April 9, 2011

For Promotional Use Only: Clipse - We Got It 4 Cheap Vol. 2 (2005)

After the non-event that was Pusha T's freebie mixtape Fear Of God, I decided that the G.O.O.D. Music-signed half of the Clipse works better as a part of an ensemble, hence today's post.  If you're not partial to coke rape, there will be another post in a couple of days, so we'll see you then.

Although it seems strange today, with Virginia duo Clipse having released three albums to store shelves and Pusha T keeping the crew's name alive on blogs the world over thanks to his association with Kanye West's G.O.O.D. Music label, there was once a time, way back in the dark ages (better known as the middle of the last decade), when Jive Records consistently refused to drop their second magnum opus Hell Hath No Fury.  The mixtape series We Got It 4 Cheap was born out of the frustration Pusha T and Malice felt when dealing with their label, who declined to exercise their potion to commercially release the project until the Clipse recorded a radio-friendly hit (which never really happened).

After the success of their first mixtape, which contained exclusive freestyles over other rapper's beats and introduced the masses to the Re-Up Gang, made up of the Clipse alongside their friends Ab-Liva and Sandman, the duo took to the circuit once again for We Got It 4 Cheap Vol. 2, which features more of the same, although that repetition isn't a bad thing when coming from this crew.  This time around, they tackle instrumentals that are a bit lesser-known, but unlike the last installment, Ab-Liva and Sandman don't receive solo tracks to rock over: it's assumed at this point that the audience already knows who they are, so all four artists spit over every single beat presented, with the only exception being whenever Pharrell Williams (of The Neptunes fame) was in or around the booth.

We Got It 4 Cheap Vol. 2 was, once again, presented by deejay Clinton Sparks, and it sparked a fire on blogs at the time, thereby proving that this was the smartest move that the Clipse could have made at that time, but also ushering in an era of inferior imitations by other rappers trapped in label shenanigans, one which we are still currently living in.

(Note: I'm reviewing the version of We Got It 4 Cheap Vol. 2 that removed all of the Clinton Sparks drops.  Although that isn't the version linked to throughout this write-up, the No-DJ mixtape is easily found on the Interweb.)

I have to admit, this “last week on We Got It 4 Cheap” intro, reminding listeners as to what occurred on the last episode, put me into the right frame of mind for this mixtape. If only the verses presented were blended together a bit better, this could have been brilliant. And no, I'm not joking and/or high.

Okay, here's the true introduction to We Got It 4 Cheap Vol. 2. Over a lo-fi originally-crafted-for-Ludacris beat that sounds at once familiar and entirely foreign, all four rappers “catch wreck” (a slang phrase I've always liked) without the aid of a chorus or any other discernible characteristics of song structure: this track is made up of a single verse from each participant, and it is instantly entertaining, thereby proving why people were paying attention to the Clipse and their friends in the first place. It runs a bit too long to be considered a true intro, but this is a mixtape: all bets are off.

I've always considered Timbaland's beat for The Game's “Put You On The Game” to be one of his finest mainstream creations, although Jayceon may not have been the best fit for the sound back in the era of The Documentary. The Re-Up Gang apparently feels the same way, as they each take turns demolishing the instrumental, and even though they throw in a useless hook, this disguised freestyle session still works. They eventually cede the microphone to Pharrell Williams, Timbaland's main production “nemesis” from his area of Virginia (they're actually quite friendly), and even he sounds good. Huh.

Unlike the first volume in this mixtape series, the Clipse are sticking with the script: both songs thus far have featured all four members of the Re-Up Gang, and this one is no exception. “Run This Shit” wins the award for sounding most like an actual album track, as though it could be pushed to radio and actually make an impact. Hell, the Clipse should probably do that shit now. Who cares that this is an older Tony Yayo song? Sometimes you have to think outside of the box. (That phrase is used waaaaaaaaaay too fucking often, by the way; do people even remember what it means anymore?)

I didn't care much for this one. The instrumental is too bombastic, like early Neptunes production had a tendency to be (although this beat is from a T.I. song produced by Scott Storch), and all four artists run rampant as though the beat didn't exist in the first place. Ab-Liva's opening verse was fairly interesting until he started comparing himself (indirectly) to LL Cool J and Marvin Gaye, a misstep that the other three couldn't overcome.

On which the Clipse prove that it is possible to fit four rappers onto a track that is three minutes and ten seconds long, but which is otherwise immeasurably dull. The chemistry between these four is undeniable, but their beat selection has failed them this time around, as the Clipse tend not to sound that great on overly soulful samples. Oh well.


8. ZEN
There is nothing remotely zen about the obnoxious beat on this original piece (which, I believe, was once slated for inclusion on an early cut of Hell Hath No Fury); hell, the word “zen” isn't even used, save for on a goofy hook that doubles as a flashback to Afrika Bambaataa and the Soul Sonic Force's “Planet Rock”. The instrumental is so grating on the mind grapes that I couldn't wait for it to end, so I suppose it's a good thing that none of these four say anything appealing, so that you can skip past it without regret.

The Re-Up Gang swipes their second Game beat of the evening, this one taken from the similarly-titled radio hit that originally featured Curtis Jackson talking about his mother kissing a girl (which is probably a euphemism for drug abuse or something, but it still sounds funny). Unfortunately, these guys stick with the format of the original track, hook and all, so the enjoyment factor is directly proportionate to how much you liked Jayceon's take. When you discover that Pharrell's awkward contribution actually sounds better than The Game's original verses, though, things start to look up. I actually liked Skateboard P more than Ab-Liva and Sandman on this beat, probably because he's much better suited for radio airplay than those two.

“Cobra” is one of the better Mobb Deep tracks in recent memory, and the Re-Up Gang uses its beat to their advantage, as its simplistic loop lends itself well to mixtape lyrical venom (a fact Mobb Deep's boss Curtis Jackson knows all too well, as he has also used this beat for his own “I Run New York”). I wish they didn't feel the need to add a shitty hook, though. Skateboard P pops up in a surprise cameo (well, it would have been a surprise if you didn't read the featured credits before diving into this paragraph), which makes sense: at this point he was very focused on writing and not so much on the production aspect of making music, so of course he would want to jump onto whatever beat would have him.

The nostalgic feel of Showbiz and A.G.'s “Next Level (Nyte Time Mix)” is jacked for another random track with no actual theme: thus far, We Got It 4 Cheap Vol. 2 sounds like an album from a Slaughterhouse-like band of brothers who don't really like to focus on anything besides talking shit and outdoing the last guy. This was a nice change of pace from the other beats utilized on here, so this was fun, but I have a feeling that most of the Clipse's fans probably think this song moves too slowly. If that describes you, then let me be the first to advise that you are completely wrong.

At this point, you either enjoy the fact that the Clipse continue to find new and interesting ways to spin their coke raps, or you're tired of the lack of variety in their subject matter. The Re-Up Gang uses one of Common's better-known Kanye West-handled beats to run them corners, providing the track with so much detail that it's almost as though you're watching a music video that doesn't exist. Still, drugs are bad, y'all.

These guys spell out the name of their crew so often on We Got It 4 Cheap Vol. 2 that you'll be forgiven if you feel that you've been watching an old-school episode of Sesame Street, the ones where Oscar the Grouch is selling that white. Of course the Clipse would jack the beat of a song entitled “I'm A Hustler”, since that's all they talk about! This freestyle session ends in an anticlimactic fashion, but the Re-Up Gang do well over this repurposed Swizz beat.

14. DAYTONA 500
The Re-Up Gang hijack Ghostface Killah's “Daytona 500” (which liberally borrowed from “Nautilus”, the Bob James classic that every single rap song in existence samples from) and race to the finish, proving that four rappers can actually provide meaningful contributions to a track that is barely two minutes long. (This is a lesson that Ghost, Method Man, and Raekwon failed to learn before recording Wu-Monstrosity Massacre.) There's something about this beat that brings out the competitive spirit in rappers, and these four use that to their advantage. I couldn't help thinking of Speed Racer the entire time, though. Wu stans will understand.

I can actually imagine Pharrell acting uppity about including the next track on a mixtape that isn't really his own. But that doesn't mean this interlude was necessary. Good to know that he writes his own lyrics, though.

The original “Maybe” is a N*E*R*D track from Fly Or Die, but this remix features Pharrell Williams rolling for dolo, illegally co-opting Outkast's “Elevators” beat for a remix that shares little resemblance to its predecessor. Skateboard P isn't that bad of a rapper (I've certainly heard worse), and this instrumental always manages to calm me down, but even I'll admit that the song sounds out of place on We Got It 4 Cheap Vol. 2, as none of the Re-Up Gang bothers to appear. Which is too bad: Pusha and Malice could have murdered this shit. Still, not bad.

A lot of rappers have already rocked over this funky-as-fuck Amerie song, so this isn't exactly an original idea, but what stands out on this track is just how easily these four adapt to the unconventional beat (although, technically, that statement could be used to describe their work over all of the stolen beats on We Got It 4 Cheap Vol. 2). The only weak link on here is Sandman, whose contribution is so lazy that the song nearly stops in its tracks to take a nap. Otherwise, this was entertaining, but I'd rather hear the original song, especially since Amerie needs all the support she can get.

To close out the night's festivities, the Re-Up Gang tackles a Lil' Kim beat that is custom-built to carry sentimental rhymes...and they write about how much better they are at everything than you. Okay, that's not entirely accurate, but it's pretty close. Pusha T gets the last laugh, thanking his experience selling cocaine for helping him with his lyrics, adding that without drugs, he wouldn't have anything to say (and then punctuating that statement with dead air behind the mic, which was pretty fucking funny). Whether that's true or not, the Re-Up Gang have proven that they can carry an entire album-length mixtape based on chemistry alone.

SHOULD YOU TRACK IT DOWN? Yeah, probably. With We Got It 4 Cheap Vol. 2, the Clipse, Ab-Live, and Sandman allow listeners a glimpse into an alternate universe, one where they work as selfish radio station programmers who only like to hear their own verses over yesterday's hit records. Although I've been more than a bit wary of hearing the brothers Thornton over non-Neptunes tracks, We Got It 4 Cheap Vol. 2 shows that these guys are more than capable of destroying instrumentals that already have a proven spark. More so than on the first installment in the series, Pusha and Malice show that they can thrive even without the blingy synth soundscapes their frequent production collaborators provide. Ab-Liva and Sandman also accept their heavily amped-up roles in the crew, as every single song (save for Skateboard P's “Maybe (Remix)”) features all four rappers telling their side of the story. I'll admit that I probably enjoyed the coke raps of We Got It 4 Cheap Vol. 2 much more because I listened to the No-DJ version, but that just means that you two should also hunt down that particular variation, as I'm sure that I'm not the only guy who finds the Clinton Sparks catchphrase “Get Familiar!” to be annoying as fuck. This was pretty goddamn entertaining. Much more so than the last Clipse album, anyway




  1. djbosscrewwreckaApril 09, 2011

    This mixtape is heat. Re-up gang kill most of the beats here.
    Gotta disagree about "Roll with the winners' - bombastic beats are perfect for this crew. And what do you expect a song called "Roll with the winners" to sound like?!

  2. Mr. AquariusApril 09, 2011

    I don't think anyone is partial to coke rape Max.

  3. Thanks for the review Max. Will have to check this out. These guys are fire. Pusha T was excellent on MBDTF.


  4. Mr. Aquarius done stole my comment.

  5. I've always found the Clipse way too 1-dimensional for my liking. I just could never get into them.

  6. should i listen to this or follow the leader,