The Re-Up is a mix of vintage Eminem production and lyric spitting combined with his only real weakness: the tendency to regress and play down to his crew of less talented jokesters.
Like he always has, Eminem unashamedly exerts on Eminem Presents the Re-Up's final track, "No Apologies": "Expect no sympathy from me / I'm an Emcee / This is how I'm suppose to be / Cold as a G / My heart's frozen / It don't even beat / So expect no apologies". Though eloquently delivered, this seems like a cop out, admitting that The Re-Up as an Eminem disciple compilation doesn't work. The only thing that does are the beats -- a brilliant mixture of Eminem's dramatic touch and current mixtape complier the Alchemist.
From the second you hear the intro's gun clicking and the usual ominous Mather laugh over his trademark hyper-dramatized string section, topped off with more trite gun shots, you get the idea what you're in for -- if, that is, you're not tipped-off by Eminem's own cartoon posse drawing on the album's cover.
What makes The Re-Up hard to swallow? Two-thirds of the lyrics. The rest of the Eminem's "family" doesn't seem to catch on to what made him one of the best ever. At this point, I'm not even sure how to take Eminem's crew: a serious bunch of plotting gangsters who spit empty threats that don't even resonate at all, or is the posse closer to becoming the boxed cartoon on the album's cover? I have to go with the cartoon option to be able to sit through an entire song any more. Cartoons are easier to take seriously, because you don't take them seriously at all.
There is, however, a bit of hope for the upstart protégées. Stat Quo's "Trying to Win" shows at least someone has the ability to go beyond the gangster pistol-whippin' soap opera and give us something worth our time or to make us even remotely care.
Tossed in almost as an after thought is the thirty-second tribute to the late Proof, "Trapped", which best explains how The Re-Up could have been great but is mostly a drag. I wish there was something more. New Shady clan member Bobby Creekwater doesn't demand my attention any more than the rest, and I was disappointed to find no new rapper that floored me.
If the new members of the "Family", as Eminem calls them in the intro, want to move into the mainstream and stay there like their leader, then they have to show some depth and content versatility, song after song, about something other than running out of a club shooting people, and how your bitch is a bitch, and that's a bitch, and wanting to bust a cap in all the other bitches.
That being said, Eminem is Eminem because he showed us all the sides of himself -- the profound and the profane -- and was even vulnerable to the point of making himself the punch line, and even that was art. That's what his fans (this one included) connected with, and that's what he has to teach his disciples if these guys are going to sell records.
For starters, you can toss out D12's "Pistol Pistol" and keep the fire sale going with most of the 22 tracks. The only saving aspect of this whole protégé promotion disaster is Eminem's excellent ear for the dramatic sonic and the Alchemist's deft blending of his style with Eminem's. He's clearly come into his own as an executive producer, shouldering most of the creative burden without even saying a word -- a clear sign that he's matured, and the only real reason to pick this one up if you're a die hard.
The only songs worthy of your own Eminem mixtape are "Public Enemy #1", "No Apologies", and "Jimmy Crack Corn", the 50 Cent duo complete with breathy beatbox intro. It's no surprise that all of these tracks have Eminem on them. It's evidence that this is his clan and he's still in control and fully capable of a complete take over, should he desire to trot on stage for a full show. Why, then, doesn't he stop telling us he can and just do it?
Eminem Presents the Re-Up started as an underground buzz project and should have remained there. We already know Em's skills. I want to see what the others can do beyond spitting bullets at their enemies via the gangster cliché. Hip-hop is not at its best on The Re-Up, but there are brief flashes of hope hidden amidst the gunk.
Ah, well, I'll just pocket what I can, pretend like this didn't really happen, and wait for the next Eminem record. Maybe by then his crew will have caught on.