Re-Up Gang Clipse Presents: Re-Up Gang

[Koch; 2008]

Styles: that on-the-fence hard/soft dialectic rap shit
Others: G-Unit, 50 Cent, Jay-Z, Lil Wayne

Silver spoons are virtually non-existent in the world of hip-hip. Princes (Fresh not Paul) don’t live here anymore. No, homey -- hip-hop is bourgeoisie (read: self-made millionaires) through and through, with steely personas harder than diamonds on any damn chain and hard-boiled back stories more Juice than “Juicy;” i.e. the nine shots heard round the world. It begins all hustle and blow, with little cash flow. But what happens when the records start selling and Hollywood comes calling? Do you keep spittin’ hard rhymes, more verisimilitude than fact? Or do you go soft, staying true by rhymin’ about your new affluent life while heads scream “sell-out”? Such is the hard/soft dialectic that has since dominated hip-hop music, one that hip-hop artists must adroitly traverse or risk falling-off. Some (Jay-Z) have succeeded, others (Ja Rule, 50 Cent) have failed, while many are still in limbo (Lil Wayne).

Clipse belong to this latter group. When we first met the Thornton brothers, better known as Malice and Pusha T, they were as hard as it gets: still “Grindin” on Lord Willin’ and were soon making some of that “Dirty Money” on their classic album, Hell Hath No Fury. Now on their latest effort, Clipse Presents: Re-Up Gang, joined by Sandman and Ab-Liva (the less-gifted half of the Re-Up Gang), they simply rhyme about “Money.” Over a jaunty “I Like the Way She Do It”-esque electro melody, Pusha T talks about “sellin’ […that] Whitney and Bobby,” but his bars are principally affluent and salubrious: “Spend Benjamins just as fast as they print ‘em/ walk through the city in your thousand dollar denims/ Ride foreign cars with the V12s in ‘em/ Pop corks dedicate this toast to the villains.” Via the transformations of its artistic voice, Clipse are writing a grand, multi-volume, post-Scarface-ian epic, where there is more to a hard knock life than simply the hard. There is also the soft.

This ongoing transformation explains the peculiar first single, “Fast Life.” Instead of eccentric, minimalist, clicking and clanging Neptunes production, Clipse rhyme over a typically accessible Scott Storch beat. As per the title, Pusha T and Malice give and go bars about how money ain’t a thang. And in the hands of the Thornton brothers, Malice, in this case, tired subject matter becomes golden: “Coke money turned rap money, give it a rinse/ Next come the spin cycle/ The rims on that Benz get more spin than Michael/ I leave them hoes with an eyeful/ Malice be the truth like the Bible/ To the red-bottomed souls/ All they do is stare like I’m in a fish bowl.” Also exemplary are “Million Dollar Corner,” which logically aggrandizes the excellent “20k Money Making Brothers on the Corner” from the Re-Up Gang mix tape, We Got It for Cheap, Vol. 3 and “Show You How To Hustle,” on which a detached, omniscient Re-Up Gang speak in past tense about how they “Got it/ The hoes, the home, […] the watch, the chain, the Range, the fuckin’ street fame.”

As fresh as the Re-Up Gang keep their rhymes and beats, much of the album has a cheap feeling -- a We Got It 4 Cheap, cheap, that is, as nearly half of the album is comprised simply of freshly mixed tracks from Volume 3. Not a full-fledged album but far superior to a mix tape, Clipse Presents: Re-Up Gang is at its best a hard stepping-stone out of limbo and a sneak preview of a softer Clipse. So, will the Thorntons be able to adroitly traverse that dialectic or fall off? For that answer, we will all have to wait Till the Casket Drops later this year. But, Clipse Presents: Re-Up Gang will certainly make that wait much more tolerable.

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