Music

Re-Up Gang: Clipse Presents: Re-Up Gang

More like Clipse Presents: A Handful of Second-Rate Remixes and Phoned-In New Tracks from the Re-Up Gang, in a Painfully Obvious Attempt to Court the Commercial Market.


Re-Up Gang

Clipse Presents: Re-Up Gang

Label: Re-Up Gang
US Release Date: 2008-08-05
UK Release Date: 2008-09-08
Amazon
iTunes

The hip-hop mixtape has enjoyed something of a renaissance in recent years. Once thought of as a lost art, the last two years have seen high-profile artists like Lil' Wayne and Kanye West successfully build grassroots hype by dropping mixtapes that were nearly as good as the albums they preceded. And in some cases -- Nas, I'm looking in your direction -- that pre-album mixtape turned out to be better than the album it was meant to promote. While the mixtape may have reemerged as an indispensable promotional tool in the Internet age, it has still retained its edge as a playground for established artists with major label backing--a safe place where experimental tracks can rub shoulders with new MCs and uncleared samples. Want to hear Kanye rapping over a Thom Yorke track or Clipse rapping over a Kanye track? You know where to look.

The Re-Up Gang (i.e. the Clipse + Philadelphia rappers Sandman and Ab-Liva), have played a larger role in the resurgence of the mixtape than most. During years of contractual squabbles, label drama and litigation, it was the Re-Up Gang mixtape series We Got It For Cheap, that kept the Clipse fresh in the minds of hip-hop fans. Like the Clipse albums that they bookmarked, the Re-Up Gang mixtapes were focused, unyielding and just a little bit weird, featuring both the inimitable wordplay and the distinctive, quirky production that the Clipse built their name on.

It's odd then, that for the Re-Up Gang's official debut LP, Clipse Presents: Re-Up Gang, the group has decided to abandon its trademark minimalist sound, releasing 12 radio-friendly tracks that are as unexciting as they are uninspired. And lest you think that this is simply a lazy mistake, the band has gone so far as to cherry pick five tracks from We Got It For Cheap: Volume 3, strip them of DJ Drama's delightfully eccentric production and remix them with a more commercially-friendly sound. Even worse, on the new tracks, the brothers Thornton sound like they're holding back, saving all the best rhymes for their forthcoming Clipse full-length. Liva and Sandman mostly keep pace without upstaging the Thorntons -- as they tend to do -- but in this case, that's not saying much.

Take, for example, the opening track, an updated version of "Re-Up Gang Intro" from Volume 3 of We Got It For Cheap. Instead of DJ Drama's booming backbeat and understated horns, we get a weaker beat, some cheesy strings and a chorus of overwrought brass -- all front and center in the mix. The end result is a song that's cluttered and muddy enough to suck the fun out of lines like, "I guess life in jail is but a manicure away/Well I don't feel like getting my nails done today/Yechh".

While the tinker toy production in "Street Money" sounds promising at first, the song's repetitive chorus ("All this street money / All this street money / So much street money") and lackluster rhymes offer little reason for repeat listens. Lead single "Fast Life" fares even worse; all corny synths and handclaps (courtesy of Scott Storch), the song's cliché-filled lyric sheet reads like the script for a mid-'90s hip-hop video ("Money first / Fast cars / Out come the chicks in they panties and bras"). "Bring It Back", meanwhile, reemerges as a clone of Lil' Wayne's "Lollipop" -- electric guitar riffs and all. And while "We Know" retains most of its charm even without its Shawty Lo sample (it's listed as "Dey Know Yayo" on Volume 3), its keyboard hooks all sound like Micro Korg presets.

In case you hadn't already figured it out, Clipse Presents: Re-Up Gang is a fairly mediocre affair on all fronts. To be fair, a "mediocre" album from the Re-Up Gang is still a passable album by most standards and there are enough clever lines on Clipse Presents (Pusha's "You caught up in my word / Like its Catcher in the Rye" stands out, for one) that it's not a total waste for Clipse completists. Still, knowing what these guys are capable of, it's hard not to fault them for what feels like a hastily cobbled-together cash-in. The Clipse have always been defined as much by their own relentless pursuit of perfection as their ability to push others -- like the Neptunes -- to do their best work. On Clipse Presents, however, it sounds like they've lost that drive, stopping to rest on their laurels for the first time in their career. I suppose that after years of giving great music away for free, they've earned the right. But that doesn't mean that I have to like it. Yechh.

5
Music

The Best Metal of 2017

Painting by Mariusz Lewandowski. Cover of Bell Witch's Mirror Reaper.

There's common ground between all 20 metal albums despite musical differences: the ability to provide a cathartic release for the creator and the consumer alike, right when we need it most.

With global anxiety at unprecedented high levels it is important to try and maintain some personal equilibrium. Thankfully, metal, like a spiritual belief, can prove grounding. To outsiders, metal has always been known for its escapism and fantastical elements; but as most fans will tell you, metal is equally attuned to the concerns of the world and the internal struggles we face and has never shied away from holding a mirror up to man's inhumanity.

Keep reading... Show less

In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

If a single moment best illustrates the current divide between Americana music and mainstream country music, it was Sturgill Simpson busking in the street outside the CMA Awards in Nashville. While Simpson played his guitar and sang in a sort of renegade-outsider protest, Garth Brooks was onstage lip-syncindg his way to Entertainer of the Year. Americana music is, of course, a sprawling range of roots genres that incorporates traditional aspects of country, blues, soul, bluegrass, etc., but often represents an amalgamation or reconstitution of those styles. But one common aspect of the music that Simpson appeared to be championing during his bit of street theater is the independence, artistic purity, and authenticity at the heart of Americana music. Clearly, that spirit is alive and well in the hundreds of releases each year that could be filed under Americana's vast umbrella.

Keep reading... Show less

Two recently translated works -- Lydie Salvayre's Cry, Mother Spain and Joan Sales' Uncertain Glory -- bring to life the profound complexity of an early struggle against fascism, the Spanish Civil War.

There are several ways to write about the Spanish Civil War, that sorry three-year prelude to World War II which saw a struggling leftist democracy challenged and ultimately defeated by a fascist military coup.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Film

'Foxtrot' Is a 'Catch-22' for Our Time

Giora Bejach in Fox Trot (2017 / IMDB)

Samuel Maoz's philosophical black comedy is a triptych of surrealism laced with insights about warfare and grief that are both timeless and timely.

There's no rule that filmmakers need to have served in the military to make movies about war. Some of the greatest war movies were by directors who never spent a minute in basic (Coppola, Malick). Still, a little knowledge of the terrain helps. A filmmaker who has spent time hugging a rifle on watch understands things the civilian never can, no matter how much research they might do. With a director like Samuel Maoz, who was a tank gunner in the Israeli army and has only made two movies in eight years, his experience is critical.

Keep reading... Show less
9

South Pole Station is an unflinching yet loving look at family in all its forms.

The typical approach of the modern debut novel is to grab its audience's attention, to make a splash of the sort that gets its author noticed. This is how you get a book deal, this is how you quickly draw an audience -- books like Fight Club, The Kite Runner, even Harry Potter each went out of their way to draw in an audience, either through a defined sense of language, a heightened sense of realism, or an instant wash of wonder. South Pole Station is Ashley Shelby's debut, and its biggest success is its ability to take the opposite approach: rather than claw and scream for its reader's attention, it's content to seep into its reader's consciousness, slowly drawing that reader into a world that's simultaneously unfamiliar and totally believable.

Keep reading... Show less
7
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image