Let me start by clearing a few things up: I am not, nor have I ever been, a “coke rap”...
DJBooth Album Review
It’s like when you get a Hi-Def tv, and then go watch your friend’s regular tv; it’s the same show, but everything looks dull and lifeless. After putting the Clipse’s stunning sophomore album, Hell Hath No Fury, on repeat for a solid month, it’s almost painful to go back to anything else. See, brothers Malice and Pusha T elevated the dope game to a spiritual level, a religion in which Jesus was the connect and the altar is the triple-beam scale – all while dropping metaphors with the precision of a surgeon. Legal issues (to put it lightly) with their former label Jive forced the Clipse to pursue other avenues of artistic expression; resulting in the formation of the Re-Up Gang alongside lyrical brethren AB-Liva and Sandman, and the subsequent releases of the We Got It For Cheap mixtape series. Well, their major label woes are our mixtape fortune: We Got It For Cheap Vol. 3; The Spirit of Competition (We Just Think We’re Better) is not only the longest title I’ve ever typed, it’s the best mixtape of 2008. And yes, I know it’s only February.
Is Vol. 3 really that good? Yes, but don’t take it from me, just listen. That speaker shattering sound is 20k Money Makin’ Brothers On the Corner, and it’s probably the fifth best song on the mixtape. The Clipse stripped down vocal style works best with heavily syncopated beats, the reason they’ve found an artistic partner in Pharrell, and 20k’s steel drum snare and cash-counting machine sound effects is the kind of production they eat raw. By the end of the first minute you’ve been hit with “From yeah tall I was MJG with the eight ball/a livin legend I played them keys like Ray Charles,” and that’s only the beginning; there’s three more verses to go. As a favor to my long-suffering neighbors I usually turn the volume down after midnight. Sorry guys, not tonight. I’m banging 20k until my speakers blow out.
Don’t get confused by my fascination with Pusha and Malice’s flows, this isn’t a Clipse album, it’s a Re-Up Gang mixtape. It’s rare that lesser-known members of a crew can hold their own with their more famous brethren (hello St. Lunatics), but while AB-Liva and Sandman aren’t quite as good, they are rock solid (no pun intended) contributors to the Re-Up Gang juggernaut. In fact in many ways the Clipse are stronger as a gang than they are as a duo, just take the supremely swaggering Dey Know Yayo. The production is an absolute rider, allowing Liva and Sandman to float on top of the beat with a speed that Pusha and Malice rarely exhibit. Even better, both men get their own solo tracks, with Liva dropping his intimidatingly hushed rhymes over a stabbing beat on the aptly named Liva Solo, and the burly Sandman having a little fun with the marching band-based, you guessed it, Sand Solo. They say a house divided cannot stand; if that’s true, then a Re-Up Gang united cannot fall.
Here’s the real reason Vol. 3 is so dope, it’s full of tracks like Emotionless. Fellow coke rappers like Young Jeezy shift all the responsibility for their drug-dealing ways on hood mathematics; they can’t help it if the crack they dealt ruined lives, they're products of their environment. By contrast The Re-Up Gang takes the pain of a life spent pushing others closer to death and bare it raw with open nerves: “The older I get the colder my heart grow/I surprised I can smile with such sorrow/I’m empty inside like Hollow Man/I’m here but I’m not, like a hologram.” And that's why I’ll be playing Vol. 3 until 2009 – maybe by then those other rappers will have realized how childish they sound next to the Re-Up Gang. Eghck!
DJBooth Rating - 4 Spins
Written by Nathan S. on Feb 12, 2008
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