peer when it comes to subsidiary foot soldiering. Really, though, they’ve got enough trouble distinguishing themselves from one another, let alone coming close to stealing any track they share with the Thorntons (what, Rosco P. Coldchain was busy?). As a result, Re-Up Gang is sort of like going out for a nice meal and filling up on bread.
Beyond that, well… this is the Koch release. I mean, “Grindin'”, “Hello New World”, and pretty much the entirety of We Got It 4 Cheap, Vol. 2 proved Clipse know good beats, so you can’t expect anyone’s A-game on these Dre carbon copies, with drums that knock like first-gen ringtones. Though not “dense” in the Def Jux sense of the word, Clipse’s flows, jam-packed with quotables as they are, require attention and room to breathe. Nothing here could possibly bring out the best in Re-Up– not “Money” (the hook– “money, money, money, money, money– give me some!” in chickenhead patois), not the interminable yo-yo flows on “We Know“, and definitely not the flatulent buckshots that pockmark “Bring It Back“, which sounds like Dipset’s house producers asleep at the EQ.
A line on the faux-cover of Jim Jones’ “Emotionless” (reprised from Vol. 3 with a new beat) goes, “I’m empty inside like Hollow Man/ I’m here but I’m not, like a hologram.” If the first part of that quote played an integral role in the tundraic heartlessness of Hell Hath No Fury, the latter is more indicative of the ghost-in-the-machine feel of Re-Up Gang, which basically amounts to Koch’s attempt to wring legal tender out of Vol. 3 (good luck with that). With the already announced (and already pushed-back) Clipse album Til The Casket Drops on the way, it’s likely Clipse know better than to waste their best material on this format.