06-16-2012 § 1 Comment
What to do after six days of celebration, for #happybirthdaytupac?
1. Rap Phenomenon (Mixtape) [DJ Dirty Harry, DJ Vlad & DJ Green Lantern] This project is amazing, I can remember when it was announced and I ordered it on one of those mixtape sites where you pay $5 for a sticker, and it comes free w/ a mixtape of your choice (loopholes are great, right?). It’s one of my all-time favorite projets as it’s mostly composed of high quality mixes, blends and actual guest appearances rather than taking another artist’s vocals and mixing them in. Check it out, here for free.
2. Got Your Back (Book) by Frank Alexander. Tupac’s bodyguard the last months of his life wrote this book a few years ago – and it’s quite amazing. You can obviously get it wherever, I just linked Amazon since it’s where I usually browse.
3. Tupac: Resurrection (2003 Film). Has it really been that long since this came out? Incredibly well done, and emotional for a fan. I love biographies on artists, and imagine one told from an artists point of view, with his own words – posthumously! I know they modified some interviews to reflect things out of context, but this truly is an incredible film. You can check out the trailer & info here, and rent / buy / stream it pretty much anywhere.
4. RareInk presents Tupac canvas (Biggie, too!) – I just actually found these the other day, and I’m planning on buying a set for a blank wall in my hookah lounge. It’s a form of protest against the marketing in the 1990s of artists, containing a target and a vinyl record look over the artist photo – and you’ll notice “Los Angeles” and “Brooklyn” in the background. Dope!
5. LA Times Investigation into Tupac Killing. I don’t know how much of this I truly believe – Notorious B.I.G. wasn’t losing any money over Tupac’s continual dis tracks, but maybe he was losing sleep? The top is lonely, they say – maybe there just wasn’t room for two larger than life personalities …
6. In The Depths of Solitude (Poetry) by Tupac Shakur.
7. Only God Can Judge Me (from the album “All Eyez On Me” & featuring Rappin 4’Tay) This is likely my answer if you asked me what my all-time favorite Tupac record was.
“I hear the doctor standing over me, screamin I can make it
Got a body full of bullet holes layin here naked
Still I, can’t breathe, somethings evil in my IV
Cause everytime I breathe, I think they killin me
I’m having nightmares, homicidal fantansies
I wake up stranglin, danglin my bed sheets
I call the nurse cause it hurts, to reminisce
How did it come to this? I wish they didn’t miss
Somebody help me, tell me where to go from here
Cause even Thugs cry, but do the Lord care?
Try to remember, but it hurts
I’m walkin through the cemetary talkin to the, dirt
I’d rather die like a man, than live like a coward
There’s a ghetto up in Heaven and it’s ours, Black Power
is what we scream as we dream in a paranoid state
And our fate, is a lifetime of hate
Dear Mama, can you save me? And fuck peace
Cause the streets got our babies, we gotta eat
No more hesitation each and every black male’s trapped
And they wonder why we suicidal runnin round strapped
Mista, Po-lice, please try to see that it’s
a million motherfuckers stressin just like me
Only God can judge me”
06-15-2012 § 1 Comment
I get to cheat a bit here, as one of the best features Tupac has been a part of already has it’s own post on my site, check out my post on “Mind Made Up” (featuring Kurupt, Daz, Method Man, Redman & Inspectah Deck).
There was conflict, I actually couldn’t decide between two tracks – but I realized at the last minute one was actually unreleased! I’ve just had it so long I figured it was out there. Saving that one for a future (in the works) post I’ll put up sometime in … September, seems appropriate.
Also, note that while none of the Notorious B.I.G. & 2Pac tracks were officially released, I will not be including them OR any collaborations between Tupac and The Outlawz specifically, because face it – who could actually pick if you included those tracks? Not me.
1. Smile (with Scarface) Released in 1997 on Scarface’s “The Untouchable” album, this is a great collaboration between two legends. Sadly, the Billboard Hot 100 had this track as *high* as number 12. It was also released as an equally dope alternate version on “Death Row’s Greatest Hits” with a different beat.
“Sellin my soul for material wishes, fast cars and bitches
Wishin I lived my life a legend, immortalized in pictures
Why shed tears, save your sympathy
My childhood years were spent bury’n my peers in the cemetary
Here’s a message to the newborns, waitin to breathe
If you believe, then you can achieve, just look at me”
2. Thug Luv (with Bone Thugs N Harmony) Tupac joins Cleveland’s sons over a shotgun blast riddled beat from DJ U-Neek, on their “Art of War” album – released in 1997.
“Until they stop me bury murder me or drop me
I got Thug Luv for my nationwide posse feel me”
3. Homies N Thuggs (with Scarface & also featuring Master P) Scarface makes the list again, and I’m not at all upset about it. This track came out a year after the previous, in 1998 – but features a video including Tupac laying his verse. Again, there are two versions of the track and both are on the Scarface album “My Homies.”
“Until the day I die
you catch a nigga high off weed, the police can’t find me
My shit will drop and I’ll sell five million
while all the niggas enter the game get caught up in drug dealing
How can I fall?
how can I ball, how can I catch my enemies and murder them all?”
4. Initiated aka Thug Pound (with Daz Dillinger also featuring Kurupt & The Outlawz) Can’t imagine a more appropriate version of a posse track, than this one. The Outlawz meet Tha Dogg Pound, released in 1998 on Daz album “Revenge, Retaliation & Getback.” Daz left Death Row after this release, and almost completely signaled the end of the G-Funk era.
“Picture a felon in ya presence
takin’ bustas back to the Essence
tellin’ my people peep my lethal message
visions of me gettin’ money got me in mash mode
murderous motives for niggas stoppin’ my cash flow”
5. Military Mindz (with Buckshot, also featuring Cocoa Brovaz) I actually appreciate both versions of this track, but seeing how most people have probably heard the released version on “Better Dayz,” I’ve decided to include the [OG] version here. Tupac worked with Boot Camp Clik on almost an album worth of material that most never expected to see the light of day.
“May God forgive us though we dwell inside a paradox
Thugged out and drug dealin, from the womb to the block
My live mind got me survivin five rounds
My forty-five got my fortified with live rounds
When shit’s thick we plot hits, when my glock spits
All hail, I don’t bail, wrath of 2Pacalypse”
6. 4 Tha Hustlaz (with Too $hort & MC Breed) Tupac actually managed two tracks with Too $hort, and another four by my count with MC Breed (Gotta Get Mine was my other finalist for this spot) – this track was on the album “Big Thangs” from producer Ant Banks in 1997. A lot of star power, for tracks most fans probably haven’t heard.
coming stapped with the gat when you see me
Label me a threat to society, but I ain’t quitin’
Thug life motherfucker ain’t no bull shittin”
7. Niggaz Done Changed (with Richie Rich) I couldn’t have made this list without including at least one track with Bay Area rapper Richie Rich. Everything he and Tupac worked together on came out so smooth, and they are some of my favorite collaborations ever. This track was on Rich’s 1997 album, “Seasoned Veteran.”
“I’ve been shot and murdered,
cant tell you how it happened word for word,
but best believe that niggaz gonna get what they deserve,
in the same way God bless my brain cause game pays
gettin cash and ass for dayz now niggaz done changed”
06-14-2012 § 1 Comment
Of all the possible collaborations I thought about doing a day on, Snoop is the most prolific. Tupac did many tracks with artists like Scarface (more on him later!), Richie Rich (lots of dope collaborations there!), The Outlawz and The Live Squad – but I felt Snoop was a better choice, and I didn’t know until more recently they had worked together so much as we had minimal releases containing them both. There is a rumored album Snoop may have in his vault of the two artists’ material, and who knows if that will be unearthed to the public someday. One can only hope!
1. Wanted Dead Or Alive (from the Gridlock’d Soundtrack) A great follow-up to “2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted” on Tupac’s Death Row debut, although it’s not of the same caliber it does follow the same verse style and storyline. The track is actually short, as over a minute at the end is instrumental and hook, and Snoop pays homage to his fallen homie during that time as well.
“Two of the livest wanted dead or alive
we riders inventers because we ain’t quiet and watch the G’s ride
Two of Amerikkkaz Most, straight out the West Coast
Bow down fool, this is Death Row
Been waitin way too long, fresh out the pen, now it’s on”
2. Out The Moon [Boom, Boom, Boom] (also featuring Soopafly, Techniec, Trey Dee) (from the “Gridlock’d” Soundtrack) The other track on this soundtrack with both 2Pac and Snoop, mostly a loose verse from Tupac that gets cut off for some reason, and Snoop is on the hook. This one feels forced, although it could’ve been because Snoop had already began to distance himself from the label at this point and maybe was a cutting room piece-together?
“My history living G like
Enemies that wanna see me
what it be like?
Picture me practicing perfection
Now hit the deck
Playa haters gettin’ chin checked”
3. Street Life [Unreleased] Slated for a Snoop album that never came out, this is one of the very first tracks I downloaded on Napster (with 56k! That’s patience) many years ago – and it’s a great one despite the large build up. Almost half the song features neither star emcee rapping.
“How many niggaz wanna see me gone?
You playa haters is bitches who hate to see a nigga hold his own
Forever ballin and never fallin’
Live my life as a thug, now can you hear the liquor callin”
4. If There’s A Cure [I Don’t Want It] An awesome collaboration, it’s purely a freestyle feel here. I bet a lot of weed & Hennessy were consumed the night this was recorded.
“what’s up baby
you looking crazy like you don’t really know me
I know you heard the album
‘I Ain’t Mad at Cha’
so move closer
big baby let me stab at cha
you know the rules
big Pac in this motherfucker”
5. Just Watchin’ (also featuring Tha Dogg Pound) [unreleased] This is a great track, and it’s nice to hear all four emcees on the hook.
“To me it’s hard to tell what you really want,
Quit actin’ mean to me you teasin’ me the way you flaunt
But you ain’t hearin’ me sincerely, I’m so attracted,
Pictures of target practice, makin’ love on my mattress.
Visions getting’ graphic.
So realistic you can grab it, its a proven fact,
Baby gotta have it my love makin’ quiet magic,
Trix are for kids
Bunny rabbit, let a man have it.
bet you be satisfied if you try it my a habit.
High performance hard to handle,
naked in the bubble bath while I’m burnin’ candles.
secks me like a slow song,
If fuckin’ you is bad baby, then I’m so wrong.
my feelins so strong.
I keep starin’ like you can’t see me,
I never planned a scam, my thoughts ran freely.
There’s no need to be paranoid,
Ain’t nothin poppin’ I ain’t worried bout your man baby girl,
Cause I’m just watchin’. (watching)”
6. The New Untouchables (also featuring LBC Crew & The Outlawz) [Unreleased] A newer leaked track, and different versions exist featuring either LBC Crew or The Outlawz, but Snoop is in both versions.
“Lyrics raise drug dealers, turn ’em into motherfuckin’ thug niggaz”
7. Life So Hard (from the “Gang Related” Soundtrack & covered by Snoop seperately) This one seems like I’m cheating as Tupac and Snoop don’t both actually rap on the same version of the song, but Snoop is ad-libbing the background and eventually put out a cover version as a tribute – it still felt more right putting this track up instead of “All About U” where Snoop just does the outro. Daz creates a magnificent G-Funk meets Thug Life beat, and Pac rips it apart through four verses.
“Yeah, constantly runnin from danger ain’t no stranger to cop cars
Gettin arrested and tested wearin a vest and don’t drop my guards
My life is hectic my homies send mail from jail
Niggaz in Hell got some horrible stories to tell”
06-13-2012 § 2 Comments
As big a fan I am of Tupac, it’s disgusting how his legacy has been messed with by record labels and execs, and even his own family to make money. Vocals are changed, artists he would’ve never worked with or dissed in tracks are featured, and super-producers Tupac probably would’ve never worked with are remixing original beats into club-pop songs. I still hope one day, they release mastered original versions of the reimagined tracks we’ve been presented with since 1996.
1. God Bless The Dead (featuring Stretch) This is possibly the weakest “new” track released on Tupac’s Greatest Hits compilation, but received much of the airplay due to “Biggie Smalls” being mentioned as dead – which yeah, is eerie as you probably realize Tupac, Stretch and Notorious B.I.G. were all gone at this point – except it’s a totally different person being talked about in the track, which is a tribute not a dis aimed at Christopher Wallace. Put it down as one example of sensationalism to sell more records.
“I know you representin the crew
And I can picture you in Heaven with a blunt and a brew
Fuck the world, pain was a part of the game
If you a baller, money went as quick as it came
My role models – gone or they locked in the pen
2. Late Night (featuring The Outlawz & DJ Quik) I struggled with which version to post, there is an [OG] version featuring a sub-par verse from AMG & a decent one from DJ Quik but this one sounds better to me. From the album “Better Dayz.” I always enjoyed this track, to me it is a highlight of the record because Tupac sounds like he’s enjoying himself so much here, and The Outlawz make an appearance too.
“The life of a California star, and when you see me
in the drop-top Jag’, how many niggaz wanna be me?
Game is automatic, manditory I sell
to live and die, I survive, but with a story to tell”
3. They Don’t Give A Fuck About Us (featuring The Outlawz) The lyrics kind of flow along the lines of his interviews given about THUGLIFE, and how it’s become what he represents.
“I’m seeing it clearer
Hatin’ the picture in the mirror
They claim we inferior
So why the fuck these devils fear ya?
I’m watching my nation die
Genocide the cause
Expect a bloodbath
The aftermath is y’alls
I told you last album
We need help cause we dying
Give us a chance
Help us advance, cause we trying
Ignored my whole plea
Watching us in disgust
Then they dead when my guns bust
They don’t give a fuck about us”
4. Resist The Temptation (released on “Best of 2Pac: Thug” disc) I actually don’t know much about this track, but I was crazy excited to hear three unheard & introspective verses after so long. It’s amazing the difference between this version, and the original – you can really tell this is an EARLY recording in the OG version.
“Poppa’s doing worse, a victim of his deadly curse
Wouldn’t be the first, to leave the ghetto in a hearse
Oh and how it hurts, the children pay the biggest price
Never get the chance, to grow up with a happy life
Blame it on the rock, but we know that’s a bunch of crap
Someone from the top, supplying us with plenty crack
Keep ’em in a daze, don’t let them see the other way
Let ’em all get paid, won’t live to see another day
See they never got a breath of the sunshine
Now the kid’s addicted and only hit it one time
We’re destined to be dead as a nation
Don’t let it come to this, resist the temptation”
5. Hell 4 A Hustler (featuring The Outlawz) One of my all-time favorite tracks, and another example of my thinking the retail version is better than the original. The beat, and Outlawz verses are on another level compared to the original track. I do think the ad-lib introduction explaining the track could’ve been left however, as it adds a different level of understanding to the point. Both versions included below;
“No baby momma drama, nigga miss me, why plant seeds
in a dirty bitch, waitin to trick me, not the life for me
Livin carefree, til I’m buried – and if they dare me
I’m bustin on niggaz until they scurry, I’m clearly
a man of military means, and my artillery
Watchin over me through every murder scene”
6. Everything They Owe. A powerful song about both taking what is yours, and being a victim of the system at the same time. The introduction features Tupac asking himself what he would say if he could talk to a slave coming to America, surviving despite the obvious obstacles. I can only imagine the response this song would’ve had if it hadn’t been buried in a posthumous compilation, and instead had come out while Tupac was alive.
“Supreme ideology, you claim to hold
Claimin that we all drug dealers with empty souls
That used to tempt me to roll, commit to violence
In the midst of an act of war, witnesses left silent
Shatter, black talon style, thoughts I throw
It remains in your brain then of course it grows”
7. Friendz (originally released on Death Row’s “2 Gangsta 4 Radio” compilation with listed production from Quincy Jones, and rereleased as a remix on “Until The End of Time” as “Fuck Friendz”) I loved this track, although it’s all over the place in terms of content. Similar to “Toss It Up,” it’s mostly directed to the bedroom but of course has dis material sprinkled in. That song though, wasn’t originally for Tupac and I don’t imagine he recorded both verses at the same time to all make the final version – this track features the disses right in between lines.
“who the man?
While I’m tuggin on your main bitch hand (westside!)
Understand this, ain’t no nigga like me
Fuck Jay-z, he broke and I smoke daily
Baby let’s be friends”
“Was it me or the fame?
My dick or the game?
Bet I scream ‘westside’ when I came (westside!)”
06-11-2012 § 1 Comment
This is my all-time favorite Tupac album, so it gets it’s own post in this series.
I love this album, because to me it represents the culmination of his early years – before the drama with Death Row, before the media’s “Eastcoast / Westcoast” rivalry that didn’t exist, before every third line in his music became about cash and getting paid. The music had to change at some point for about every artist out there, and to me this album is before that point came.
If you have not heard this album, my hope is to influence you to do just that. If you have, and love it presumably – maybe you’ll just enjoy it all over again? Send this post to a friend, a younger person especially who may not know much about they call “old school” hip hop, that you and I know as simply “the nineties.” The genre is ever evolving, and that’s a great thing – but there will never be another quite like Tupac – and this, to me is his finest collective work.
When I was in high school, I had a youth group adult talk to me about listening to hip hop music in a negative light. We agreed to try each other’s music out and see how it went – I gave him a disc I had made of all Tupac tracks, and he swapped me for a christian hip hop collective disc. Most the tracks were from this album, and his reaction was amazing. He had really only heard the Tupac we see on TV, and it was amazing going over some of his points written down as he listened to these tracks. Though it’s negative subject matter, it’s commentary on the struggles we go through on a daily basis. Few artists can really articulate these things the way Tupac could, and to me that’s what made him so special.
1. It Ain’t Easy (easily one of my favorite, smooth tracks)
“everywhere it’s the same thang, that’s the game
I’ll be damned if a thang changed, fuck the fame
I’ll be hustling to make a mill-ion, lord knows
Ain’t no love for us ghetto children,”
2. Fuck The World (A nice collaboration with Digital Underground on the track, another one of those “career defining” songs)
“When I was coming up rough, that wasn’t even what you called it / that’s why I smoke blunts now and run with alcoholics …”
3. Me Against The World (featuring Dramacydal)
“Maybe he’ll listen in his casket — the aftermath
More bodies being buried — I’m losing my homies in a hurry
They’re relocating to the cemetary”
4. Lord Knows
“I wonder if the Lord will forgive me or bury me a G?
I couldn’t let my adversaries worry me
and every single day it’s a test, wear a bulletproof vest
and still a nigga stressin over death”
“Before I close my eyes I fantasize I’m livin well
when I awake and realize I’m just a prisoner in hell”
6. So Many Tears
“Back in elementary, I thrived on misery
Left me alone I grew up amongst a dyin breed
Inside my mind couldn’t find a place to rest
until I got that Thug Life tatted on my chest”
7. Heavy In The Game (featuring Richie Rich)
“No time for askin why, gettin high, gettin mine
Put away my nine, cause these times call for four-five shells
cause life is hell and everybody dies
What about these niggaz I despise — them loud talkin cowards
shootin guns into crowds, jeapordizin lives
Shoot em right between them niggaz eyes, it’s time to realize
follow the rules or follow them fools that die
Everybody’s tryin to make the news, niggaz confused
Quit tryin to be an O.G. and pay your dues
If you choose to apply yourself, go with the grain
and come the riches and the bitches and the fame”
06-10-2012 § 3 Comments
The early recordings, to me are the best recordings. Before the industry really got to him, Tupac was a rebel without a cause, and good at stirring up trouble on his own. His political, and socially charged lyrics landed him on the radar of police, activist groups, and even the major players in the US Government. No rapper since has had the type of impact he had, far as I’ve seen – and it could be argued this is a different era we live in regardless.
1. Fuck All Y’all (posthumously released, but recorded early in his career this track is one of my favorites – about real friends and snitches)
“Look around and all I see is snakes and faces
like scavengers waitin’ to take a hustler’s pape’s
and when you stuck where the fuck is all ya friends
They straight busted and can’t be trusted fuck y’all”
2. Holler If Ya Hear Me. (The introductory track on the album “Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z.”)
“And if ya hustle like a real G
Pump ya fists if ya feel me, holla if ya hear me
Learn to survive in the nine-tre’
I make rhyme pay, others make crime pay
Whatever it takes to live and stand
Cause nobody else’ll give a damn
So we live like caged beasts
Waitin for the day to let the rage free
Still me, till they kill me
I love it when they fear me”
3. Do 4 Love (Unreleased until “R U Still Down?” posthumously, but recorded around 1992-93.)
“Tell me who knows, a peaceful place where I can go
To clear my head I’m feelin low, losin control”
4. Pour Out A Little Liquor (from THUGLIFE compilation – which was deemed too controversial to release as intended, Interscope scrapped a lot of the tracks. This is also the first official single from the compilation, the only one released prior to the album in September ’94)
5. Same Song (Everyone knows the story behind this one … from backup dancer to superstar with this verse)
“Now I clown around when I hang around with the Underground
Girls use to frown, say I’m down, when I come around
gas me and when they pass me they use to diss me
harrass me, but now they ask me if they can kiss me
Get some fame, people change, wanna live they life high
same song, can’t go wrong, if I play the nice guy
(clamin that they must have changed,just because we came strong)
I remain, still the same (why Tu’?) cause it’s the same song”
6. I Don’t Give A Fuck (You could say this defines his career, from the album “2Pacalypse Now”)
“I went to the bank to cash my check
I get more respect from the motherfuckin’ dope man
The Grammy’s and American music shows
They pimp us like hoes; take our dough but they hate us though
You better keep your mind on the real shit
And fuck trying to get with these crooked ass hypocrites
They way they see it, we was meant to be kept down
Just can’t understand why we gettin respect now
Momma told me they’re be days like this
But I’m pissed! Cause it stays like this”
7. I Get Around (The underground just don’t stop for hoes … from “Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z.”)
“She tell me that she needs me, cries when she leaves me
And every time she sees me, she squeeze me, lady take it easy!
Hate to sound sleazy, but tease me, I don’t want it if it’s that easy”