Clipse swagger but stumble on latest mixtape

By Jules Ouanes

Clipse have never been in this position before. They finally escaped the grasp of former label Jive who seemed bent on shelving every project these guys gave them, signed to Columbia and really don’t have much to complain about anymore. Vol. 2 of the highly acclaimed “We Got it 4 Cheap” series was one of the best mixtapes ever, showing Clipse at the peak of their frustration, vehemently dismissing anyone outside their circle over impeccable beat selection of the year’s most recognizable production. Every beat they took, they made their own, and embarrassed whoever had it before them. So while Vol. 2 was a massive industry slaughter, “We Got It 4 Cheap Vol. 3: The Spirit of Competition” is more of a victory lap for them, less angry and lacking direction. This isn’t to say the mixtape isn’t good. It’s all over the streets right now, and by streets, I mean the Internet. Pusha T, the younger of the two brothers, follows up his dominance of 2006’s “Hell Hath No Fury” with a stellar performance here. He’s always been more talented, and with each verse he further solidifies his position as one of the best rappers alive. His rhyme schemes are incredibly precise, but his real strong point is how he delivers vicious punchlines with a calm swagger: “I pull from the ghosts of dead greats/ Ouija board flow, all you niggas is dead weight!” While Pusha keeps elevating his game however, Malice continues what has been a steady decline in his skills since their debut album. He still drops a couple incredible verses here, but mostly he comes off as uninspired, monotonously speaking instead of flowing and making wildly inaccurate claims, such as, “I’m not a part of your coke-rap genre.” The two other Re-Up Gang members, Ab-Liva and Sandman, sound as similar to each other as Pusha and Malice, are all over this record. Ab-Liva is far and away the better of the two (a tip to tell them apart: he’s the one who doesn’t say “Cannnoonnnnnn”). I would much rather listen to him than Malice any day.

Perhaps the biggest downfall of this album is the beat selection. It’s been a good two years since Vol. 2, so they had a lot of new material to choose from. However, they inexplicably settle for beats like ‘Roc Boys’, which they just sound weird over, and some eight-year-old throwaways from when people still thought the Ruff Ryders were good. The lone un-recycled production is “20k Money Making Brothers on the Corner”, and it’s an absolute banger, with sinister synths and a fucking money counter in the background. They loop Kanye’s “Good Morning” in a way that makes it sound like a muted, toned down “Grindin” and they kick it old school over some West Coast classic cuts on “Real”. “Cry Now” is undoubtedly the best song here, as it features all 4 Re-Up Gang Members going nuts over polished and triumphant horns, but the highlights really end there.

Three mixtapes and two albums in, this stands as the most disappointing effort we’ve seen from a group that could seemingly do no wrong. I’ve always wondered why Clipse don’t release more material but now it makes sense. They have a very specific style that they’ve mastered, but what’s always separated them is how they perform when fueled with frustration of behind the scenes label bullshit, and now that that’s gone, they’ve resorted to throwing half-hearted jabs at Lil’ Wayne. While the Clipse are still the best at the whole coke-rap genre, this mixtape is evidence that the style as a whole has a lower ceiling than we thought.