While Clipse and the Re-Up Gang have already hit legendary status with their We Got It 4 Cheap mixtape trilogy, their new self-titled album sees them passing two career milestones. Along with this being the group's first official, non-mixtape release, it also marks Clipse's first official release since splitting from Virginia brethren The Neptunes. But it seems like their new situations have them with cold feet--The Clipse Presents The Re-Up Gang is a messy hodgepodge of colorless production and recycled verses that notably taints the group's previously flawless catalog.
This time around, the group's "We Got It For Cheap" mantra describes their beat selection rather than their drug trafficking. Up until this point, Re-Up Gang's production has been nearly just as notable as their sharp, coke-laced bars--whether it's through the varied sparse or layered soundbeds from The Neptunes, or their sly selection of older and newer tracks that were already used (i.e. Notorious B.I.G.'s "Who Shot Ya?"). But here, they're primarily relegated to B- and C-list beats that minimize the sharp flows and eye-widening punchlines that Re-Up Gang fans have grown to love. Unless Wikipedia is playing a cruel (yet funny) joke by calling the production crew behind seven of the disc's 12 songs The Sleepwalkers, the group is aptly-named: the bland, minimalistic beeps of "Been Thru So Much" would sound more appropriate on a Soundclick profile than on a Re-Up album, and the faux Neptunes imitations on songs like "Money" and "Street Money" (yes, they're separate song titles) is almost insulting. It's almost as if The Sleepwalkers downloaded Re-Up acapellas, added their beats to them, and drew album art. If this is a career that Clipse has to look forward to after splitting with Pharrell and Chad, they've got some reevaluating to do.
What makes it worse is that many of these verses and choruses here are recycled from the group's We Got It For Cheap Vol. 3 mixtape from earlier this year, on which beats and rhymes were meshed perfectly. But here, those beats are substituted for forgettable ones, and listeners shouldn't be expected to act like Vol. 3 never happened. Unfortunately, "We Know" does exactly that, keeping the same song references and adlibs as the group's remake of Shawty Lo's "Dey Know" but changing the instrumental. And as if the other shoddy attempts at biting The Neptunes' sound weren't enough, they replace an actual Pharrell beat on "Show You How To Hustle" for an elementary mixture of xylophones, synths and toots.
Especially frustrating is that lyrically, for the most part, this is the Clipse and Re-Up Gang that listeners have grown to love. The BAPE-wearing, drug-pushing Pusha T and Malice pair razor sharp flows with eye-widening punchlines for nearly every verse they spit, while the other two Re-Up members, Ab-Liva and Sandman, notably keep up. But the insipid production and the abundance of recycled material are too much to put up with. Even the highlights--the Scott Storch-laced "Fast Life," the re-done "Re Up Gang Intro"--are only good in comparison to the lows of the rest of the disc. Hopefully, Clipse are saving the better instrumentals for their upcoming album as a duo, and they've got new verses to match. Otherwise, fans may get their Re-Up music for cheap, too--and dispose of it just as frugally.