Last year was a turbulent one for artists on the Shady label. Eminem got remarried to Kim (his on again, off again wife) and promptly filed for divorce a few months later. Two members were shot--one fatally. Originally intended to be an underground mixtape, The Re-Up was transformed into a showcase of the new Shady artists somewhere along the way. Eminem even drew the cover himself, a more-or-less successful contribution to the disc's mixtape aesthetic.
Perhaps more effectively than the cover art, the lower production values on The Re-Up help establish the 'from-the-streets' vibe Eminem appears to be going for. In a happy sort of failure, the album doesn't sound amateurish, but manages to avoid the slickness of popular rap production. The Alchemist, who was Eminem's DJ on his Anger Management tour, takes the dials once again, and his presence is notable the entire way through. The ever-thumping bass and signature gangsta' blat add a bit of sheen to the cuts without detracting from their rough-edged styling.
The mixtape has been a staple of fledgling urban artists trying to get their name out into the public. With The Re-Up, Eminem and Shady Records have managed to give the artists a way to showcase their work in a grassroots style--but with a much more listenable result.