Everybody loves to root for the underdog. Since laying their signature narcotic-laced literature on the world with their breakout hit “Grindin” in 2002, the Clipse could possibly be considered the most underground mainstream group in the game. After dropping the highly anticipated Hell Hath No Fury in 2006 to lackluster sales, brothers Pusha T and Malice didn’t bat an eye to the sophomore jinx, continuing to create music as one half of The Re-Up Gang.

Having just made their first foray into the world of fashion with their newly released line, Play Clothes, the Clipse are interested in more than just rap money. But proving that they’re still brolic with the bars, the duo is showing off their lyrical fitness with a new mixtape, Road To ‘Til The Casket Drops, a prelude to their third LP due out early next year.

XXLmag.com caught up with the younger of the two brothers, Pusha T, to chop it up about continuing the Re-Up movement minus one, why they’ll never dumb down the lyrics and spitting lavish rhymes in a recession.

XXLmag.com: This past summer you guys dropped The Clipse Present Re-Up Gang and it seemed as if no one knew it ever came out. What happened with the promotion of that record ?

Pusha T: As far as The Clipse Present Re-Up Gang, no one knew it was dropping and so on and so forth probably because it was a mixtape. Working with Koch, everything they do is very quick, quick turn around and they push it out there as much as they can but they don’t beat a dead horse, they just keep it moving. Having an opportunity to put out music like that was definitely a learning experience. You sort of have to understand exactly what that machine is. As far as the music, it was basically a mixtape, we did some originals, but it was pretty much We Got It For Cheap Vol. 3.

XXL: One of the people who were very vocal in their displeasure of that project was Sandman. He said he was baffled when the “Fast Life” record was released because only you and Malice were on it. Where do you guys stand with him now, not being a part of the Re-Up Gang anymore ?

P: We had a record called “20,000 Money Making Brothers On The Corner.” That was initially the direction we wanted to go in. That’s the single we wanted. We spent money on it to get it worked independently but the spins wasn’t matching up to what Koch felt was radio worthy, and that’s what they wanted. So they were like ya’ll go do the album, we’ll remix it, go down there and holler at [Scott] Storch real quick, put out a single, and so on and so forth. Now as far as where we stand with Sand, he’s all good. He’s doing his thing and that’s what it is. You know, Sand was very vocal about it and at the end of the day, I’ve always told Sand, [Ab] Liva, everybody like, "let’s do this." If it don’t work, it don’t work and we’ll keep it moving. It was never a situation where somebody was trying to hold somebody back, like, nah. We just shook hands and parted ways.

XXL: The new mixtape is an appetizer to the Til The Casket Drops release next year. Do you feel any pressure on this third go ‘round to prove anything ?

P: I don’t feel pressure because we’ve always been consistent. You put us in front of The Neptunes or the likes of a Kanye West, and there’s no way we can lose. I don’t ever think it’s ever been a music thing, it’s always been an execution thing. I don’t think there was a bad record. But now we have that campaign in place, starting now.

XXL: One thing about The Clipse is that the lyrics have always been there. But with the current state of the game, have you ever been tempted to dumb down the lyrics in hopes of increased sales ?

P: I’ve never been one for that. If anything, you might find a verse with more cadence or more melody but I’ve never thought of dumbing down the lyrics. In the early days, the people I liked like the B.I.G.’s or whatever, the verses were still mean, but they all had hit records. The verses still were metaphoric, the similies, the double entendres, they were still there. It was just saying it in a melody and a way that was easy for people to remember.

XXL: If you could envision how you’d like you and your brother’s legacy in the game to be remembered, who would you model it after ?

P: If I had to compare it, minus the crash and the break up and the hostility at one point, I would love the EPMD [comparison]. They just had a consistent, solid body of work. As well as Mobb Deep. You have your OutKast who sold millions of records, but I doubt that me and my brother will ever do an album where one of us is just singing [laughs]. That was dope too though, not to get it twisted. – Anthony Roberts