Artists: The Clipse

Representing: The Re-Up Gang

Mixtape: Play Cloths Presents: Road to Till the Casket Drops

411: The Clipse came back with a lyrical snow flurry recently on the mixtape Play Cloths Presents: Road to Till the Casket Drops. The brothers actually killed two birds with one stone, promoting their new clothing line (the Obama inauguration tees are dope) as well as pumping out energy in anticipation of their third LP, Till the Casket Drops.

"We're all consumed with the album," Pusha T told us via cell from Canada late last week. "It's very close to being done. We're just trying to piece these little pieces together. It's the last 20 percent. I'm loving it. I'm feeling this is the make-or-break album for the Clipse. This is the album that's gonna define us as far as showing we can stretch in both worlds as far as the underground and as far as the mainstream."

Two Sony Music executives who were instrumental in bringing the duo's Re-Up Gang imprint over to the record company — Al Branch and Kyambo "Hip Hop" Joshua — were recently let go. Pusha said the label's reshuffling shouldn't hurt their project.

"It's not gonna affect us. We're too far done with the album," Push explained. "The thing about us, it was never lack of music. Our problems have been an executing and marketing issue. I think we got a pretty good stronghold on it. I heard about the Hip Hop and Al Branch situation. I'm sure all of that is going to work itself out in our favor."

The remaining production on Till the Casket Drops is being kept under wraps, but the bulk of the album is pretty evenly distributed thus far.

"I got a few from the Neptunes. I think the Neptunes have maybe four, three, somewhere in there. I got a few from [DJ] Khalil," Push revealed. "Got a couple from Sean C. and LV. One from Swizz Beatz. Nottz! I got one from Nottz. The next few I don't really wanna say, but I got a few more people committed to lacing this tail end of it."

We'll hear the first single around February 1. "We have the record. It's getting mixed," Pusha said. "It's already ready. That cake is baked. It's called 'Kinda Like a Big Deal.' It's about being kinda like a big deal. The collabo on there, the record in general, it's kinda like a big deal."

When asked if the collaboration in question is with Kanye West, Pusha got tight-lipped: "Hey, man, it's just one of them joints."

Joints To Check For

» "The Intro." "We got this beat from Fabolous' album from a song called 'Gangsta,' " Pusha described. "It was produced by Reefa. Soon as I heard it, I knew I had to jack it."

» "Big Dreams." "One of my favorite tracks is 'Big Dreams,' " Malice said. "It's off the Game's album [L.A.X.]. We thought it was hot. The reason why it's one of my favorites, I think Pusha totally killed it. We were trying to wrap up the mixtape, and on deadline, I heard this and did not know what to do with myself. I was in a total frenzy. There's a lot of issues on that song I felt needed to be addressed."

» "Addicted." "The difference between this mixtape and the other ones we did, we rapped over some R&B joints that are hot in the club right now," Pusha added. "The Ryan Leslie song is definitely one of them joints, and we killed it. It's a wide array of things on there. The mixtape was inspired by the whole Play Cloths clothing line. Pure fun, just fly street sh--. The sh-- that sparks the nostalgia of what you wanna hear when you puttin' on that 'fit and what you want to hear when you hit the streets and dropping your top. That's the sh-- you do. The mixtape was something of everything, night life, women — everything festive."

Don't Sleep: Other Notable Selections This Week

» A. Pinks - Will Rap for Food
» Bizkit - Notorious B.I.G.: Something to Remember
» DJ 31 Degreez - Home of the Giants
» DJ Delz - Biggie Smalls Is the Illest
» DJ Semi and DJ KG - Forever: The Notorious B.I.G.
» DJ White Owl - Dipset vs. G-Unit and Roc-A-Fella
» G. Dep - G.ometry: The Hiatus Vol. 2

'Hood's Heavy Rotation: Bubbling Below The Radar

» 50 Cent - "I Get It In" and "Shut Your Blood Clot Mouth"
» Jamie Foxx (featuring Busta Rhymes and Lil Wayne) - "Blame It" remix
» Jim Jones (featuring Ryan Leslie) - "Precious"
» Maino - "2009 Predictions"
» Nas - "Something Foul" and "Fear of Mandingo"
» Raheem DeVaughn (featuring Ludacris) - "Bulletproof"
» Slim (featuring Jermaine Dupri and Bow Wow) - "Good Lovin" remix

The Streets Is Talking: News & Notes From The Underground

Busta Rhymes is on another rampage (no intentional reference to his disgruntled Flip Mode family member by the same name). A bunch of songs of his are floating around the Net now: the "Blame It" remix with Jamie Foxx, Lil Wayne and T-Pain; "Conglomerate" with Young Jeezy and Jadakiss; and too many others to name.

"Busta, man, he's still in the studio working like he just got signed," Bus' right hand man, Spliff Star, told us recently. "He's still relevant. Those that don't know, he's 20 years in the game. I'm 16 years in, but Busta is 20 years in and still coming. Out of 20 years in his career, the man never took a vacation. He stayed in the studio trying to give y'all nothing but hot stuff."

Bus and Spliff have been all over the country promoting the album Back on My Bullsh-- (due March 24), and Spliff said "Arab Money" is still a strong point in the show for them.

"Shout-out to Florida — everybody was doing the dance," Spliff said. "Three-thousand people. We was in Connecticut, the whole arena was doing it. If you go to YouTube, black, white, everybody does the dance. 'Arab Money' — that means it's good to be rich, but better to be wealthy."

Busta himself is proud of his work. He's also excited that "Notorious," the life story of his friend the Notorious B.I.G., finally hit theaters Friday.

"You see it happen for the generation of artists before us, and you wish it would happen for our generations and the artists that come from our era of the game," Bus said about having a hip-hop biopic. "It's one thing to have a flick, but it's one thing to have the value of that life story mean so much to the people that the flick now becomes more than a flick. It's a moment. It's a captured moment in time." ...

Lil Wayne said he's the only Southern rapper that could have been down with the Wu-Tang Clan. While the RZA isn't ready to knight Weezy as a Shaolin soldier yet, he does respect the New Orleans nightmare's spit game.

"I heard the song he did with Robin Thicke," RZA told us recently about Wayne. "He got a song about him on the album where he talks about Louisiana. I didn't expect that. I was just going off the TV vibe [of him]. I was impressed to see that son had that wisdom in him. When he sold that million records the first week, it's definitely gonna be some kids that were dancing and doing the 'Lollipop' sh--, but they got a bit of wisdom stuck in there. I felt proud for him as an artist. I was like, 'I'm glad he got a couple of joints that's hitting the people with some information.' "

RZA also is big on what Kanye West has been bringing to the table. 'Ye's beats, such as the one in "Heartless," have brought forth that hard soul like RZA's initial offerings in the early 90s.

"All good," RZA said of the comparisons between him and Kanye. "Kanye West, I got super respect for Kanye. He came up to me about a year or two ago. He gave me mad praising and blessings. He had a lot to say about things I did. He knew me, he knew my sh-- — 'When you did "Ice Cream" ... ' — I was like, 'Wow, this is a dude who knows.' It's like when I met Isaac Hayes. I knew his sh--. Isaac Hayes took time to give me more sh--. For people to say Wu-Tang inspire Kanye, Kanye is one of the biggest artists in the world. That goes back to what we say: 'Wu-Tang is forever.' Kanye is going to inspire people to be like him."

RZA was especially moved by Kanye's work on Jay-Z's Blueprint.

"One day, Jay-Z [called] me on the phone," RZA recalled. "I was proud. ... More proud because at one time, it felt like our relationship was shaky over some old hip-hop grudge sh--. When he finished The Blueprint, I heard it and was like, 'Yo, this sh-- is dope.' I called him to congratulate him, and he said, 'You made the original Blueprint, yo.' I said, 'That's peace, yo.' At the same time, I was proud what they did, because at that time, I was having a hard time getting my boys to listen to me. The shoes gotta be filled. If you ain't gonna do it, somebody else is gonna do it. That's how I feel about rap today."

For other artists featured in Mixtape Monday, check out Mixtape Mondays Headlines.