Whether or not you remember the Clipse, you must have heard “Grindin” at least twenty times. My favorite line was “legend in two games like I’m Pee Wee Kirkland.” That song bumped, and it always pissed me off that the “Tipsy” song sounded so much like it. Their full-length, “Lord Willin,” had the powerful blessing of the Neptunes, and they reached multi-platinum on the single and gold on the record. Arista collapsed before their second album dropped, though, leaving them stranded. The solution? A mixtape series, and the second part of this series is an incredible record. Pusha-T and Malice, with help from the rest of the “Re-Up Gang,” Ab-Liva and Sandman, have crafted the best mixtape I have ever heard, straight up. This shit bangs, with immediately recognizable beats and a deft combination of dizzying wordplay and brutal honesty.
A short intro leads off, documenting the highlights of the first mixtape. After this, Malice busts through for a serious introduction:
“It’s a known fact y’all are tired of the circus
So come home when you smell the crack in the verses
The whole rap world watched the Clipse take a bow
We left it in your hand, you ain’t make father proud
None of y’all can copy, a hard act to follow
We was cursed with the spirit of verses, the stigmata”
Just a little disclaimer: This entire album consists of the newly formed Clipse talking shit and making up elaborate metaphors for drug dealing and the life that comes attached. That’s it, nothing else. The metaphors come constantly, from “call me landlord, I keep keys in my hand” to “sittin’ on blades like Kristi Yamaguchi.” They unravel slowly and it takes several casual listens to pick up on even the best of them. I didn’t catch “follow the brick, I am Oz” until a few times in, and the denser, less immediate one-liners are still spilling out.
The above quote comes from “Re-Up Intro,” and the crazy beat is lifted from the intro to Ludacris’ “Red Light District.” Next up is “What’s Up” featuring Pharrell, which borrows “Put You On The Game” from The Game. The Clipse tears this track apart, and it culminates in the most impressive verse on the album, courtesy of Pusha:
“Cop the sorbet, straight from Jorge
Jack of all trades, even mastered the gourmet
Plus the price got the streets tongue in cheek
Cook it till it’s al dente, mwa, magnifique
Black Card, the era, we got it in the bag
Y’all niggas ain’t a factor like Trinidad’s jab”
These cats just kill it, every song, every verse. Even a Pharrell exclusive, blasphemously set to the “Elevators” instrumental, comes off better than expected. All four of the new Re-Up Gang, even the unproven new guys, succeeds with a stunning amount of charisma. They bring different things to the table with perfectly contrasting voices and deliveries that fit to every beat. They make full songs out of every offering, hook and all, so this isn’t just a random collection of verses thrown down on recognizable rap music. They turn Game’s “Hate It Or Love It” into a song twice the caliber of the original, a candid tag-team of confessionals about their sordid pasts. Amusingly, they take an inordinate number of instrumentals from the G-Unit/Game camp, and each one is flipped and improved dramatically.
Selecting the beats is half the battle, and every selection is flawless. Each cut smashes through with a bluster matching the lyrics. This album is an intense experience, jacking Cassidy, Common, and plenty others and making something new and frequently better. This knocks out of wherever you’re playing it in, and the variety of producers makes for a grab-bag of tracks that makes for a surprisingly fluid overall listen.
The whole crack-rap style has come rushing back, for some strange reason, and The Clipse stands at the creative forefront of this movement. Young Jeezy can be catchy, sure, but when it comes down to it, he’s not saying anything. On “We Got it 4 Cheap, Vol. 2,” The Clipse is immeasurably skilled, rocking every beat imaginable, old-school and new, and doing it with style and substance to spare. The details sear into my skull, from their clothing style to their dealing strategies to the ambitions they have. The good news is that someone took notice, because “Hell Hath No Fury” is finally on the way. The Clipse has arrived once again.