August 25, 2009

For Promotional Use Only: Clipse (Re-Up Gang) - We Got It 4 Cheap Vol. 1 (2004)


In 2002, Virginia rap duo-slash-loquacious coke dealers Pusha T and Malice of the Clipse released their debut album, Lord Willin', on Arista Records. This disc came several years after the duo's actual debut, Exclusive Audio Footage, was shelved indefinitely by Elektra Records for not being commercial enough to justify a marketing campaign of any sort. Bolstered by two hit singles, Lord Willin' went gold in the span of a couple of months. Having proven that yes, there was an audience out there for rhymes about selling cocaine, the brothers Thornton started recording their follow-up, Hell Hath No Fury, in early 2003, hoping for a release later that same year.

Yeah, that didn't happen.

Crumbling under the financial pressure of, oh, let's just say being a part of a dying industry whose sole purpose was to fleece both their employees and those who support said employees (read: artists, customers), Arista Records folded into Jive Records, leaving the Clipse stuck with a label who flat out refused to work with hip hop in general (there's a long list of disgruntled rap artists who were signed to Jive Records at one point). Compounding the issue was that the rest of the Clipse's labelmates on Star Trak Records, the vanity label of The Neptunes, were shifted to Interscope, leaving Pusha T and Malice by their damn selves. To his credit, Pharrell Williams, the guy who initially signed the duo in the first place, tried his best to get Jive Records to process the paperwork to shift his boys over with him, even threatening to pull all of his Neptunes-produced records from the second Justin Timberlake solo album. And that didn't work. (Justin went on to record almost an entire album with Timbaland, and, well, you've heard the results many times on the radio, I'm sure.)

In addition, amid all of the confusion Jive Records refused to provide the Clipse with a release date for Hell Hath No Fury until they provided the label with a song they could push to radio. (Hence the comment "those crackers weren't playing fair at Jive" on their "Mr. Me Too".) In frustration, the Clipse paired up with their friends Ab-Liva (who used to be a part of Major Figgas, a rap group that you have never heard of) and Sandman (who I believe used to work overnights downstocking Target stores prior to picking up the mic) and formed the Re-Up Gang. The new group was designed to be the ultimate resource for coke raps in the country, and as a bonus, it allowed the Clipse to release new music without dealing with the Jive Records bullshit.

The Re-Up Gang's first mixtape, We Got It 4 Cheap Vol. 1, was compiled by mixtape deejay-slash-annoying fucker Clinton Sparks, whose catchphrase "Get Familiar!" is only trumped in sheer awfulness by most anything DJ Clue shouts over his exclusives. We Got It 4 Cheap Vol. 1 features all new material, mostly recorded over already existing beats, but most fans ate this shit up as brand new songs: I remember reading interviews with Pusha T and Malice after the fact where they were amazed that the fans that went to their live shows knew these mixtape songs word for word.

1. INTRO
Typical.

2. YOU'LL SEE (FEAT PHARRELL)
The crew takes on the instrumental from a classic (relatively speaking) mixtape meeting between Biggie and The Lox, and they do so as if the beat were especially crafted for them. I'm not typically a fan of Clipse tracks that aren't produced by The Neptunes, but this is a pretty good argument for more.

3. COAST TO COAST
Clinton Sparks and his “Get Familiar!” catchphrase are already annoying the shit out of me. Great. The relatively obscure Kanye West/The Game/Common collaboration "The Whole City Behind Us" (obscure only if you don't follow mixtapes, as this track has not appeared on an album) has its beat jacked to minimal effect: everybody involved sounds as if they're spitting to something entirely different, which doesn't help matters any.

4. INTERLUDE (WHO WE DO THIS 4)


5. I SHOT YA
LL Cool J's “I Shot Ya” beat was seemingly custom-built for multiple rappers to jump on (a theory LL even believed himself, considering that he recorded the “I Shot Ya (Remix)” several years before anybody ever thought to jack the instrumental), and the Re-Up Gang have fun with it, with their usual blend of coke raps and caviar dreams. By the way, I never noticed until now how similar “I Shot Ya" sounds to that “Cannon!” instrumental that everyone on a DJ Drama/Don Cannon Gangsta Grillz mixtape spits to. Huh.

6. RE-UP ANTHEM
Not everyone on here sounds like they fully signed off on the bouncy beat (apparently swiped from a song by Ray J and B2K...yeah, great choice, guys), but they perform decently enough. Not very memorable, though.

7. YOU KNOW MY STYLE
This beat (from a Nas song of the same name) sounds very similar to the one used for “Re-Up Anthem”, even though it has more of an old-school twist. Even though each rapper kept it moving, I'll be damned if I could remember anything about their verses.

8. INTERLUDE (GET FAMILIAR)


9. DROP IT LIKE IT'S HOT (FEAT SNOOP DOGG)
The crew tackles an actual Neptunes beat, the one that Snoop Dogg used for his track of the same name. This was always one of those instrumentals that had to grow on me. Keeping Snoop's chorus intact was an iffy move, but the performances on here were fairly entertaining.

10. N----S KNOW
I wasn't familiar with this song's tweak on the “Player's Anthem” instrumental, which makes a formerly happy song dark as hell, as if the players in question have found themselves dropped into the middle of a jungle and are forced to use their wits, charm, and bling to fight their way out, This track was pretty fucking ill.

11. STAY FROM AROUND ME
The John Ritter reference early on was unexpected; it's almost as if the beat alleviated any concern from the consciences of the artists involved, allowing them to basically say whatever they wanted. This was pleasant as hell.

12. INTERLUDE (FEAT HASSAN, VOICE OF REASON)
This interlude was actually pretty funny. Or, at least the image of driving around wearing a red nose and size nineteen Chuck Taylors makes me laugh, anyway.

13. STUNTIN' Y'ALL (FEAT PHARRELL)
This was an actual unreleased Clipse song at the time of We Got It 4 Cheap Vol. 1's release, brought to us by The Neptunes (I assume Chad had some involvement, but we all know how Hell Hath No Fury turned out). Pusha T and Malice ride the beat as well as you would expect, but this sounds like a step backward from Lord Willin'.

14. INTERLUDE (HIT MEN)
Pusha explains that “Stuntin' Y'all” was intended for Hell Hath No Fury. Obviously, since we can go to the store and grab a copy of that album, the song didn't end up making the final cut. Which makes sense, as it wouldn't have fit in with that album's dark themes at all.

15. RADICAL (SANDMAN FREESTYLE)
An interesting Sandman freestyle over a beat that I'm pretty sure was also used by Shawn Carter and Curtis Jackson on one of the S. Carter mixtapes. This wasn't bad, but it doesn't prove to me that Sandman could thrive on his own, a feat which he's actually trying to do currently, as he recently left the Re-Up Gang to pursue other endeavors (and to pick up some extra hours).

16. DON'T LET ME DIE (AB-LIVA FREESTYLE)
This Ab-Liva solo track is not bad at all. I don't know if I would check for a solo album or anything, but this was still pretty fucking enjoyable.

17. INTERLUDE (SANDMAN)


18. JUST A B-BOY
I appreciate the fact that the Clipse used this mixtape as an actual group effort from the Re-Up Gang and not just as Pusha T and Malice, featuring special guests. That is the only good thing I can say about this boring-ass song, though.

19. INTERLUDE (AB-LIVA)


20. THE SERMON
Ab-Liva decides that the mixtape isn't preachy enough, so for one of his solo tracks, he approaches a serious topic (the high number of African Americans incarcerated compared with any other race) with an attitude that seems to imply that he wrote his verses without any concern for the topic.

21. NOTHING LIKE IT
Ab-Liva and Sandman pair up over a dull thumping beat with a Kanye West-esque soul sample that grew tired back when Kanye was still creating them. (So it makes sense when I tell you that Kanye did create this beat, originally for Beanie Sigel.) Moving on...

22. QUEEN BITCH
The Re-Up Gang brings back the beat from Lil' Kim's “Queen Bitch”, a track I liked in the past. Regardless of what they actually say, though, I can't look beyond the distracting beat (as it is so distinctive), so this song isn't as good as it could have been. Speaking of “Queen Bitch”, if you haven't heard The Notorious B.I.G.'s reference track for Kimberly, it's one of the funniest and creepiest things I have ever heard, even though it pulls back the curtain and reveals the wizard more than a little bit. You can find out more about it by clicking here.

23. CROSS THE BORDER
This was pretty fucking good. Ab-Liva and Sandman seem to step their game up while alongside the Clipse. This track begs the question “How many different ways can they rhyme about cocaine before it gets old?”, though.

24. PUSSY (REMIX) (FEAT PHARRELL)
I think the original version if this Neptunes-produced piffle appeared on the soundtrack of Barbershop 2: Back In Business. No, seriously. This sounds much better than “Stuntin' Y'all”, but that isn't saying a whole lot.

25. OUTRO
Well, every mixtape has to end sometime. Using the end theme music for The Wire was a nice touch.

SHOULD YOU TRACK IT DOWN? We Got It 4 Cheap Vol. 1 showcases the Clipse and their friends rhyming with a zeal and appreciation for the culture that tends to be missing from most new artists today. Not every song clicks, and some of the verses blend in with one another a bit too easily, but Pusha T, Malice, Ab-Liva, and Sandman are all worthy of their cult following (as a crew, not necessarily individually). This mixtape isn't as consistent as either of the Clipse's two officially released albums, but it was pretty entertaining, and you will find yourself liking more than a few of these tracks.

-Max

RELATED POSTS:
The other Clipse write-ups can be found by clicking here.

1 comment:

  1. the album cover got me horny

    ReplyDelete