May 8, 2010
Eminem Presents: The Re-Up (December 4, 2006)
In early 2006, Shady Records label president Marshall Mathers III had the bright idea of creating a mixtape compilation that showcased the many artists that he signed to his vanity imprint. Ever since the runaway success of his first artist, the singer-songwriter Curtis Jackson, and the not-as-impressive-but-still-decent-enough sales from his first group, D-12, Marshall had been on quite a tear, setting up as many aspiring rappers with deals as his checkbook could comfortably finance.
That he later went on to drop the majority of his stable is beside the point.
He teamed up with producer The Alchemist, who was set to mix the label sampler together for release on blogs the world over. Or at least that was the original plan: while Al Maman was figuring out which records would make the final cut, Marshall decided that his employees deserved a much wider audience that a niche hip hop blog could accommodate. Thus, the major label release Eminem Presents: The Re-Up was born.
According to Eminem, what began life as a simple label sampler grew quickly into a viable commercial attempt, as each of his artists (Obie Trice, who already had two albums under his belt and didn't really need the exposure; Stat Quo, the Southern emcee signed for his proximity to the bottom of the United States map; Cashis, a Left Coast rapper by way of Chicago; and Bobby Creekwater, the Atlanta alternative for those who feel Stat Quo was too humble; these four appear alongside the aforementioned D-12 and the multi-millionaire Curtis Jackson, whose contributions define the term "contractual obligation") turned in work that Shady Records (a subsidiary of Aftermath Entertainment, the home that Dr. Dre built, although he doesn't appear aware that it was built to release actual albums) felt was marketable to a general audience, or at least, they thought they could make some fucking money off of it. The Alchemist retained his position as the album's arranger, but this is no mere mixtape: Eminem Presents: The Re-Up is an actual collection of songs compiled to constitute an album, a distinction I have to make since none of the songs have any sort of relation to one another whatsoever.
Even though he may not have had the best luck with his stable of artists, Eminem was no idiot: Eminem Presents: The Re-Up, in addition to including his own name in the title, contains no less than eight appearances from the boss, which is more than any of the newer artists that the sampler was ostensibly designed to promote. He also handles the majority of the production, which will probably cause a good number of you to skip the rest of the review and switch windows back to the deviant porn you've been trying to download all morning. The Alchemist's touch is barely felt throughout the project: had it not been for his minimal production efforts and the fact that he's mentioned inside the liner notes, it would be impossible to detect Al's presence. This is an Eminem album through and through, intended to bridge the gap between the incorrigible Encore and whatever the hell Marshall's follow-up was going to be (of course, he released Relapse in 2009, but back in 2006 his next project was unknown, so Eminem Presents: The Re-Up contained the newest Em tracks his stans were going to get for quite a while).
Eminem Presents: The Re-Up went on to sell more than a million copies despite poor to middling reviews, but these days only Curtis Jackson and Cashis still have their names on office doors at the label offices (and I'm still not even sure about the Cashis: his space may have been converted to a storage room for all of Em's leftover pills and horror movie memorabilia at this point). So it was sort of successful, but anybody that picked up the sampler today would have to actually work to track down the artists involved now, so in that way, we're all the losers in this game.
A game that none of us signed on to play in the first fucking place.
1. SHADY NARCOTICS (INTRO) (EMINEM)
Since this is basically a record label sampler, it makes sense that Marshall would tack an intro onto this shit. And that's all I have to say about that.
2. WE'RE BACK (EMINEM, OBIE TRICE, BOBBY CREEKWATER, STAT QUO, & CASHIS)
Ahh, the peril of being a hip hop artist: misinterpretation. If you read Marshall's opening verse improperly, in the midst of his listing of (very valid) reasons why he is never listed in the top five (by the way, Em is full of shit: even now, while he isn't held in the same regard as he once was, people still think of him as being one of the best that has ever done it), he sounds like he takes a shot at AZ, of all people. Em doesn't stick around long enough to see any repercussions, though: he quickly leaves the mic to his four weed carriers, all of whom fail to impress over a weak Marshall beat punctuated by a brief singing vocal from the host. Groan.
3. PISTOL PISTOL (REMIX) (OBIE TRICE)
Obie “Obie Trice” Trice swipes a beat from D-12's Devil's Night album, an interesting choice when you consider that D-12's major label debut dropped in 2001, five years before Eminem Presents: The Re-Up. For his part, Obie fails to leave any sort of mark on this Em beat, making this the time the listener could use to go make me a sandwich. As any good label employee should, Obie reminds listeners about his album Second Round's On Me toward the end.
4. MURDER (BIZZARE & KUNIVA FEAT EMINEM)
I've always been baffled by the fact that Bizarre has the most prolific solo career out of everyone in D-12 that isn't Eminem, since he isn't that great: shock value can only carry one so far. He plays it straight, for the most part, on “Murder”, and as a result, he sounds wholly undeserving of whatever success he has garnered. In short, he sounds boring. Kuniva comes off a bit better, but neither man proves that the whole is less than the sum of its parts.
5. EVERYTHING IS SHADY (CASHIS)
Aside from Obie Trice, Cashis is the only other potholder that managed to release a solo album on Shady Records. True, it was an EP (specifically, The County Hound EP), but that's just a technicality. The blind loyalty prevalent on this project is puzzling: aside from one guy, nobody on Shady has ever moved a ton of units. (Let's not forget that Marshall himself isn't really signed to Shady Records, either.) And the guy who I'm speaking of (Curtis) is floundering these days as well. I've heard worse rappers than Cashis (or Ca$his, depending on what side his shadow appears on) reach great heights, but there isn't anything on here that would make me rush out to pick up a full-length from the guy.
6. RE-UP (EMINEM & 50 CENT)
On a track where our host recruits his employee of the month to spit a verse, Eminem says out loud what we're all feeling: “I'm tired of this wack shit.” I may have taken that line out of context, but around the time that Marshall tells everybody to “kiss [his] black ass”, I was sorely tempted to chuck this disc off of a fucking bridge, but then I was afraid that it would land on a passing barge and, through a wacky series of coincidences, it would end up back at my fucking house, and I can't have that.
7. YOU DON'T KNOW (EMINEM, 50 CENT, LLOYD BANKS, & CASHIS)
To my knowledge, this is the only single that was unleashed from Eminem Presents: The Re-Up, or at least it's the only single that had a video commissioned for it. I suppose this could mean that Cashis was the recipient of the highest profile of all the seat fillers on this project, as he snagged a spot on this posse city alongside three successful artists (yep, Banks was somewhat successful with his debut, The Hunger For More; it should also be noted that Banks is actually signed to G-Unit and not to Shady directly). The beat, provided by Marshall himself, isn't that bad, but it could have been utilized better by nearly any other rapper in history. Still, this could have been much worse.
8. JIMMY CRACK CORN (EMINEM & 50 CENT)
I don't know how I missed this before, but Marshall takes some clear shots at Mariah Carey at the tail end of his second verse. I almost thought this song was decent, even with yet another Curtis Jackson cameo, but Em's hook is fucking ridiculous, and the forced banter between these two at the end is awkward at best, as if they're just putting on a show for the cameras but rarely speak outside of work. Oh well.
9. TRAPPED (PROOF FEAT EMINEM)
The late Proof is represented on Eminem Presents: The Re-Up in the form of an incomplete track that contains only one verse. There isn't much to critique on here (the song runs for less than one minute), but for what it's worth, a joint album between Eminem, Proof, and Royce da 5'9” would have been fucking epic. Sigh.
10. WHATEVER YOU WANT (KON ARTIS & SWIFTY MCVAY)
The final two members of D-12 who have yet to appear on this sampler finally decide to come in to work for “Whatever You Want”. Mr. Porter proves that he should maybe stick with his production work full time, and Swifty, whom I normally like, sounds unconvinced of his own violent outbursts, as if even he doesn't really believe that D-12 is “killing shit”. This would have been disappointing if I had even the tiniest amount of expectations for it.
11. TALKIN' ALL THAT (CASHIS)
Cashis sounds like Generic Rapper #4080, with all of his talk about “pussy n----s” and not giving a fuck about much. Rikanatti's beat is actually pretty good, but it's wasted on this solo effort, on which the star fails to establish himself as someone whose career is worth following.
12. BY MY SIDE (STAT QUO)
Stat Quo's ode to his firearm exposes him for what he really is: a gimmick. The sing-songy flow (which reminded me of Nelly for some reason), the deliberate mispronunciation of simple words such as “quarter” and “yeah”, and the overt violent content, present even though he hasn't actually been in the rap game long enough to feel threatened by anybody, are all carefully calculated moves on behalf of Shady Records, crafted ostensibly to make the label some money, but inadvertently showing the outright contempt Em and company have for the hip hop audience. Fuck this song.
13. WE RIDE FOR SHADY (OBIE TRICE & CASHIS)
The best part about this track is that one of the artists featured is no longer a part of Shady Records, which makes their combined blind loyalty that much more questionable. Cashis actually destroys Obie over this goofy Alchemist beat, which probably could have been better utilized by a far hungrier rapper, but that's just my opinion. The hook is overly wordy, but how else could these two get their point across? Oh, I know: editing.
14. THERE HE IS (BOBBY CREEKWATER)
Bobby Creekwater, who finally gets his own solo showcase on here, isn't a good fit for the Shady Records either, but at least he's ten times more interesting that Stat Quo. Given the right promotional backing, he could do fairly well for himself, as he isn't bad: his lyrics are sharp, containing a healthy mix of threatening, humorous, and whole grains, tilting more towards the funny (although I find the violent threats of most rappers to be pretty fucking funny, but maybe that's just me). I believe Em did the man a favor by cutting him loose from the label, as he may be a better fit for Def Jam (as they are now, not the rap powerhouse they once were). Al Maman's beat on here was also surprisingly entertaining.
15. TRYIN' TO WIN (STAT QUO)
It makes sense that Stat Quo gets the most solo songs on this label sampler: he was the first guy Marshall signed to Shady after Curtis and Obie. Al's chemistry set fails to conjure up anything interesting (he's truly a hit and miss producer: there are tracks of his which I love, and there are some that I would walk right past if they were drowning in a lake), but, admittedly, Stat sounds slightly better that he did on “By My Side”. Only slightly better, though: no need to go crazy.
16. SMACK THAT (REMIX) (AKON FEAT STAT QUO, BOBBY CREEKWATER, & EMINEM)
The original version of this annoying song (which my wife absolutely hates, which I find hilarious for some reason: of all the shitty songs Em has been involved with, this is the one she takes offense to?) was already unnecessary, but Akon was popular at the time, so he pops up mysteriously on a sampler for a label he was not signed to. Thankfully, Eminem decided to not embarrass himself any further, choosing to cede his mic time from the original cut to his lackeys instead. This shit just evaporated into thin air, so I have to assume that it sucked balls.
17. PUBLIC ENEMY #1 (EMINEM)
After a false start at the end of the previous track, Marshall enters the wide world of paranoia on this self-produced one-verse wonder that wouldn't have sounded out of place on Encore. For the first time on this entire fucking project, Eminem sounds normal, spitting coherent rhymes without hiding behind any sort of disguise, making this the best Slim Shady performance on here thus far.
18. GET LOW (STAT QUO)
Stat Quo must have a master's degree in fellatio, or maybe he was extremely frugal with spending his advance, because that motherfucker somehow scored the lone Dr. Dre-produced track on this project for his own damn self. In reality, this was probably yet another calculated move, obviously designed to attract the Curtis Jackson “In Da Club” audience (or maybe folks who liked The Game's “Higher”, a track I still feel is fairly underrated today), but while the instrumental is pretty good, you shouldn't go to the buffet at the Bellagio after having already eaten several meals prior, or else you'll miss the point; Stat isn't hungry at all, and it shows in his delivery. What a shame.
19. SKI MASK WAY (EMINEM REMIX) (50 CENT)
Curtis, happy label employee that he is, supplies a remix to an album track off of The Massacre, one which only switched up the underlying music (instead of the late Disco D, Marshall handles this remix). Aside from that, it's the exact same song, and I have to say, I prefer the original. If I absolutely had to choose one, of course. Although his line “This is the flow that ruined Jeffrey's career” made me laugh, mainly because it's true: Ja Rule can't even get arrested today, thanks to what Curtis did to him on wax. I can at least admit that.
20. SHAKE THAT (REMIX) (EMINEM & NATE DOGG FEAT OBIE TRICE & BOBBY CREEKWATER)
Another unnecessary remix to an Eminem club song, although this one was an actual Em track and not a guest appearance on someone else's piffle. Nate Dogg's singing is hilariously profane, which almost makes this work, but once again, Marshall avoids standing in the line of fire, ceding his verses to his pill carriers. What was the point of including this, exactly?
21. CRY NOW (SHADY REMIX) (OBIE TRICE FEAT KUNIVA, BOBBY CREEKWATER, CASHIS, & STAT QUO)
Obie Trice's signature song, which I've written about before, receives some additional contributions from his labelmates. And once again, this shit is fairly amazing. At least the beat is, anyway: the verses from Cashis and Stat Quo aren't up to the level that the Witt & Pep instrumental establishes. I really thing Obie should have ignored the purpose of this sampler and, instead, recruited some outside help to spit on this composition. At least Obie sounds more comfortable on here than he did on the original track, though.
22. NO APOLOGIES (EMINEM)
Listen to Marshall's flow on this final track. Sounds much different than he did on “Public Enemy #1”, right? That's because this song was originally intended for The Marshall Mathers LP or The Eminem Show (I forget which), back when Em sounded clearheaded (even with the rampant drug use) and was less full of himself than he is now. As a result, this is actually the beat Marshall performance I've heard in the past few years. I'm curious as to whose name was edited out of the final verse, though.
If you purchase Eminem Presents: The Re-Up off of iTunes, you receive a bonus track.
23. BILLION BUCKS (STAT QUO)
This bonus Stat Quo solo track is fucking awful. The man has no business behind a mic. Thank God he was dropped from Shady soon after this was released.
FINAL THOUGHTS: As most label samplers tend to be, Eminem Presents: The Re-Up is more miss than hit. It doesn't help that Eminem decided to handle much of the production work himself (as a cost-cutting measure, perhaps), and his stable of talent (five solo artists and one group) all offer varying degrees of quality, but none of them even come close to the host on his worst day. Eminem Presents: The Re-Up only proves that Marshall should maybe forget about running a record label for a while and, I don't know, focus on himself more. (The only exception to this rule I will allow is the supposed Slaughterhouse signing to Shady Records (where I not-so-secretly hope that contractual issues will somehow leave Joe Budden out of the loop), and even then I want Em to realize that we don't want to hear him behind the boards for the majority of that project.) A toddler's handful of the tracks on this overloaded Shady lovefest are decent, but only one of those tracks doesn't feature Em on his own. That's never a good sign. Encore was actually much more entertaining than this shit, and that album was fucking terrible.
BUY OR BURN? Don't do either one, unless you're (a) a Shady Records historian, or (b) masochistic. The three songs listed below are worth your time (especially the Obie Trice remix), but the rest of this project could disappear off of the face of the Earth and nobody would be the wiser, and I'm including Eminem in that observation.
BEST TRACKS: “No Apologies”; “Cry Now (Shady Remix)”; “Public Enemy #1”
Catch up on the Eminem, D-12, Curtis Jackson, and Obie Trice write-ups by clicking on the artist names.