Appearing almost a year to the day after his Curtain Call collection, Eminem Presents The Re-Up is effectively another water-treading exercise in which a sprinkling of new Eminem originals is used as the bait to invest in a bunch of tracks you don't need. At least in this case you don't already own them - though it's debatable whether you'd give a second thought about the contributions by Slim Shady's D12 and G-Unit chums, whose creative gears appear to be stuck firmly in reverse.
The album was intended as a rough'n'ready mixtape showcasing Eminem's latest discoveries, Atlanta's Stat Quo and Bobby Creekwater, and the Orange County rapper Cashis, along with a few leftovers by the likes of 50 Cent, Obie Trice and Lloyd Banks; but somewhere along the way, the high standard of both material and production demanded it be given a fully-fledged release. That's Eminem's story anyway, although Creekwater's familiar CV of coke-dealing, guns and crime in "We're Back", and Cashis's claims that he "don't give a shit", hardly break new ground for hip-hop.
Stat Quo's delivery on "Get Low" and "Tryin' Ta Win" has a laconic nonchalance that recalls Snoop Dogg, but there's ultimately little going on with these young guns - something that becomes embarrassingly clear when, after routine bouts of threats and antipathy, Creekwater and Quo are teamed with Akon, whose superiority shames their paltry abilities on "Smack That".
The title track and a few others reunite the self-proclaimed "illest and realest killers in the business", Eminem and 50 Cent, but the latter's johnny-one-note tone (and theme) rather restricts Eminem's more theatrical gifts. These are given freer rein on his solo cuts "Public Enemy #1" and "No Apologies", both of which reveal the assassination worries that now dominate his thinking. "Why do I get this feeling in my bones I might die soon/ The FBI might be tryin' ta pull my file soon/ I might be walkin' blindfold into a typhoon," he frets in "Public Enemy #1" - though associating 2Pac's murder with those of the Kennedys might be stretching his point a little too far.
The same fears underlie "No Apologies", whose unrepentant attitude nonetheless echoes the attempts at an explication of his own psyche that illuminated both Encore and Curtain Call: "I'd be a savage beast, if I ain't had this outlet to salvage me inside," he believes, "I'd be exploding, soaked in self-loathing and mourning, so I'm warning..." It's not quite a wholehearted mea culpa, but it does suggest access to reserves of self-knowledge that most rappers couldn't reach.
'Public Enemy #1', 'No Apologies', 'Smack That'