Eminem is an enigma to the hip-hop world. Back in the day, when he was nothing more than an underground Detroit emcee pushing EP's to make a living, he was spitting lyrics on par with some of the game's most respected lyricists; I'm talking Nas, and Wu-Tang knowledge here. Infinite and The Slim Shady EP contained hardcore lyrics by a young emcee, who'd studied his craft extensively; his vocabulary was superb, and his flow was one of the most polished, yet energetic anyone had heard at the time. He was poised for success, and success came to him, with the help of Dr. Dre. I have no problem admitting that The Slim Shady LP and Marshall Mathers LP were two of the best mainstream hip-hop releases of any era, and the level of lyrical dexterity Eminem displayed on those releases is often overlooked by poor, and flawed criticism. The Eminem Show was also pretty tight, but it showed that Eminem had begin to faulter; his subject matter had become redundant, and concepts like Hailie's Song failed miserabley. It was still more than solid, as a whole, but it showed that Em may've taken a step backwards. I think Encore more than solidified this belief; I don't care who would've released Encore, because whether it was Eminem, Nelly, or Kool G. Rap, that album would've come across as a steaming pile of ish.
It was horrible to watch Eminem's lyrical self-destruction; as much personal self-destruction as he put on wax, he had always remained a razor-sharp emcee, with superior wit compared to his contemporaries. People forget that while he's always been a media darling, the only reason he truly blew up in hip-hop wasn't marketing; it was skills. While many people say Eminem's overrated, and by his hardcore fans, he may very well be, he's actually underrated by the core of hip-hop heads. He has spit, admittedly and unfortunately, some garbage within the last few years, but that doesn't detract from the legacy he's created since the Infinite EP dropped. On The Re-Up, Eminem seems to have made a return to form; however, when i say Eminem's returned to form, I don't neccessarily mean he's back to his Slim Shady ways. Slim Shady is virtually dead; that persona has a very unlikely chance of ever resurfacing, because Eminem's grown far too much to ever return to the playful, yet malevolent demeanor that Shady had. Now, he's a disgruntled emcee who's just looking to solidify his spot as one of the best in the game; and honestly, for Eminem at this point, that's an entirely appropriate stance for him to take.
Throughout The Re-Up, on the track Eminem features, he brings his a-game, at least on the rhyme-side of things. Em's production is still a bit bland, and this album would've benefitted had there been less of Em's fingertips on it behind the boards. Nonetheless, while the production isn't phenomenal, it is more than solid; the Shady roster carry the bulk of this release, and do quite well. Now, honestly, the members of Shady Records aren't exceptional artists; Cashis has some great potential, but that's virtually it for now. Bobby Creekwater sounds eerily like T.I., if Tip were still an amateur. Creekwater is an average emcee, but unless he was holding something back on this release, I don't see a very bright future ahead of him. I've never really been a fan of Stat Quo, and while he does get two bangers on this release from Focus and Dre, he still doesn't step things up lyrically. The surviving members of D12(sans Eminem) all appear on this album, and none of them have stepped their games up; Proof was clearly the only one who was above-average in the group, and it shows on his posthumous cut, "Trapped." 50 Cent, having been out of the mainstream for a while now, seems rather hungry, and it shows on his rare appearances throughout this album. He doesn't steal the show, but he does provide some promise for his upcoming release, and possibly dropping something better than The Massacre was. Obie Trice is still the best emcee Eminem has signed, but sadly, just like on his last solo, he's also gotten some pretty poor production to showcase his skills with. If Obie had gotten some Alchemist, or Dre cuts on this release, it would've pushed it even further in terms of quality.
This is by no means a bad release; it's actually very good, and surprisingly so. For a mixtape, and yes, this is still a mixtape, it's a rare one that provides more quality than quantity; and with 22 tracks, there's a lot of quantity. It could've been cut down, for sure; rehash like the Smack That and Shake That(gets confusing, I know) remixes could've been done without, and really shouldn't have made it onto this release once it received national distribution. The Re-Up is a great compilation, and it shows that Eminem maybe back to form, but only time can truly determine that; for now, don't dwell on Eminem's stance in the game though, and pick up The Re-Up. More than solid, but not outstanding, it's a good release that should hold Shady fans over.